Planting churches

Embed Multiplication in Your Church

Partners with the President with Matt Larson.

The EFCA is a movement committed to the Great Commission. From our earliest days to today, our association has a deep conviction to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations. This is captured in the EFCA’s Articles of Incorporation:  

The Evangelical Free Church of America shall be an association and fellowship of autonomous but interdependent congregations of like faith and congregational government whose purpose shall be to glorify God through obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ by bringing individuals to personal faith in Christ and helping them toward maturity in Him. 

Church planting is one of the best ways to effectively reach new believers with the gospel. In the last twenty years, EFCA national, district and local church leaders partnered to plant 650 churches. Today, through the faithful ministry of ReachNetwork, we are trusting God to plant even more churches in the years to come. One way to plant churches is by recruiting, training and coaching church-planting pastors. Yet, what often gets overlooked is how partnering and sending churches impact church multiplication. 

As they obediently prepare for ministry, EFCA church planters need the support of existing local churches. The local church’s prayers, encouragement and financial generosity for church planters powerfully reflect God’s heart to reach lost people in a broken world and it energizes planting pastors as they minister to their surrounding communities. 

So, what might it look like for EFCA churches to create a multiplication culture and how might they come alongside church planters? 

To explore this question, I invited Matt Larson, an EFCA church planter from Thousand Oaks, California, to share about his experience planting churches, partnering with churches and creating multiplication DNA in his church. Matt planted Anthem Church (EFCA) in Thousand Oaks in 2009 and within a little over ten years, helped launch ten more churches across California and Colorado. From the start, Matt and the leaders in Anthem Church cultivated multiplication within their DNA with the vision to multiply beyond Thousand Oaks.  

In the following article, Matt shares his heart on why Anthem Church pursued church multiplication and, in our interview, we dig deep into how he pursued this calling and mission from the Lord. I encourage you to take a few moments to read the article and watch our interview. 

Kevin Kompelien 

EFCA President 


The first time I thought about church multiplication, I pondered the bottleneck of leadership at a church where I had been serving as the high school pastor. The pinnacle of leadership was to serve on the elder team but outside of that, teaching a ministry class or serving in Sunday school were the only options available to you, unless you were willing to make the jump from the marketplace onto full-time church staff.  

There were high-level leaders, entrepreneurs, professors and other faithful men and women in the church who loved Jesus and had significant leadership gifting. Yet, their gifts stayed on the sidelines.  

I wondered, "What’s out there for the people that are hungry to make a kingdom impact through their local church? If somebody wanted to lead, teach, cast vision, empower others, build teams, etc., was the only path to leave your church, go to seminary for a few years, find a sponsor church and denomination and then start a new church or take over one that needed new pastoral leadership?” 

At the time, I considered this a blockage in the arteries of the church to capturing the leadership attention and entrepreneurial imagination of some of the kingdom’s brightest minds.  

Shortly after that, I was at a multi-site practicum hosted by Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois hearing Dave Ferguson talk about his napkin story (definitely worth checking out. It’s on Youtube now). Dave unlocked something in me as he talked about the DNA of a multiplying church and casting vision about seeing churches planted as a means of reaching the unreached in any given region around the country (and ultimately around the world).  

I was in.  

I wondered, "What’s out there for the people that are hungry to make a kingdom impact through their local church?"

I called my wife from Naperville (we were living in Southern California at the time.), I told her about a leadership residency in the Chicago area to prepare for planting churches and I said, “I think we should pray about it.” Fast forward about four months: my family and I stepped out of student ministry and into an unpaid leadership residency for nine months with the intention of moving back to Ventura County (Southern California) to plant a multiplying church.  

If our community was going to get the vision of multiplication, they were going to need to see it in action. On our opening Sunday of Anthem Thousand Oaks, we introduced Kevin Bailey to the church as our first church planter. We told our newly formed church that we didn’t know exactly when or where this church plant would happen, but that several people from Anthem Thousand Oaks would be asked to go and a significant amount of money would be sent as well. The hope of that moment was that the church would instantly feel that multiplication was going to be a prominent part of our story.  

While I love our story and I will talk about it quite a bit, “it worked for us” is not a valid reason to shape an ecclesiology (understanding of the church). Ultimately, the scriptures shape our thinking, our vision and our leadership and it’s important to find our footing there—especially with matters of DNA. 

The story of God has multiplication built into it from the beginning: 

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28). 
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). 
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). 
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

These passages indicate that God’s plan for bringing His name to the nations is through the multiplication of disciples that make disciples that gather in churches that send disciples to make more disciples and gather in churches until His return.  

While most of us would agree with this theologically, it doesn’t always make its way into how we lead our churches. A couple passages from Acts will help shape the way that we lead to embed a multiplying DNA into the life of our churches.  

Teach with equipping in mind 

In Acts 2:42, we learn that the people that gave their lives to the Lord “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.” 

In Acts 5:42, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” 

Commentaries on Acts give varying amounts of time in the Jerusalem church before the persecution, they say generally between 6-18 months. Something took place in that period of time that led to Acts 8:1: “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Emphasis mine). 

To embed a multiplying DNA in your church, you must start here. To see disciples made and churches planted, part of how we disciple, teach and train the people that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us is by preparing them to go out as preachers of the Word.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.  

Over the course of 6-18 months in the church in Jerusalem, the apostles taught the church about Jesus diligently. When persecution hit, these new disciples of Jesus went about preaching the Word.  

To embed a multiplying DNA in your church, you must start here. To see disciples made and churches planted, part of how we disciple, teach and train the people that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us is by preparing them to go out as preachers of the Word.  

Significant persecution may never force our churches to scatter but the Lord uses other things to send people out: job transfers, cost of living, immigration to a new country, family needs, financial crises, etc... Life changes act as catalysts for people to go from our churches into new cities, new states and new countries. 

We have worked hard at Anthem Church to multiply teachers, community group leaders and worship leaders under the belief that we would want someone ready to lead in whatever context they go into next. 

I want you to consider this challenging question: Are we teaching people to become dependent on the pastor to hear God’s Word or are we empowering and equipping people to become preachers of the Word? 

How we equip is a key for multiplication DNA. That includes the pastor’s posture, that we may not have people in our churches for 20, 30 or 40 years. The world is more transient today than it was in years past; it looks more like what we read in Acts in that particular way.

Create space to hear from the Holy Spirit 

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:1-3).  

Lucius is presumably one of the men of Cyrene in Acts 11:20 that founded the church at Antioch. These prophets and teachers were together worshiping and fasting.  

This is a leaders’ meeting of a fast-growing church in Antioch.  

Their leaders’ meeting, at least the one that Luke tells us about in great detail is a time of fasting and worshiping. While they were doing that, the Holy Spirit spoke to them.  

From pastors to community group leaders, we all know what it's like to fall out of dependence on the Holy Spirit. We’re good at the operations of Sundays and Wednesdays and home groups and teaching Bible study. We become comfortable without a sense of desperation that without the Holy Spirit we are completely incapable of proclaiming the name of Jesus in dark places. 

We become comfortable without a sense of desperation that without the Holy Spirit we are completely incapable of proclaiming the name of Jesus in dark places.

One of the DNA pieces of a multiplying church is a church that creates space to hear from the Holy Spirit. This could be as simple as a daily time to fast and pray with leaders of the church to an annual retreat to take intentional time to worship, pray, fast and listen.  

When the Holy Spirit speaks, obey Him 

“Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:3-4). 

I love how Luke intertwines the partnership of the prophets and teachers with the Holy Spirit. They laid their hands on them and sent them off and then Luke says, “being sent out by the Holy Spirit.”  

To be a multiplying church, we must be willing to lay hands on a person who is called by God and send them out into the world to share the gospel, make disciples and plant new churches. 

We must generously share our people. Often, we pour time, energy, prayer and faith into people in leadership pipelines. We're proud of their development and dependent on their gifting, and we build our churches with them in mind. They are faithful and capable in any context, yet the Spirit is setting them apart for a different work. 

It is an act of faith and generosity to obey the Holy Spirit and send out the people that he has entrusted to us—regardless of how gifted and essential they may be to what we are building in our local contexts. 

When we see that God is a multiplying God who has entrusted His story to us to be passed on, when we realize that the gospel is meant to be taught so others can teach it, when we make space during our busyness to hear from the Holy Spirit and then obey Him when He speaks, that’s when we get to see a multiplying movement. 

Matt Larson

Matt Larson served as youth pastor in several EFCA churches before he and Kristen planted Anthem Church in Thousand Oaks, California, with a launch team of 150 individuals. Matt’s parents, Steve and Connie Larson, are lifelong EFCA leaders. Steve currently pastors The Bridge (EFCA) in Newbury Park, California.

Kevin Kompelien

President Emeritus, EFCA

Kevin Kompelien served as the president of the Evangelical Free Church of America from June 2015 until April 2024, and currently serves as the president of Trinity International University. He previously served more than 20 years as a local pastor in the EFCA and then nine years as international leader of the Africa division with EFCA ReachGlobal. He and his wife, Becky, are members of Hillside EFC in San Jose, California.

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