Why Add When You Can Multiply?

“We’re not smart. We’re just relentless.” — Ralph Moore

Ralph Moore is a pastor in Hawaii. I’m guessing, like me, you probably haven’t heard of him before. I just learned about him today. If he had planted a church in Hawaii that grew to 10,000 people, we’d probably know him, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he planted a church that multiplies churches that together amount to 70,000 people. Learning that intrigued me. I wanted to know more about Moore.

In 1983, after starting a church in California (Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach) he moved to Hawaii. The new church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, began under a hau tree in a Kailua Beach Park with 71 folks in attendance. Within six months they planted their first “daughter” church. Today, HCKB had grown to more than 1,700 people. Under Ralph’s leadership Hope Chapels have planted more than 700 churches located on six continents.

Ralph Moore believes church should be simple and it should reproduce. Ralph’s strategy is to multiply through MiniChurches. The MiniChurch is where church members are discipled and cared for and new leaders are identified and nurtured. MiniChurches are small groups. They meet weekly to review the Bible teaching from the previous weekend’s services. The format is simple (of course). They ask, what did you learn, what did God say to you, and what will you do? (Today Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay has over 115 Minichurches.)

Faithful group members who are influencing others are recruited as apprentice leaders and trained. Faithful apprentices can become MiniChurch pastors. MiniChurch pastors who are effective in multiplying other groups and leaders participate in the “pastor factory” where they are receive theological and practical training for current and future church leadership. The “pastor factory” becomes the talent pool from which future church planters are drawn. (Think of it as a kind of farm system for church planters.)

Mel Isara was one of the new Christians in Hawaii. He became a MiniChurch pastor and began multiplying other groups. Mel caught Ralph’s vision for church planting and started his first church in 2001. Six months after starting the church, Mel told them he would only be their pastor for two more years.

True to his word, two years later Mel left to start another church. In the first service in the new church he told the congregation he was going to be the laziest pastor they had ever met because he was going to equip them to do the work of ministry. He told them he would be leaving in two and a half years and “Junior” would be their new pastor. Junior was a former alcoholic and drug addict Mel had been equipping for the past four years. In 2005, Mel kept his promise, left that church and headed to another city in Hawaii to plant another church.

Since 1972 Ralph has seen over 700 churches, large and small, started in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Many of those churches have started churches that started churches that started churches, on and on out several generations. In human terms, some of these churches are parents, some are grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great grandparents of new churches!

Ralph Moore isn’t just a church planter. He’s a movement maker. (Don’t count baptisms, he cautions. Count new churches. That’s the way to multiply.)

For many, many months I’ve said we need to think different(ly) if we are going to reach our city for Christ. One thing we need to do is shift our way of thinking from addition to multiplication. If multiplication (multiplying disciples, multiply churches) was our aim, what would we do? What would we stop doing? What would we do differently?

I’m convinced Jesus didn’t come just to establish the church; he came to start a movement, a movement which grew exponentially. But what does it take to have a movement, whether social, political or religious? That’s a question I’ll explore next month as we look at the church on the move(ment).


(A post on “Entrepreneurial Leadership” from the NAMB Core Competency Team for associational leaders)