Does this stuff really work?


A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months will reach a thousand people in ten years. That is an indisputable fact of math.

The question is: Is it realistic? Is it possible? Does this stuff really work?

One of the advantages I have is the experience of hearing from hundreds and hundred of Sunday School teachers who have doubled. I have spent the better part of my adult life researching and encouraging groups to double. Good news: it is happening.

We could start with the mother of all doubling groups churches: Dr. Paul Cho's church in Seoul, Korea. It seems I read of 800,000 members at one point. I have not heard any recent estimates. They did that in the lifetime of one man. They did that through doubling groups.

Another great is example is what I call the world's fastest growing church. The story is a little dated, but you can read about it here:

For a homespun, American example, look no further than Andy Stanley's church. I read his newest book (Making the Vision Stick)where he publically states the goal of having 50,000 in multiplying groups by 2010.

But, maybe these examples are too good. Maybe they are so far out there that you just can't relate. I have a story you can relate to. Here is the story of John Sprinkle and Indian Trail Baptist Church.

For starters, bop over to  Look for the video "John Sprinkle Doubled." (You will find a number of other great videos, and, if you have a testimony about doubling, feel free to add your own.) After you watch this video, let me make a few comments about what it takes to make a doubling group movement in your church.

People need an example

The most common question I get asked goes like this. "I know this stuff will work; how do I get my people to do it?" Sometimes the question comes from a laymen; more often from a pastor or Minister of Education. My answer is always the same: how are you doing?

People follow examples. They need an example to follow. The Bible has a lot to say about following examples:

  • John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
  • Philippians 3:17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

People need examples. John correctly saw that if he was going to lead his people to embrace the vision of growing and dividing, he must be in a group that is growing and dividing. One of the reasons why doubling groups works so well at Northpoint is that Andy Stanley regularly stands before his people and says, "I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling." At last count I have collected four audio or video files where I caught him saying that.

Show me a church where the leadership regularly stands before the people and says, "I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling" and I will show you a church that is pushing back the darkness and advancing the kingdom.

I'd like to invite you to be the one to set the example for your church. Whether you are a pastor, a Minister of Education or a laymen, you can set the example.

Vision casting takes time

Doubling groups is no flash in the pan approach. It takes time. One of the reasons why it often doesn't work is it is discouraging at first. John talks about starting a paper class and only having one or two couples at first. It can get discouraging and you can get tempted to cave. You can get tempted to just combine with another class.

Group leaders often feel this discouragement after they divide. It was fun teaching a group of twenty-five or thirty or forty or fifty. Then we divide and now I have ten, or five, or just one. It does not feel like this is a good idea. It does not feel like life. It feels like death.

Want to be a millionaire?  Here is how. Invest a hundred dollar a month. Get 10% interest a year. Start when you are twenty. By the time you are sixty-five, you have $ 1,159,272.22

But, here is the deal. After ten years of investing you are not a quarter of the way there. In fact, you only have $23,886.

After twenty long years you still have less than $100,000.

Doubling is a lot like that. You have to have a long time perspective to get excited about it. Watch the video of John and you will see a stage full of people who all came out of one class. But, at first it was John and his wife and one other couple.

If you want to start a doubling group movement in your church, it takes time. You have to lead by example and it may be five years before you have a really good example. It is the second and third five years that get really exciting.

If you are considering hosting a conference, let me lower you expectation of the conference. We seldom see life-altering results in any arena in one night. But, we can plant a seed. We can reinforce a message that is being communicated by the staff. I always feel I do my best work in places where the laymen say to me, "You are saying the same things to us that Brother Bob has been saying." If we say it often for a long period time, some will start to get it.

Andy Stanley has set a goal of 50,000 in doubling groups by the year 2010. The church will be fifteen years old. The next fifteen years should really get exciting.  

Leadership is everything

Everything rises and falls on leadership. Here is the second most common reaction to the doubling group vision: we just don't have enough leaders. Churches seem to think they are the only one.

Jesus told us this would be the problem, and he gave us a two-fold solution. He said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Then he said two things: pray and go.

Pray. Every church should be constantly in prayer that God would raise up workers for the harvest. The prayer of every staff meeting and every prayer meeting is that God would raise up laborers. The problem is not in the harvest. The problem is a worker shortage.

After Jesus said "Pray," the next thing he said was "Go." He prayed and recruited workers. We should do the same. Pray, then say to someone, "Go!"

John goes into some detail about how, over a long period of time he recruited workers into the harvest. They didn't always see the vision at first. They were not quick to want to serve. But he kept pushing.

If you would see a doubling group movement in your church you must be vigilant about recruitment. It will not come easy. Pray and be constantly on the look-out for workers. Make the big ask. Expect some rejection. Arm twisting might be necessary.

Don't push too hard. Find the narrow way. Don't push people to serve out of guilt or obligation. We want people to serve out of joy. But, we want them to serve.

Without Christ we can do nothing

Following Christ is a careful balance of confidence and humility. We humbly acknowledge that without Christ there is no fruit. It is not that we would be slightly more effective if God showed up. Without Him we can do nothing.

But, that is not all that is true. It is true, but it is not the only thing that is true. Following Christ is nearly always about finding the narrow way--the careful balance between two opposites. Here is something else that is true: you can do all things through Christ who strengthen you. You can double a class through Christ who strengthens you. You can set an example through Christ who strengthens you. You can start a doubling group movement through Christ who strengthens you. You can reach a thousand people for God in ten year, starting with ten through Christ who strengthens you.

John is quick to acknowledge that God did it. John didn't do it. God did it. In all our ways acknowledge Him. John exemplifies that as well.

If you are looking for someone to recast the vision of doubling groups at your church, you might give John a buzz. His email address