October 20, 2017

The Strategy of Multiplication

Mike and Gail Mestler

Throughout Kenya grows a flowering tree with striking orange-red blossoms appropriately named the “flame tree.” The flame tree is indigenous to Africa, where it easily grows to a height of fifty feet and produces many clusters of flowers on the tips of its branches. A flame tree in full blossom is a beautiful sight to behold. But more precious in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ is the multitude of indigenous Fundamental Baptist churches springing up throughout Kenya and the rest of sub-Sahara Africa. Indigenous churches must be planted in Africa and the rest of the world by a deliberate strategy of multiplication.

Planting the First Seed

Every tree begins as a seed planted in the soil. Although by nature the seeds of trees are scattered somewhat haphazardly, a church planter must be more deliberate in his choice for seed planting. The primary principle for a strategy of church multiplication is to plant a church where it is most likely to thrive and multiply. Like most of the developing world, Africa is experiencing not only large population growth but also rapid urbanization. Africans are moving into the cities of the continent by the millions each year. The city of our ministry, Nairobi, Kenya, has a population of about five million people. It is projected to grow to twenty million by 2020! Similarly, Lagos, Nigeria (18 million); Lusaka, Zambia (10 million), and Johannesburg, South Africa (metro area, 10.2 million) are fast growing cities ripe for church planting. Although Fundamental Baptist churches need to be planted in even the remotest villages, an effective strategy for multiplying churches is to plant them in urban areas.

Even more specifically, the three churches we have planted in Nairobi have all been in new growth areas on the northeastern edge of the city. Here large numbers of people each month are migrating from the countryside to the city looking for jobs. It is estimated that five hundred people a day arrive in Nairobi from the rural areas. These newcomers who have been recently transplanted from their homes are often looking for a place to worship and fellowship in the city.

“Win the cities and you will win the country” is not an empty cliché but a fact of life. Economically, socially, and even spiritually, cities dominate the life of their nations. The most likely place to multiply churches and have the greatest impact in Africa and around the developing world is in the cities.

Nurturing the Seedling

Once a church has been planted its growth needs to be nurtured to prepare it for multiplication. Church multiplication must be a part of the “DNA ” of a church from its beginning. Soon after we planted our first church in Nairobi we began to share with our members the vision for planting a daughter church. Thus church multiplication became part of our “genes.” It was the expectation of the congregation that in the not-toodistant future we would ask some of our families to form the nucleus of a new church. In fact, our second and third churches were planted in another neighborhood of Nairobi in just this manner as several families, including an assistant pastor and three deacons, became the seed of the congregations.

A vital key to church multiplication is the development of leadership. In our first church six men responded to God’s call to vocational church ministry. Only one man was needed to become the national pastor of the church, so five men were left with the potential to become planters of new churches. Our second and third churches began with three of these trained and seasoned men as church planters ministering under the missionary’s guidance. A simple formula explains our philosophy of leadership development:

  1. Train them. We began a local church-based Bible institute and later a four-year Bible college to give these men thorough Bible and theological knowledge as well as practical ministry skills.
  2. Try them. Men called to a church-planting ministry must be given the opportunity to be proven and to develop their God-given gifts in local church ministries. These future church planters must have a wide range of opportunities to preach, teach, engage in personal evangelism, organize, and oversee ministries.
  3. Trust them. Eventually the missionary must allow these men to begin their own churches while he mentors, guides, encourages, and prays for them along the way. This is not an overnight process but requires years of investment in their lives. Christ Himself poured His heart and life for three-and-a-half years into the training of His twelve apostles. There will be potential failures along the way, just as one of the Lord’s fell by the wayside, but the end will be the development of leadership and the resulting multiplication of churches.
Multiplying the Fruit

A common approach to planting churches has been for the missionary to plant a church, eventually turning the leadership over to a trained national pastor. The missionary is then free to begin a second church, repeating the same process. Undoubtedly many Fundamental Baptist churches have been successfully planted around the world using this “church addition” method. This model of church planting can be visualized in the following manner:

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In a missionary career of thirty years several churches could potentially be planted following this plan. But a more effective plan for multiplying churches follows the pattern of 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” The “multiplication method” of church planting looks like this:

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Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist, was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Through her Green Belt Movement millions of trees have been planted in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Her simple model is “plant a tree to save a nation.” As Fundamental Baptists our motto should be “plant a church to save a nation.”

In 2009 Kenya reached a population of 40 million people. In the next twenty years that number is predicted to swell to 60 million. There are now a billion souls living in the continent of Africa who need to be evangelized and organized into congregations of Fundamental Baptist churches. Churches must be planted using a strategy of multiplication. Nothing less will get the job done.


Mike and Gail Mestler are missionaries to Nairobi, Kenya, with International Baptist Missions. They have served in Nairobi since 1993.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January / February 2010. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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