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Made to Multiply

It was the sound that I noticed first, a terrible crash of metal against metal that will not soon fade from my memory. As I turned the car into the hotel after a long journey to visit our ministry center in the north, I did not notice the motorcycle coming directly toward us. After hearing the impact, I slammed on the brakes and caught a fleeting glance of a person flying over the front of my car. I quickly jumped out and saw a young man lying on the ground behind the car, bleeding from his ears. Another boy, the driver, was trapped under my vehicle, motionless. 

In an instant, our plans changed, my life changed, and my understanding of multiplication in ministry was turned upside down. 

At the time of the accident, I was hosting a small vision team of pastors and business people as part of my role as Regional Team Leader for Southeast Asia. Soon after being appointed to that role, I began to consider what it truly means to multiply. With the huge task of reaching 600 million Southeast Asians with the Gospel, the need to multiply healthy disciples and missional leaders had become more than just a mission statement. It was our central focus for ministry. I had decided to commit an entire year to focusing on what the Bible said about multiplication. What I learned in that journey would help me to understand the significance of that fateful accident in light of God’s plan.

God’s Plan for Multiplication

As I began my study, Genesis 1:28 immediately leapt off the page. God blessed Adam and Eve, and the first commandment they received was to be fruitful and multiply. I learned that the Hebrew term for multiply, raba, refers to great increase. Throughout the Old Testament, the word was often paired with the blessing of God, and an increase in numbers. The Israelites multiplied due to the blessing of God in covenant faithfulness. As Israel fulfilled its obligation to obey, God promised to bless and multiply his people (Deuteronomy 6:1-3). In the New Testament, Jesus added to the theme of multiplication through the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). When seed is planted in good soil, it multiplies a hundred-fold. I saw this also happening on a spiritual level as the early church experienced exponential growth (Acts 6:7). I became convinced that we were made to multiply!

However, one passage stood out to me more than any other. In John 12:24-25, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This is the Gospel story – Jesus died so that you, I, and a multitude of others may live. As we follow the path of Jesus, we also lay down our lives to find true and abundant life that reproduces itself in the lives of others. 

What does that really look like in our lives today?

The Weapons of our Warfare

I learned that one way to live out this principle is through prayer. In a meeting with other Regional Team Leaders in 2016, we were in a time of corporate prayer when one person received a word of encouragement for me. They told me that humility and repentance would be my weapons for multiplication in Southeast Asia. My heart resonated with this word, as we had seen church planting begin to stall in the two years since I had taken the role. On the fateful night of the accident, as I pulled into that hotel driveway, this word was still echoing in my head. 

As I watched the boys being taken to the hospital, I wondered whether they would live through the night. That evening, many people were called to pray for the lives of these boys – and God answered those prayers. Miraculously, the boy who had flown over my car was released from the hospital with just a bump on his head! The other was prepped for leg surgery and eventually would also fully recover.  I, however, was wrecked. Although they were partly at fault in the accident, driving drunk and without lights, I was at fault for turning in front of them. I was overwhelmed by the thought that I could have ended their lives that night. Humility and repentance felt to me like burdens too great to bear. But God was using this experience to teach me the principle of multiplication through the posture of dying to self. 

The following week, I carried that posture into our Southeast Asia regional conference by both modeling and calling people to humility and repentance. The Holy Spirit met us there as we spent time renewing our hearts before the Lord and reconciling with one another. We then brought that posture to our greater field, pulling together many of our national leaders and North American workers for a series of meetings in which we again spent many hours in prayer, experiencing repentance, reconciliation, and renewal. Together, we recognized humility and repentance as weapons in our ongoing warfare of reaching the unreached.

Multiplication: Not a Strategy, But a Posture

Ever since God met us and taught us what it means for a single seed to die before it bears fruit, our church planting has been impacted in significant ways. Small groups are praying together daily for kingdom multiplication. Missionaries are dying to their need to be in control and are partnering in new ways with national leaders to reach their people. As a result, our church planting in Southeast Asia has increased by 400% in the last two years! We didn’t have a different strategy; we had a different posture. It was the posture of Jesus, who laid down his life so that others may live.

As we become Multiply, it is more than just a rebranding. For me, it is the culmination of a spiritual journey, and the activation of God’s plan to spread the Gospel to a lost and dying world. Will you join us so that together the world may know?

Andy and Carmen Owen are from Fresno, California, and have been involved in church planting in Southeast Asia since 2000.

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