Minister or Multiplier? (Wayne Schmidt)

There’s always a danger in categorizing, since reality is rarely fully captured in a category.  It tends to get people thinking “either/or” rather than “both/and,” emphasizing the contrast more than the compatibility.  But I’ve decided to take that risk to float a perception I’ve been developing and refining for the past several years.

Some pastors or ministry leaders are ministers.  These individuals focus their gifts on the doing of ministry – making calls, offering counsel, preaching sermons, leading Bible studies, etc.  Their focus is on edifying believers.  Their joy is found in direct ministry, investing in people in one ministry context and they carry within them a vision for what a church can become.

Others are multipliers.  Much of their joy comes vicariously and indirectly through the multiplication of disciples, leaders, gatherings and churches.  Their focus is on equipping believers.  They cherish the ripple effect, some of which they witness personally but much of which they relish from a distance as others carry out additional iterations of ministry expression.  They carry within them a vision for a movement that transforms a community, city or country.

The vast majority of those in full-time vocational Christian service are ministers.  They shepherd congregations that already exist and seek to bring health and vitality to the believers that belong to those churches.  Like Timothy, they steward the commission to “discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (II Timothy 4:5).  A small minority (10%?) are multipliers who focus on Kingdom territory yet to be taken with an ambition similar to the Apostle Paul’s (Romans 15:20).

What do ministers need?

  • To know they are valued.  The work of church planting or creating venues seems to get more attention, and at times they wonder if what they are doing matters.
  • To know what fruitfulness looks like in the fulfillment of their calling.  Church growth can be easier to measure than church health, and both are worthy pursuits.  Thankfully, continued exploration of measuring church health is helping ministers to know if their contribution is making a difference.
  • To have people stand with them.  The same passage that calls them to “discharge all the duties of your ministry” warns that there are “people who will not put up with” truth that challenges them be transformed (II Timothy 4:3).  When you’re working in settings that have been around for decades, there are often well-establish power blocks committed to preserving the status quo, and introducing change can be perilous.  They need allies and advocates.

What do multipliers need?

  • To know they belong.  Because their entrepreneurial spirit often compels them to adopt a “better to ask forgiveness than ask permission” approach they can feel alone in an environment where loyalty equals conformity.  So many with this multiplication ambition wonder if they belong in the world of business rather than ministry, or in non-denominational or parachurch ministry.  Because they are in the minority, it takes intentionality by the majority to include them.  They also need to be connected to and affirmed by other multipliers within the movement.
  • They need freedom.  This is not freedom from accountability – that would be unbiblical.  They need freedom from being micromanaged, freedom from a framework that communicates unity means uniformity, freedom to find resources and follow examples beyond the movement in order to build the movement.
  • They need challenge and space.  I often find myself saying to such individuals “God has not only placed a church in your heart, He has placed a movement in your heart.”  They need a territory to claim through multiplying venues and churches – too much overlap with other multipliers or a “franchise-mentality” (existing churches believing they have exclusive rights to a territory largely unreached) hinders the distribution of these individuals throughout a state, nation or the world.  Like communication satellites, they must be strategically placed at appropriate distances to provide the coverage that is necessary.

Building the Church of Jesus Christ and extending the Kingdom of God is not either/or, but both/and – multipliers and ministers.  Perhaps that’s the reason Ephesians 4 lists multiple roles to equip believers and build the Church – “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (4:11-12)

  • Wayne, I’m encouraged to see that we have dropped the pejorative labels that have been pasted over each category in the past (“maintenance man” vs. “lone ranger”). Minister and multiplier are more accurate and affirming. I’ve heard others refer to this as Petrine apostleship and Pauline apostleship, after Peter, who tended the center while Paul expanded the frontier (Hirsch & Catchim, The Permanent Revolution).

    It is always tempting to wish that one had the gifts of another. I hope both types of pastors can feel affirmed in their calling.

  • Nichele Washington

    Thank you for such a timely and important Word! You have accurately given voice to what many simply ‘feel’ but can not quite communicate. Not only does this affirm the diversity of callings, but it also challenges the ‘grass is greener’ trap that is often set for us. Thank you for this encouraging, clarifying and liberating information.

  • Ray Selden

    As a ‘minister’ who often feels compelled to fit in the mold of what the church thinks we ‘need’ to be … Thank you for affirming the traditional shepherd.

  • David Norman

    I wonder if you use a Life Journal because I used Romans 15:20 as my key verse from Sunday.