As a new year gets underway, most of us are asking some version of the question, “What can I do to make this year a fruitful one in ministry?” While I would not be so presumptuous as to know what God is speaking to you for the ministry you lead, I have seen some patterns develop in our NAB family that are worth reflecting on, especially for anyone looking to multiply their ministry in fruitful ways.
We all know there is no easy solution for fruitful ministry, but most would agree that a ministry that multiplies is one that is fruitful. Of course, multiplication takes on a lot of different looks and all of them ought to be respected and admired. God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Ruth multiplied compassion. Esther multiplied wisdom. Jesus, among many greater things than this, multiplied food for hungry people on a hillside. Paul and his friends multiplied churches, and Peter multiplied people groups who would know the Gospel.
I think we would all love to end 2023 with the fruit of multiplication in our ministries! New people reached with the Gospel. New people serving the Kingdom. Additional resources available to the poor and marginalized. And the list goes on. . . . So if multiplication seems a worthy and fruitful pursuit for you this year, the following are three keys I see in our most fruitful NAB multipliers:
- Centered in prayer
- Focused on joining God
- Relentless for the lost
Centered in Prayer
In his book Revitalize, Andrew Davis highlights that prayer is the way of Jesus being shaped in his disciples before they ever are charged with leading his church. “The church of Jesus Christ was birthed as a world-changing force at a prayer meeting. [. . .] When the church forsakes this kind of prayer, it takes a vigorous step toward its own extinction.”
For the last number of years, we have challenged every multiplier to consider this first step in their journey: prayer walk the area to which you are called. Do so in a group of fellow discerners and just see what God speaks to you in prayer. Sadly, so often multiplication efforts begin instead with a group of malcontents planning to ‘get church right’ or a grandiose vision to ‘reach a city.’ Paraphrasing our very own Cam Roxburgh’s longstanding caution, this inevitably leads to our own agency, not God’s.
However, there are those in the NAB family who have taken this challenge to heart. When Warren Rachele began the work to revitalize Hope Community Church in Paul, Idaho, it was prayer that turned the tides of selfishness and inward focus. When John Cassidy started Hope Community in Antelope, California, they prayer walked the neighborhood and often finished in a community park praying for strangers. The fruit was astounding. Conversions happened right there. Hurting people found their pastor. Disconnected people found a church.
Focused on Joining God
Thankfully, if we don’t move off of prayer too soon in pursuit of programmatic planning and execution, joining God’s mission seems to come naturally for most of our fruitful multipliers. On any city tour of Lodi, California, and the ministry they helped pioneer, Jake and Alison McGregor repeatedly reflect that over and over again how the counseling centers that started and the initiatives that took shape were never part of some grand ministry plan. Instead, in most cases, the Kingdom pursuits that bore the greatest fruit were simply a response to God’s leading and the team’s willingness to step through doors God was opening! Josh Huseby of Missio Church in Bismarck, North Dakota, hosted an open table meal weekly and prayed for conversations to develop, and conversions happened. The work here is to keep the church central in our practices of joining God. Charles Cotherman explores this beautifully:
As the 1960s wore on, however, Newbigin became concerned that many in the ecumenical movement were misusing the concept of the missio Dei in such a way as to actually marginalize the church. In their effort “to get out into the world, find out ‘what God is doing in the world’ and join forces with him,” many were overlooking the role of the church. The problem, in Newbigin’s assessment, was that “‘what God is doing in the world’ was generally thought to be in the secular rather than in the religious sectors of human life.”
The discipline here is to allow God to lead our groups of prayerful discerners toward the communal way of Jesus, with no eye on what the programming or practices will be prior. This requires great courage to hang on in the discernment longer than most will desire, but if the Spirit is already at work in our community, our job is first to discern God’s activity before we design our own. Once we have a strong sense, communally, of where God is at work in our midst, we then – and only then – take steps to answer the question, “What is our role in this effort?”
Relentless for the Lost
On this third commonality I see in all fruitful multipliers, I cannot overstate the importance of the word relentless. Multiplication work that remain relentless for the lost in their community is the key to staying on track with what God is doing to redeem creation. Show me a multiplication effort that has become about meeting the needs of church deconstructions, managing malcontents, or placating church historians, and I will show you a multiplication effort that will not multiply the way of Jesus. It may last, it may even grow, but the way of Jesus does not multiply when we lose our relentless posture toward the lost among us. Jesus makes this abundantly clear at the well in John 4.
We have done significant work together as a family of churches in recent years to ensure we are viewing and proclaiming a Gospel that Jesus actually preached. We have embraced a more robust and renewed vision of the church. Through faithful prayer, and joining God where he is at work, we will inevitably bear the fruit of lost people in our midst, people desperately trying everything to make life work only to arrive in community exhausted, isolated, and woefully lacking for encounters with the living God. May we remember Paul’s words to his young friend, Timothy, “Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV).
I pray you begin 2023 with an eye on practices in your own life and ministry that will lead to multiplication.
 Andrew M. Davis, Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again (Baker Publishing, 2017), 94–95.
 Charles E. Cotherman, “How Do We Discern God’s Activity in Scripture and Our Community?,” in Sent to Flourish, ed. Len Tang and Charles E. Cotherman (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), 10–11.