Be Fruitful and Multiply
By Mark Bowling
In Genesis 1:28 God said to Adam, "Be fruitful and multiply..." I believe that this is the plan of God for each of us in every area of our lives. Be fruitful first. Multiply second.
Fruitfulness is the product of intimacy. Once during a time of prayer and fasting The Lord reminded me that my highest purpose in life, my greatest calling, is not to conduct miracle crusades. It is to know Him. Paul said, "[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly],..." (Philippians 3:10 AMP). Notice that Paul said this after his encounters with the Lord, after receiving what we call the Pauline revelation, and after exhibiting a powerful miracle ministry. If anyone knew Christ, it was Paul. Yet still, his determined purpose was to know Christ more and more. The Holy Spirit through Paul says, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9). Indeed, our calling, our goal, our greatest prize is unbroken fellowship with the Father and The Lord Jesus Christ.
Despite my imperfections and failure to achieve this constant fellowship with Christ, this is my pursuit. Everything Victoria and I are doing today was conceived in our hearts during times of communion with God and spending time in meditation of His word and prayer, especially praying in tongues.
If we are not careful, once we begin to taste some success in ministry, we can become bored with ministry. We might become less interested in or take for granted the things which used to be a great source of excitement for us. Boredom can be dangerous. But the Presence of the Holy Spirit revealing the glory of Jesus Christ always leaves you thirsting for more of Him. He is never boring.
I have a tendency to spend more time with God during our crusades. It used to be that I was motivated to pray to make sure God showed up with confirming miracles when I preached. But over the years, I can honestly say the motivation has shifted. I really just want to be with Him. He is wonderful. He is glorious. The more we experience the love of Christ, the more we will be filled and flooded with God (see Eph. 3:19), which ultimately results in fruitfulness as we allow Him to flow through us and touch the lives of others.
Notice God also said to multiply. An apple tree is fruitful when it produces apples. But for an apple tree to multiply, the farmer has to take some of those apples, pull out the seed, plant them and produce more trees. Be fruitful and multiply. A church is fruitful when it wins souls and makes disciples. It multiplies only when it produces more churches. This is the will of God. In our conferences, we don't encourage church planting. We endeavor to give vision for planting ‘church-planting churches’.
"Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied" (Acts 9:31). Remember multiplication implies the reproduction of other churches, not just growth.
One day as I was pondering these things, this phrase came to me, "Every church plant twelve." I'm not suggesting that this is a "Thus saith the Lord" for everyone. But imagine the implications of this concept. If every pastor had a lifetime goal of just developing twelve other people to plant a church, who in turn did the same, the multiplication would be exponential. We proclaim this in India and other nations. Does it work? So far, we have seen 5,291 churches born in India through what I call the heroes of the faith - those on the front lines, sacrificing themselves to see the gospel of Jesus Christ advanced among the unreached.
To see multiplication one must live by the ‘222 principle’ as discussed in the book, Church Planting Movements, by David Garrison. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Notice there are four generations listed in this verse: Paul…Timothy…faithful men…others also. Once a pastor (really an apostle) sees a fourth generation church, there is a movement which cannot be contained or stopped. The ministry has become bigger than the minister.
A missionary by the name of Bruce Carlton was stationed in Cambodia in by his Southern Baptist denomination. When he arrived in 1990 there were no Southern Baptist churches in the entire nation. When he left Cambodia in 1996, there were more than 100 churches and three training centers.
Bruce Carlton didn’t plant one church. He simply spent the last four and half years training twelve individuals for church planting. By the year 2001, his work grew to 220 churches with more than 10,000 members. That is the power of the 222 principle.
Every minister can and should train others. For some the process of training occurs through a Bible school. For many training can occur by simply having a weekly leadership meeting in addition to delegating tasks. Still others can simply choose to never work alone, always being shadowed by someone else.
In our ministry in India, the one who has been by my side the most is naturally our director and translator, Sagar. When we started working with him in 2001, he oversaw 32 churches in his fellowship. Today he has 220 churches with a vision for 5,000 churches.
One time Victoria and I had to unexpectedly leave a crusade and conference we were conducting in India. Sagar simply took over and preached the same sermons he has translated for me over the years. And the Lord Jesus confirmed His gospel with healings, salvations, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On another occasion, I was stranded in the USA because of bad weather, unable to go to the crusade in India. So Sagar just conducted the crusade and conference all by himself. The same fruit abounded. That is the power of the 222 principle. Never work alone.
Faith and Endurance
We have a promise from God for multiplication. Galatians chapter three clearly teaches us that the promises that were given to Abraham belong to us as well. And God said to Abraham, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you” (Hebrew 6:14). This promise belongs to you! But many times endurance is required. “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (v15).
This reminds me of the testimony of a friend of ours, Laurel, who was raised on the mission field. Her parents, Ed and Ruth Thompson, served as missionaries in Cambodia for thirteen years. In those thirteen years they could count the number of conversions to Christ on one hand.
When the government of Cambodia forced all Americans to leave its nation, at the Thompsons’ request, they were reassigned by their denomination to Vietnam even in the midst of war. The people group that the Thompsons spent years ministering to in Cambodia also lived in Vietnam. They had a passion to reach them. But in 1968 they were killed by soldiers. Wow! To the natural, it could appear as little success, wasted lives. But God gives us a promise, “in multiplying I will multiply you.”
A few years ago, Laurel and her siblings were invited back to Vietnam for a special service to honor their parents. During the trip it was revealed to them that there are now one million believers in the region where their parents ministered. And the pastors give credit to Laurel’s parents’ sacrifice for the harvest of souls.
Be encouraged my friends! God’s desire is for you to be fruitful and to multiply. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” ( I Thes. 5:23).