The Multiplication of Disciples -- By: David E. Lanier

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: The Multiplication of Disciples
Author: David E. Lanier

The Multiplication of Disciples

David E. Lanier

Professor of New Testament
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Faculty Lecture
presented in Binkley Chapel
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina, October 27, 1998

I. Introduction: The Nature of the Problem1

The Addition of Converts Versus the Multiplication of Disciples

In Acts chapter 6, Luke describes a problem in the early church concerning some widows who were being neglected in the daily church distribution. The Christians who spoke Greek were murmuring against the Aramaic speaking Christians, and there was a danger of a split. Seven men, full of the Holy Spirit, were selected to set the problem straight while the apostles devoted themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. By Acts 6:7 the church in Jerusalem was in revival. Two clauses stand out. The first one comes in 6:1, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring... . The second one is found in 6:7, “And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Multiplication is much more powerful than mere addition. If you won one convert a week to Christ and added him to the church but failed to disciple him, in ten years you would have 520 immature believers. If I won one convert a week and discipled him so that he could lead another to Christ and disciple him each year, in one year I would have 52 disciples. In two years I would have won 52 others while those 52 would have won another 52, for a total of 156 disciples. The third year there would be 312. The fourth 520. The fifth 780, the sixth 1,092. The seventh year there would be 1,456. The eighth year 1,872. The ninth year 2,340, and the tenth 2,860. In ten years I would have 2,860 mature converts. You would have your 520 immature believers. The next year you would

add 52 immature believers; I would multiply 2,860 disciples. Which way is better?2

By multiplication the Great Commission becomes achievable in our lifetimes even though the population of the earth keeps expanding. By addition the task is insurmountable. The problem is that multiplication of disciples is not impressive up front. Je...

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