“Hey,” I called down Shippen Street to a fellow walking toward me, “Are you coming from the dry cleaners?” I was headed to a Multipliers group meeting in downtown Lancaster, Pa.
The man was carrying a shirt that looked like it had come from the dry cleaners, but he responded, “No, I am going to graduation at Millersville.” We stopped and talked; I prayed for his graduation and learned that he was a fellow believer, considering an internship at a church. Two total strangers, praying together in the street. What on earth made me call out and initiate that interaction?
Obedience. That’s one of the four pillars of EMM's discipleship philosophy: relationship, obedience, transformation, and multiplication. Those four are also the core values of Multipliers, a nine-month small group program that explores simple disciple-making principles and provides accountability and encouragement to live them out.
My short encounter on Shippen Street was a direct result of my involvement in Multipliers. For the past nine months, a group from my church, Byerland Mennonite, has participated. Multipliers is an EMM training that was originally designed for YES team alumni who wanted to apply their training locally. In 2014, EMM opened Multipliers to others.
The church I pastor, Byerland Mennonite Church, heard about Multipliers at the EMM pastors’ breakfast in March 2014. At the breakfast, EMM Discipleship Coach Troy Landis shared about Multipliers and invited pastors to join the group in the fall. We talked with Troy right away about how Byerland could get involved, and Barbee Myer, our discipleship ministry team leader, led the process for Byerland. Seven members from Byerland enrolled in early summer, and we (along with two from other congregations) met every other Saturday for a total of 16 times between October and May.
In addition to meeting every other Saturday, we also split into smaller groups called Life Transformation Groups (LTG). These were peer meetings focused on “filling up” spiritually. Our topics came out of the core values and Troy’s assignments, such as praying with someone you don’t know. These times were transformational for me. As a pastor, I have the work of shepherding, proclaiming, declaring, teaching, praying, administrating, and a lot of other things that pastors do. But I recognized that I had been falling short in discipleship matters because of the work of pastoring and other life events. I was meeting with my overseer every month, experiencing solitude, and working at personal growth as a disciple of Jesus but I desired to be more engaged in the mission of God. Multipliers brought me into an arena where the ground was level for everyone. I was not the pastor of the group, I was one of the group. In the LTG setting, we were just two men meeting together for accountability and prayer.
We learned the key ingredients for making disciples who make disciples: relationship with God in solitude establishes an intimacy born out of the Word of God and prayer. Obedience comes out of that solitude and becomes application, which results in transformation; that is, transformational stories of God at work in our daily life in relationships with others. Then multiplication happens in intentional relationships with others.
This fall, we at Byerland are doing Multipliers again; three groups of eight are going through the training. Transformation and multiplication are happening! Each of us can play a part.
In Multipliers I discovered our need to bring discipleship back to the basics: relationship with God and with others, accountability, and action. That’s why I interacted with the young fellow on Shippen Street. Multiplication happened as he took that experience and shared it with his family at the graduation. And that day when he and I parted, we were both encouraged. Hopefully my story also challenges you to do the same, to plant seeds in others’ lives and urge them to live for Jesus.
Joe Garber is pastor of Byerland Mennonite Church in Willow Street, Pa.