The Multiplication Mind-Shift

I was the youngest owner-operator in Chick-fil-A history before being a church leader.

My career at Chick-fil-A started because I needed money, so I applied for a job. 

After being hired, I entered a discipleship program to run a quick-service restaurant. I learned the right way to make sandwiches, fries, and salads. I mastered running a register and serving customers. I eventually started leading and organizing my shifts as a team leader. Until one day, the owner-operator of that store asked me to consider leading another store in the Cincinnati market. 

Now, at first blush, it may strike you as odd that I used the word discipleship to describe my journey with Chick-fil-A, but that’s because the word discipleship has lost its meaning in our modern lexicon. 

We think of discipleship as a church word closely associated with holding certain doctrinal beliefs. But in the ancient world of Jesus, the word discipleship was a common way of learning a new skill, talent, or way of life. It was really about apprenticing to the Rabbi’s way of life.

So in that sense, when I started at Chick-fil-A, I became an apprentice of Dick Hess’ way of running a quick-service restaurant. I became his disciple.

This basic understanding of discipleship and apprenticeship is critical as we approach the topic of multiplication in the modern church. 

For the last decade, multiplication has been a caffeinated word for church leaders. We are encouraged to multiply campuses, churches, and movements. 

While we love seeing more thriving communities of Jesus’ followers spreading worldwide, we believe it is critical to understand that multiplication starts with life-on-life apprenticeship/discipleship.

And here’s a problem. Anytime we start talking about discipleship or apprenticeship, things get squishy quickly. 

That’s why I like to take it out of the spiritual world (Yeah, I know everything is spiritual.) and talk about it in real-world scenarios.

  • I was discipled into running a Chick-fil-A restaurant. Not by a program but by Dick.
  • My friend Brian was apprenticed into fixing lawnmowers. Not by a manual but by his uncle Galen.
  • My co-founder Bart was discipled into a church leader. Not by a book but by his parents, Wally and Barbara Rendel.

If you reflect on your life, I’m sure you have learned a skill through discipleship/apprenticeship. 

Let me state this clearly: Discipleship is not something the “church” does. Discipleship is something individuals do with other individuals. 

This mind-shift is at the core of where God is leading us at Intentional Churches. 

But let me close with one final thought: Discipleship is not transactional. It is transformational. 

If you have a church history stretching into the 1980s or 1990s, you were taught that it was your responsibility to close the deal and get people across the line of faith. This thinking raises the stakes and tempts Christ’s followers to be manipulative. 
We are not talking about that. We are simply talking about taking the good you have received from our gracious, always-loving God and passing it on to another person–helping them become their full selves in his loving care.

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