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EXPONENTIAL Book Excerpt: Reproducing Like Rabbits

Fibonacci EffectThe following is an excerpt from our new book EXPONENTIAL: How You And Your Friends Can Start A Missional Church Movement that will be on shelves in 17 days, but you can order online right now.

It was the great mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci (c. 1170 – c. 1250) who was asked to solve a math problem called “the problem of rabbit reproduction”.  This is what he was asked to solve:  “If you put a pair of rabbits in a place surrounded by walls, how many rabbits can be reproduced from that pair in a year if every month each pair reproduced a new pair after living for one month?” Fibonacci began to crunch the numbers to solve the problem of rabbit reproduction using the only tool that he had – Roman numerals.  But Roman numerals were a clumsy tool at best, barely allowing him to add and subtract. In fact, just to multiply or divide he had to use a Chinese abacus and then translate his results back into Roman numerals.  In his frustration, he began to count like we count now:  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.  The result?  Fibonacci invented the ten digit notation.  Using those ten digit notations Fibonacci began to calculate like you see in the diagram on the left.

He continued to calculate and discovered that after 2 years of rabbit reproduction there would be more than 30,000 rabbits! After 2 1/2 years there would be more than HALF A MILLION RABBITS!!  Not only did Fibonacci solve the problem of rabbit reproduction, but Fibonacci changed forever how the world does math and how we count.  No longer would the world use Roman numerals, but rather a much more efficient method for calculating exponential reproduction, the ten digit notation.

Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)   Like Fibonacci who was given a math problem, Jesus has given his church a mission problem – how do we take his mission to the “ends of the earth”?  


Do the math . . .  We are not solving Jesus’ mission problem!  Less than 20% of Americans attend church regularly and only 22% of the population has a positive view of church.  Half of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.  43,000 Americans will leave the church for good…this week!  In my own hometown of Chicago, we are closing one church per week.  Consider this math:
•    In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans. 
•    In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans
•    In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans
•    In 2004, the latest year available, there are 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans

We’re failing to keep up with population growth. In his book The Forgotten Ways, my friend Alan Hirsch writes:  “ . . . we risk the eventual demise of Christianity as a religious force in Western history – witness Europe in the last hundred years.” (The Forgotten Ways, p.21)

What we are doing is not accomplishing the mission!

What you will read in this EXPONENTIAL:  How You and Your Friends Can Start A Missional Church Movement is the Fibonacci effect applied to the Jesus mission.  It is a way for us go to the ends of the earth.  If we are relying on church growth at a single church with a single site, through a single leader it is like using Roman numerals to solve the problem of rabbit reproduction.  When it comes to rapid reproduction, old church growth models will be clumsy at best. 

If we want to solve Jesus’ mission problem of going to “Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria… to the ends of the earth” we are going to have to find a new kind of math and a new way to count that results in rapid reproduction.  That new math is EXPONENTIAL.  The new way to count is by counting on you and your friends to spread Jesus’ missional movement.

Let’s get movin!

In 17 days EXPONENTIAL: How You And Your Friends Can Start A Missional Church Movement
will be available in bookstores.  You can order it online right now. 
You can also join myself and Jon for a 30-day conversation on our new
book where you will get content drops, videos and additional question
and answers through Daily Digital.

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