Each of these symbols hold meaning beyond the field of mathematics. Early in our education we learned addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Just the picture reminds us of a long-ago learned process that now is automatic. In 1981 biblical lessons that can also be illustrated by these symbols came home to me when I became a pastor.
Jesus told a parable in the 15th chapter of Luke about a shepherd who had 99 sheep safely in the fold. 99% that is a really good percentage. Shouldn’t the Shepherd be satisfied with these results? It is much superior than the average! Averages do not count for much if the one missing is your son or daughter. 99% is almost 100, but there needs to be one more added to bring the number to completion. Luke 19:10 reminds us that Jesus came to seek and save the lost! There is always room for one more. We need to keep our minds focussed on the fact that we must be vigilant searching for the one lost sheep who comes home. This is addition.
Subtraction. Minus, taking away. However you spin the word it seems to have a negative connotation. Yet in God’s mathematical equation you can gain by subtracting. We are told in the book of Malachi to tithe (giving 10%) we wonder how can we live financially by giving so much away? There is a principle that is woven through out the Scripture, that of addition by subtraction. Jesus tells us that it is by giving our lives away that we shall receive our lives. It is those who build bigger barns who eventually lose. We are told that it is by dying that we live. It seems so contrary to the way things run in this world. Yet Jesus said “give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down shaken together running over. In the manner you give, it will be given to you.” We are given things that money can not buy as well, new life, love, encouragement and friends to name just a very few.
Multiplication. Jesus talked about the mustard seed, though it is a very small seed, when planted in the ground eventually grows into a good size tree and becomes something all out of proportion to the size of the seed. Yes, it is multiplied.
Division. Divisiveness is never a desired outcome. Christian are to be united by the Spirit. Yet even in the best of families there are conflicts. Yet, we have ways of resolving conflicts. It is never a pleasant experience to see Christians in conflict with each other. Prayer, biblical confrontation and reconciliation are the ways and we are told to handle disagreements and conflict.
At this moment on the Indianapolis District we are in the planning and beginning stages of a New start expansion. We are going to plant 70 churches in the next 5 years. Some people are terrified. I know how they feel. That was my feeling when I felt the Lord give me this vision. How can this be? When God gives you a vision, you have to move and decide and take action. We have been restricted so long by the boundaries of what we think is doable and appropriate. That it seems we have forgotten that we are to live by faith. What could happen if we begin to dream big dreams and ask God for bold visions? One of our congregations in a rural part of the state and not our largest congregation recently started a church for folks with special needs. I want you to read something Pastor Josh shared with his congregation:
I have had some people discourage church planting because we sent about 15 people from Centerville to Whosoever Ministries. So I did some numbers crunching (My favorite thing to do) and found that since we started planting the Whosoever Ministries church in September of 2015
Before the church plant:
We had 142 attenders
Our overall reach is about 1,100 people/month
After the church plant:
We invested 15 people into church planting (Whosoever), but gained 23 new people at Centerville, which now means 150 attenders at the Centerville campus.Our overall reach at Centerville is untouched, and remains at 1,100 people/month
However, Whosoever has an average attendance of 57, with a monthly reach of just over 125/month and when our partnership with Achieva is finished in March that will increase to just over 750 people/month.
Without church planting we would be a church of 142 and a reach of 1,100. With church planting we are over 200 attenders and a reach that is about to hit close to 2,000 people each month.
Thanks for the good news Pastor Josh Cook!
We must move past our feelings of loss and start focusing on the lost sheep who need a Savior.
God wants to use you for the harvest.