The Multiplicative Aspects of Christian Leadership
There have been many articles and books written about Christian leaders and leadership development, and another one should not be needed. But a perusal of much of this literature has not picked up some key principles that are provided in Jethro’s counsel to Moses and in our Lord’s methods of discipleship and leadership training. The intent of this article is to use some statistical analysis of data in the Old Testament and the New Testament to reveal some deep biblical truths about leadership development. But first, a brief lesson about additive and multiplicative thinking.
The easiest way to distinguish between additive and multiplicative thinking is to talk about investing one dollar. An additive approach would add one dollar to the initial investment and the following accumulated investments every period. In a multiplicative perspective, there is a percentage rate of growth in the one dollar. In the additive, one dollar would gain $52 in 52 weeks; but the multiplicative, at a ten percent rate of growth, would gain $142.04 in 52 weeks. Thus, in retirement plans and other investments, we would prefer multiplicative rates of growth not additive. The same holds in the spiritual realm as we shall see.
Old Testament Perspectives
The counsel of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to Moses about leadership and delegation has always been impressive: “You shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain, and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace” (NASB, Exo. 18:21-23). This counsel addresses four levels of leadership beyond that of Moses. The four leadership levels are shown in Table 1 below (column four is the natural logarithm of the OT leaders used in the multiplicative model):
Table 1: OT Leadership Levels
The OT groupings column indicates the number of people that would require oversight at each level while OT leaders indicates the number of leaders necessary at each of the levels for just 1000 people. For instance, at leadership level two, 1000 divided by 100 suggests that 10 level two leaders are needed for 1000 people. Likewise, 20 leaders of 50 are needed at level three, and 100 leaders of 10 at level 4. The total number of leaders necessary for 1000 people from Jethro’s counsel is 131. Should our large churches not ask themselves the question, do we have 131 leaders per 1000 members?
Figure 1 presents a graph of the actual data in Table 1, but also the results of two statistical models fit to the data. The straight-line model assumes that leadership is additive at each level. The slope of this line is a positive 30.7, implying a need for about 31 more leaders at each level. This additive model is not statistically significant and grossly underestimates and overestimates the leadership needs at each leadership level. The second model (indicated by triangles in Figure 1) is a non-linear model that is multiplicative. This model is very statistically significant and fits the actual data of Exodus 18 very well. The multiplicative nature of this model reveals a slope of 327%, meaning that there must be a 327% increase in the number of quality leaders from level to level. Looking back at Table 1, there is a 1000% increase (1 to 10) in quality leadership from level one to level two, a 200% increase (10 to 20) from level two to level three, and a 500% increase (20 to 100) in leadership from level three to level four.
Figure 1: OT Leaders versus Leadership Level
In essence, the leader of 1000 would spend his time with the 10 leaders of a 100 while those 10 would spend time with two leaders of 50 and these two would spend time with five leaders of 10.
The biblical implication of these findings is that additive perspectives for leadership will always be inadequate but that multiplicative perspectives for leadership will always be right at the proper level. Is it possible that Paul had this multiplicative model in mind under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he said to Timothy, “and the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2)? Here is Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others, four levels of leadership. Also, Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1 tells how he and Silas and Timothy impacted the Thessalonians who “became imitators of us and of the Lord” and became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. Again, are there not four leadership levels in Paul, Silas and Timothy, the Thessalonian saints, and the believers in two Greek provinces?
New Testament Perspectives
A natural question raised by these findings in the Old Testament is this same kind of result evident in the New Testament? The answer is emphatically yes! The Lord has His 12 disciples, 70 others that He sent out “two and two ahead of Him to every city and place that He Himself was going to come (Lk. 10:1),” 120 waiting in an upper room with prayer after the Lord’s ascent (Acts 1:12-15), and more than 500 that He appeared to after His resurrection (1 Cor.15:3-8).5 Table 2 shows the NT leadership levels.
Table 2: NT Leadership Levels
Of course, one could debate that there were really only 11 apostles but Paul could have technically been the twelfth. Likewise, were there 70 in Luke 10:1 or 72? Also, the last leadership level is more than 500. So, one might argue that there is not the exactness a statistician might want. However, Figure 2 shows the linear (additive) model for the NT, and again it overestimates and underestimates at the various leadership levels. On the other hand, the non-linear (multiplicative) model is very significant statistically and fits the data very well as evidenced by the triangles in Figure 2. The percentage increase between leadership levels is estimated to be 223%, about a 100% less than the OT. However, a side-by-side comparison of Figures 1 and 2 reveals the same patterns and thus the conclusions to follow.
Figure 2: NT Leaders versus Leadership Level
Summary and Implications
First, without getting lost in any statistical jargon, it is evident from Figures 1 and 2 that God’s perspective for quality leadership and development of that leadership is not additive but multiplicative. Adding people to God’s kingdom is important but multiplying one’s life in Christ is just, if not more, important to provide leadership in this generation and successive generations in the body of Christ. Additive perspectives tend to create “another generation after them who did not know the Lord nor yet the work which He had done” (Judges 2:10). One might say that additive perspectives in leadership can be fleshed out, but multiplicative leadership development must be done in co-operation and under the leading of the Holy Spirit with the Word of God. The dependence upon the Lord is much greater since the discipler or the one who wants to multiply his life must be abiding deeply in the Vine if he wants fruit that lasts and bears more fruit (that is, multiplication).
Second, to have leaders of 10 implies that there is a commitment to small groups of people for the sake of doing a better job of shepherding. There is no way a pastor can really know the needs of the sheep. He may hear from “the squeaky wheel” or from those “selected few” he allows access to him, but these sources may have serious biases. With 100 small group leaders for a 1000 people reporting to 20 leaders of 50 to 10 leaders of 100, the pastor should now have valid shepherding insight. He can spend his time with the major disputes (Exo. 18:22) or major problems plus devote himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). The bottom line as suggested by Jethro is that it is easier for him, the burden is shared, leadership is developed in a multiplicative not an additive fashion, and that the people can go in peace since their need was addressed and the access to leadership was not delayed or prohibited as frequently happens. This difficulty of accessing leadership can create real barriers to the development of the sheep, the maturity of new leaders, and to relationships in the body of Christ. The end result is no peace because we didn’t do it God’s way.
Third, Jethro saw that Moses would wear himself out and that the tasks of leadership were too heavy for one individual. Leadership needs to be a shared responsibility such that leaders do not burn out and such that needs can truly be met. To illustrate the issues, one of the men (let’s call him David) that I’ve been discipling has been brought into preventing a divorce from occurring. The pastor of this 1000-member church had been dealing with the couple off and on for six months. As the intervention proceeded David heard from the pastor’s own lips that he was tired of dealing with the couple. When David suggested that the church needed more elders (there were only six or seven), the pastor said they didn’t need any more elders. A pastor that is tired, a shortage of elders by choice, and a hurting couple all affected adversely by not following the biblical patterns for leadership. The entire situation is not a win-win but a loss for all involved and all in the sphere of influence of this church.
Fourth, additive discipleship making has another serious flaw! The leaders or prospective leaders are all at the same level spiritually. However, the multiplicative model of leadership implies different levels of maturity as noted by the apostle John in 1 John 2:13: “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” Different levels of maturity require teaching the Word of God with a power from above in such a way that all levels of leadership get spiritual food. The spiritual food is not just milk for all levels of leadership. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:13, 14).” Thus, there are questions those of us in the ministry should ask. (1) Are there different levels of leadership in my church or ministry? (2) If so, is there mentoring or discipleship going on between those levels? (3) Is my teaching of the Word to only a select level, babes, children, young men, or fathers? Answers to these questions and more under the guidance of the Holy Spirit may lead us to doing ministry finally God’s way.
Fourth, for a congregation of 1000 believers, there are some benchmark numbers for a ministry that focuses on multiplication and not addition. There should be four levels of leadership, and one-hundred and thirty leaders to shepherd the 1000. This proportionality should exist for any size congregation. It is very likely people like the small church atmosphere (congregation or 100 or so) because of the access to leadership and the availability of that leadership to the needs of the sheep. However, a church that does not take care of the exponential growth of leadership will look more like and feel like a corporation that is insensitive to the shepherding of the sheep. Elders will be perceived as members of a corporate board who are distant or non-vested in the sheep. Believe it or not that is the perspective of many believers today because that is reality!
Fifth, God has commanded us to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Disciple making requires shepherding, which encompasses tending the lambs, shepherding the sheep, and tending the sheep (Jn. 21:15-17). True discipleship is making strives, with the assistance and power of the Holy Spirit, to make a saint a multiplier of his life in Christ and a multiplier of godly leadership within the four levels of leadership as taught in the OT and the NT. May God give grace, wisdom, and power to those of us who understand this commission and who desire to be obedient to the charge.