The second reason that churches that care about the Great Commission will devote themselves to sending is a mathematical one.
Perhaps you can remember this math conundrum from middle school:
If you have a choice between receiving $10,000 a day for 30 days, or getting $0.01 doubled each day, which would you choose?
Almost every middle school student chooses “$10,000 a day” — because . . . think about what you could buy by the end of the week! Sure, $70,000 is enough to buy ten PS4s gaming stations with accompanying widescreen TVs . . . and enough left over for a used BMW! And in thirty days, you’d have $300,000!
But your math teacher probably pointed out to you that choosing $10,000 a day instead of $0.01 doubled daily would leave about 10 million dollars on the table. Doubling your penny daily, however, would net you $10,737,418.23 in thirty days! In four months you’d have $13,292,279,957,849,158,729,038,070,602,803,364, compared to only $1.2 million if you had taken on the $10,000 a day.
Many churches still pursue success via the “$10,000 a day” model. Tell aspiring megachurch pastor Bob that you have a program by which he can add 1,000 people a month to his church for ten years straight, and he will likely faint with joy. Before the first year is done, he will be invited to speak at conferences all over the nation, and Christian magazines will have his face splashed across their front covers. Leaders would line up around the block to buy his books and have him sign their Bibles.
Yet if Pastor Bob trains up just one person each year to lead another to Christ, who in turn trains another person who leads another person, and they each do that for thirty years, by year 30 they will have won nearly a billion more people than he would have by adding 1,000 people every month.
But here’s the rub: Netting $10,000 a day feels much more gratifying — at least at first — than getting $0.01 doubled during that first week. If you choose the doubled $0.01 route, after a week you would only have about $2, whereas your friend who chose $10,000 would be bouncing about town with $70,000 in his pocket. He’d be placing a down payment on a new beach house, and you’d still be living in your parents’ basement.
In the same way, focusing on attendance growth — adding 1,000 people a year — feels much more gratifying to church leaders. The successes are immediate. You can brag about them. But this is not the road to long-term, kingdom growth.
Our church hit an important milestone this year. We grew by almost 1,000 people, which qualified us for Outreach Magazine’s one hundred fast-growing churches for the fifth year in a row. But that’s not the milestone I’m talking about. This year the attendance at the churches we have planted grew by more than 1,100 people. In other words, our plants added more to the kingdom than our church did. Just five years in, we are already seeing the power of multiplication kicking in. From here on out, by God’s grace, that gap will only widen. One day I’ll stand up in front of the Summit Church and the attendance at the churches we’ve planted will be 100 times what we have at our church each weekend.
My point in sharing this is not to suggest that we have to choose between growing the attendance of our church and sending out disciples from the church. As I will point out in chapter 5, you can and should do both. Rather, I am trying to make clear that if we take the long view of ministry, growing and sending out disciples will take priority.
J.D. Greear and Larry Osborne, Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).