There are two ways that people movements grow. The first is through addition growth. That means that people are invited into a primarily centralized group or organization and they stick around - usually because they relate to the overall mission of the group. But also because they find a place where they sense personal belonging. This is true across the board - you see it in politics, social groups, and organizations that exist to cure cancer or fight for animal rights. You also see it in local churches.
The second way that movements grow is through multiplication. These sorts of organizations tend to be less centralized while finding a way to retain common mission and language. They place a high value on reproduction.
The novel (and movie) Fight Club paints a fictional example of a movement that transitions from addition growth (people inviting others into one fight club) to multiplication growth (other clubs springing up in other cities and places without warning.) The movie is rather vile and probably shouldn't be on your list for family fun night, but I can remember watching it and seeing a vision for the church.
What if a local church could be unified in mission and vision, but just decentralized enough to spread easily and quickly wherever God wanted it to go? This idea so ravaged my heart over a decade ago that I led the church I was pastoring away from an addition growth model toward what I hoped could become a multiplication model. We learned some lessons in that process. We may have transitioned too quickly and we probably became too decentralized in a classic pendulum swing reaction. But my ecclesiology (what I believe about church) and my missiology changed forever through that process. To put it simply, I believe that the Kingdom grows optimally in a multiplication mode. Addition growth is good. Multiplication growth is better. I could prove this historically, but I shall bore you with those details at a later date.
This brings us to where we are now at Vineyard Cincinnati. This weekend Dave announced that we are aggressively moving toward a more multiplicative mindset as a church. Reproduction across the board will be our new goal. Multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and celebrations...
(A side note about The Vineyard. Before my time we planted nearly 30 churches in greater Cincinnati. This is, indeed, multiplication thinking at its finest. It was one of three key reasons that coming to The Vineyard appealed to me so much. This new thinking is congruent with that, but just a new strategy to multiply in a different way.)
In 2011 we will launch two larger sites in Uptown on Short Vine near the University of Cincinnati and in Middletown. These sites will have their own style and flavor, but will be part of Vineyard Cincinnati. We are just becoming one church in many places. To find that sweet spot between decentralization and speaking a common vision, we will have the same weekend teaching at every site using video. I am very excited about this multiplication strategy, but that isn't all that we are doing.
Other churches around the U.S. are multiplying through this sort of strategy. We aren't the fist to think of it, but we took a long time to pray about it. God is leading us to do it differently than some of them. We felt that our initial sites should be in areas of our city that are currently struggling economically. It is in our DNA to serve those who are struggling the most. We want to go to them first.
We are doing something else within this strategy that appears to be unique to us. We have come to see that we can learn a lot from the house church movement. (Also called simple church or organic church in some circles.) I was in this movement for several years. Smaller churches that function more like missional small groups have an amazing potential for multiplicative growth. What if The Vineyard created space for very simple expressions of church to align with us organizationally? They would function as smaller communities of people living out the reality of following Jesus in their neighborhoods, but they would also choose to be a part of The Vineyard because they share a common mission and vision with us. By using the weekend teaching time on video they would align with our overall mission and direction, but they would also be small and mobile enough to reach people that we currently cannot. Having been a part of a house church movement in the past, I saw that bigger churches were able do some things that my little church of 12 people couldn't. For instance, The Vineyard just drilled our 90th clean water well in Nigeria. Being a part of a bigger group of people allows us to do bigger things that we cannot do on our own.
What if we could find that sweet spot and have "micro-sites" that operate as a hybrid between a house church and a weekend celebration. There is literally no barrier to that sort of growth. As a matter of fact, our first micro-site is launching in December...in Hilton Head, South Carolina. A multiplying mindset breaks down barriers that are impassable in the addition mindset. Even geographical ones.
Maybe you are someone who loves Vineyard Cincinnati, but you live farther away than is conducive to come to Tri-County, Uptown or Middletown on the weekends. Maybe you have felt like part of us from afar. Maybe you used to be a Vineyard member but moved away and have yet to find a home church that connects with your outward focused dreams in your new location. Or maybe you live in Cincinnati and love our church, but also have seen the benefits of the simple church movement. Maybe God is calling some of you to pray about entering a time of training to lead a micro-site community where you are. The good news is that our church now has a new strategy to experiment in ways that before were impossible. We are ready to multiply. If you are as well...and your heart is racing, email me now and we will begin the discussion.