I wrote Multiply Together (October, 2016), simply because I believe in the multiplication of missional communities.
What drives the notion and longing for multiplication? My motivation began with the street Mirela and I spent five years living on in southeast Portland. The street where we brought home our first two children from the hospital. The street where we lit firecrackers. The street where we had a parade of costumes during Halloween. The street where we had almost daily gatherings on the sidewalk to tell stories, laugh, cry, and connect. This was the street we also hosted multiple missional communities. This is the street where our neighbors became our friends.
These friends included a fifty year old master craftsman who spent twenty-five years renovating and adding on to his home. He was raised Lutheran but hadn’t believed “in that stuff in years.” However, he always asked about that “church” that met in our home, adding, “I like that.” His wife is a spunky Thai woman who always made us laugh. Together, they own and run one of the best Thai restaurants in the city where they serve traditional dishes from scratch following the recipes of her mother and her homeland.
Our neighbors to our left were a couple who called themselves the “village idiots.” He is a Christmas tree farmer, and she is a professor of European history at a local college. We always have great conversations about Christianity, its roots, and its impact on culture. They’re also curious about our church, calling it “first century.”
Across from us lived a family with two young children. The dad is an architect who dreams of designing sky scrappers but was never given that chance at work no matter how hard he tried. They later moved to San Francisco to chase that dream with a new company.
Next to them was a couple and their son from Boston. The father was a close friend of mine. He had traveled the world before settling down, desperately desiring a life of meaning. He loves live music and golf. We had long conversations about faith, grief, sin, and what makes a person whole. He had two vivid childhood memories. One was of the scolding he received from taking communion incorrectly, and the other was of the day his father died.
Our other friends on the street included a masseuse who spent years in Afghanistan trying to help people before the most recent war. Her partner was an app developer and is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.
Another dear friend is an elderly woman who raised a family as a single mom in San Francisco. She is the neighborhood grandmother and lavished my children with gifts, hugs, and encouragement.
Our dearest friends on that street, were our neighbors across the alley. She was a yoga instructor and her husband ran a premier chai company. Their children were named after places from their pilgrimage to Tibet and the Himalayas. We shared many laughs, struggles, doubts, and beliefs.
These were our neighbors and friends. We shared five incredible years together on Southeast 31st Street. Mirela and I were the only family that participated in a church. A few were Christians who had walked away from faith, but most were atheists, agnostics, or “spiritual but not religious.” For many, we were the first Christians they had contact with in a long time and we were the only Christians they were friends with. We were some of the few people they knew talking about God, much less Jesus. While they had each encountered the Christian faith in a variety of ways before we moved to the neighborhood, we had the privilege of making the message of Christianity more clear. Over the years and through hosting multiply missional communities, the gospel was clarified.
Our neighborhood had over 180 streets just like this. Our city has over twenty neighborhoods like this. Our country has over fifty urban areas and cities like ours. I write books about missional community with the hope of equipping, igniting, and teaching people to fill those streets, neighborhoods, and cities with missional communities that make the gospel clear to people like my neighbors. While we’ve seen many communities planted in our city and our neighborhoods, God is not finished in our city.
The vision of missional communities is not simply for one vibrant community but thousands. Thousands of groups reflecting the gospel, growing in the gospel, and proclaiming the gospel to those around them. I pray for thousands of communities speaking the gospel, redeeming culture, and seeking justice in our cities. The vision is faithfulness, obedience, and gospel growth in the lives of ordinary people, doing extraordinary things in the power of the Holy Spirit. The hope is multiplication into every street and every neighborhood. In other words, the prayer is for a movement of gospel demonstration and proclamation.
Previously, I’ve written to leaders of missional communities (Sent Together, 2015) and to missional communities themselves (Called Together, 2014). This book is dedicated to those overseeing and equipping leaders to help them in the task of multiplying communities. I took on this book to help us send missional communities to every street, neighborhood, and city. I believe multiplication is the path before us and I believe coaching leaders to live out what they know God has called them to is the structure that enables a thriving, decentralized movement of missional communities.