I had a great day with Ben Doolan today in Cambridge. Ben is coming to the end of his time training at Ridley Hall before moving to join us at The Belfrey in a few weeks time, and it was fantastic hearing the vision for training at Ridley and meeting his tutors, who all told me how privileged we are to be having him and Ellie joining us. I agree. They are top people and I really appreciated finishing the day dining with them both at Bella Italia before I caught a train back North.

We chatted about all sorts of things over supper, including some thoughts about growing disciples. Ben reminded me that if he led twenty people to faith in Christ each year for the next twenty years he would help 400 people become disciples. Many would see that as good. But if he took a different approach and chose instead to invest in just three people each year and helped each of them become disciples, teaching them how to similarly bring on three others each year, and that continued for twenty years, the amount of disciples by the end would be a staggering 3.5 billion. Yes, 3.5 billion! Amazing, but true!!!

(If you’re not convinced, here’s the maths:
Yr 1 – 3
Yr 2 – 9
Yr 3 – 27
Yr 4 – 81
Yr 5 – 243
Yr 6 – 729
Yr 7 – 2187
Yr 8 – 6561
Yr 9 – 19,683
Yr 10 – 59,049
Yr 11 – 177,147
Yr 12 – 531,441
Yr 13 – 1,595,323
Yr 14 – 4,782,969
Yr 15 – 14,348,907
Yr 16 – 43,046,721
Yr 17 – 129,140,163
Yr 18 – 387,420,489
Yr 19 – 1.16 billion
Yr 20 – 3.49 billion)

Notice how the figures start small. Even after five years the numbers are less than 250. This reminds me of Jesus’ foundational teaching in the Story of the Sower and then the Mustard Seed (both in Mark 4) where huge growth begins with just a few small seeds. But once momentum gets going then the real impact of multiplication begins to kick in and the figures go crazy!

Someone in The Belfrey’s Youth and Children’s Office gets this and has tried to draw it. It’s been scribbled on the perspex wall – and looks like this:


All this reminds me of a story often told to French primary school children about a small lily plant in a pond which doubles in size every day. The park attendant knows it will take thirty days to cover the whole pond and so decides he will cut it back when the pond is half covered. The question asked of the children is: on what day will the park attendant cut back the lily plant? Many answer day 15 but the answer is actually… day 29. By day 15 it will still only cover a small amount of the pond, but by day 29 it’s about to double and take over the whole pond. Again, the growth starts small, but once multiplication kicks in then a real growth movement begins that has a enormous impact.

This means we shouldn’t dismiss small beginnings. If good seed, however small, gets rooted in good soil, then the influence can be massive. That’s why the bible says we ‘should not despise the day of small beginnings’ (Zechariah 4:10).

Sometimes when I look around me at parts of the church and the world, I see subtraction and even division. But I prefer addition. And best of all is multiplication. That’s what I long for. That’s what I’m praying and working for. In my day. In my time. In my city. In my region. In the North.

I believe The Lord wants to bring multiplication. I believe in it.

I believe in multiplication.