“Together that the world may know.” That’s the tagline for Multiply, the newly formed global church planting agency resulting from the merger of MB Mission, the North American mission agency serving in more than 30 countries, and C2C Network, the Canadian Conference of MB Churches church planting agency serving across more than 30 denominations.
Multiply brings together C2C Network’s local and national church planter support systems and MB Mission’s contextual and holistic mission strategies. Together, Multiply will operate on mission locally, nationally and globally.
“Our vision for Multiply is that the church, the whole church, would find their assignment in mission, and that we wouldn’t just think of mission as somewhere far away—a location that you have to fly to or that is reserved for a few exclusive professional long-term missionaries—but that mission would be accessible to every part of the body of Christ,” says Multiply president Randy Friesen. “This merger means that we now consider North America as our eighth region of mission around the world, and we are looking at the challenge of reaching our communities and our cities with the same missiological focus as we would apply to any other part of the world.”
The need—why Multiply?
According to its strategic plan, Multiply exists to facilitate church planting locally, nationally and globally and will work on behalf of U.S. and Canadian Mennonite Brethren churches to inspire, equip and encourage multiplication of healthy disciples, reproducing churches and harvest partnerships.
The need for new churches in North America is great, says Mark Burch, Multiply North American director. The last major wave of church planting happened between 1945 and 1965 after veterans returned from World War II and people moved to the suburbs. A majority of North American churches are between 60-70 years old, he says, the number of years comprising a church’s average life cycle.
“We’re closing 4,000 churches a year in North America, so if we are not planting at least 4,000, we’re not keeping up with the closure rate of churches,” Burch says. “Then, if you analyze the health of churches—how many of them are evangelistically effective, how many baptisms are they having, how many people have come to faith, how many churches are they helping plant—it gets pretty discouraging pretty fast.”
Multiply’s goal is, with the church, to see an unprecedented harvest in which millions of people encounter Jesus, thousands of missional leaders are released and hundreds of harvest partnerships are formed.
“The health of our church really matters to me and matters to the Lord,” Friesen says. “I’m excited about what God has in store for us as we live on mission together here.”
History of Multiply in the U.S.
Discussion about ways C2C Network might begin working in the U.S. as well as Canada began three years ago at a strategy team meeting hosted by the USMB Leadership Board regarding a revisioning and restructuring of the U.S. Conference, known as the Future Story.
“Three years ago, we were challenged with the question, ‘What can we give as ministries for the health, the betterment, the more effective engagement of the USMB conference in the mission that God’s given her?’” Friesen says.
That led Friesen to prayerfully consider ways to utilize MB Mission’s North American staff and global relationships in collaboration with C2C’s church-planting strategies.
“I thought, ‘We can help leverage the relationships here that already exist in North America between a very effective church planting strategy that’s being used in one part of North America for another part of North America,’” Friesen says. “That opened up the question, ‘What would it look like if we actually collaborated on a really significant level and maybe even brought ministries and organizations together to offer a single, integrated mission delivery system that was local, national and global?’”
The merger of MB Mission and C2C was approved in November 2017 at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC) and became official Jan. 1, 2018. At the time, Scott Thomas, who has since concluded his service with C2C, served as the U.S. C2C staff member.
As of January 2019, MB Mission and C2C have officially become Multiply, a global, Mennonite Brethren based church planting agency serving cross-denominationally as guided by three shared values: Gospel-centered, Spirit-led and mission-focused.
Multiply will work collaboratively with USMB and the five districts to provide training, coaching, assessing and project management for church planters and to birth new MB churches across America.
“We are very interested in connecting the church in North America with the church in other parts of the world,” Friesen says. “Through this merger, we are now engaged with the structures of the Mennonite Brethren church here in North America in new ways that we weren’t before.”
Governance and new roles
With headquarters in Abbotsford, BC, and U.S. offices in Hillsboro, Kan., and Fresno, Calif., Multiply will be governed by the binational MB Mission—now Multiply—Board of Directors, representing both USMB and CCMBC.
Friesen, previously general director of MB Mission, will serve as Multiply president, while Gord Fleming, executive vice president of C2C, will be Multiply’s executive vice president.
A lead team will serve alongside Friesen and Fleming, including Esther Corbett in human resources, Doug Penner in global program, Larry Neufeld in media and mobilization and Selwyn Uittenbosch in finance and administration.
The combined MB Mission and C2C roster includes more than 80 people. Multiply will have about 60 full-time employees in North America, with about 12 living in the U.S. Roles are still being defined.
Burch, who was previously the C2C Canadian director, will oversee the systems and structures of church planting, including assessment, coaching, training and support. He will also work with regional teams. Discernment continues, Burch says, on whether having one North American director is best or if directors are needed in both the U.S. and Canada.
Meanwhile, Chris Douglas, former U.S. church planting mobilizer with C2C, will operate under that same title with Multiply and work closely with Stephen Humber, Mark Thompson and Galen Wiest, who will continue working as mobilizers.
“Their roles are going to stay very much the same, but they’ll be working with our local churches to mobilize both short-term mission trips and long-term overseas workers,” Burch says of Humber, Thompson and Wiest. “The additional piece is that, in their working with churches, they will also be keeping their eyes open for church planter potentials for North America, and Chris Douglas, instead of just looking for planters for North America, will also be keeping his eyes open for potential overseas workers. They’re all looking at local, national and global planters.”
The need for contextualization in the U.S. is evident, Burch says, as Canada is 20 years ahead on a secularization scale, with nearly 30 percent of people claiming no religious affiliation. That statistic drops to 15 to 20 percent in the U.S., where a Christian subculture remains.
To help understand the U.S. church planting context, an advisory leadership team exists, comprised largely of the former C2C National Team, and includes Don Morris, USMB national director; Brent Warkentin, pastor of First MB Church in Wichita, Kan.; Fred Leonard, pastor of Mountain View Community Church in Fresno, Calif.; and Paul Robie, lead pastor of South Mountain Community Church in Utah.
“I think the principles of church planting are the same, and I think many of the tools that we’re using, certainly training tools, are the same and will work the same,” Burch says. “Where the nuances are going to come are the cultural differences between Canada and the U.S. and understanding the context that we’re in.”
U.S. church planting details
As the U.S. Mennonite Brethren church-planting agency, Multiply will offer resources for USMB churches, pastors, leaders and church planters and will work with churches in the five districts seeking to reproduce.
“We’re working on behalf of the conference to help these church plants and these churches that are looking to multiply,” Douglas says.
Typically, a potential church plant will be initiated at the district level, according to Morris, although Multiply may also initiate a project. Each district will provide subsidy directly to church plants in their district, as will Multiply.
Multiply’s support of a church plant extends beyond financial support to include personal, moral, administration systems and finances support, and the formation of a task force.
Multiply will help churches identify church planters and will facilitate assessment, coaching, training and support of planters—the ACTS model as first implemented by C2C in Canada—as well as walking alongside established churches and pastors in the planting process.
Douglas will serve as a liaison with the USMB family. Eighty percent of his work will be on the local and national level, he says.
As a faith-based institution, Multiply is donor-supported and raises funds from individual donors and local churches to help financially support church planters.
Donors will have the ability to invest exclusively in the scope of the former MB Mission or C2C Network if desired by designating their gifts to either global church planting or North American church planting. Supporters who want to give to a specific project or person, can simply designate it on the check.
“You can give to Multiply in general for church multiplication and expansion,” Douglas says. “Or you can give specifically to a church plant.”
Because Multiply works collaboratively and jointly with the national USMB conference and the five districts, it is critical that constituents continue to financially support all three partners, says USMB’s Morris. “Please don’t replace your giving to your district and USMB with giving to Multiply,” says Morris. “Donors are encouraged to continue giving to the district and national USMB and to give to Multiply over and above that.”
Vision: Expand God’s kingdom
Multiply is united by a desire to live centered on the Gospel, led by the Spirit and focused on the mission.
“We have in the church the opportunity to unite people around the person of Jesus Christ, and the cross and the gospel and the fact that we are one in Jesus,” Douglas says. “One of the ways that we express that is through church planting and through working together to see churches planted and to see the kingdom of God expanded.”
It’s all centered on mission of reaching people for Jesus, together.
“We’re praying for revival and spiritual awakening,” Friesen says. “We believe that linking the church globally is one of the ways that God wants to renew and revive his people and refocus them again on the mission that he’s given us.”