In a recent article Dietrich Schindler contrasts "Good" church planting from "Great" church planting. His thoughts on "Generational Distance" got my attention.
My wife's grandparents were married for more than seventy-five years when they died. Grandpa was 105 and Grandma was 97. They left behind over 150 progeny. In their lifetime, they saw themselves forwarded into five generations!
Imagine holding a fifth-generation baby in your arms, knowing you and your spouse were the first cause. How effective a mother church is in forwarding itself via ensuing church starts reflects the issue of generational distance. Thus, great churches focus not so much on the churches they have spawned, as on the number of generations they have spawned. Great church planting counts the generations, not just the number of children it has fostered.
This is the stuff of multiplication.
For multiplication to occur, the first cause of new life must free itself from direct involvement. Great-grandparents do not give birth directly, but indirectly, to their great-grandchildren. Direct involvement is the vocabulary of addition; one church starting another church via direct influence.
Multiplication's quality, however, lies in its indirection: one church setting its offspring free to procreate churches. Generational distance is an emphasis that has rarely occurred in our European setting; however, it is a key ingredient needed for multiplication to take place.
Everybody has their favourite size of church—small, medium or large. But that's not the point. It's healthy multiplication that counts. There is no other way to reach every corner of the planet with the gospel.