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By design of God, complex living organisms reproduce offspring after their kind through the organic process of multiplication. Consequently, male and female parent organisms combine DNA, the genetic blueprint of created life, to multiply other living organisms “after their kind.”
Like the reproduction of every other complex living organism, the reproduction of the New Testament church occurs by the multiplication of life. It is achieved when God multiplies His eternal life (zoe) within the created, regenerated life (psuche) of mankind on earth. The result is the creation of a new man capable of sharing life with Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The organic, spiritual, progressive, cooperative, collaborative mission of multiplying eternal life (zoe) on earth produced the rapid growth of the early New Testament church at an exponential rate. Exponential growth is growth that occurs at a progressively increasing rate. For example, if a variable of two is multiplied annually by an exponent of two, growth is doubled each year: 
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The rapid growth of the early New Testament church did not occur by the exponential multiplication of eternal life (zoe) in individual human beings. Much more significant, it was the result of reproducing divine life (zoe) on earth through the exponential multiplication of small group community.
Stated more clearly, the exponential multiplication of small group community did not simply add individuals to the original group; it reproduced an entirely new small group community. Therefore, small group communities, typically consisting of 1020 people, were multiplied at a progressively increasing rate. Growth by Addition In contrast to exponential growth, the growth of the church by addition is incremental. Significantly slower than exponential growth, incremental growth occurs when one or more individuals are added to a preexisting group. For example, if a variable of two is consistently increased by two, the size of the group is initially doubled. Thus, the resultant growth arrives at the exact total as the early stages of exponential growth. However, as represented in the following table, that is where the similarity ends: 
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As demonstrated, growth by incremental addition is much slower than growth by exponential multiplication. Four generations of each produce significantly different results. Exponential growth produced 32 new individuals while incremental growth produced only 10.
Early New Testament Church Growth By eternal design, the initial growth of the early New Testament church was predominantly incremental. It began with 120 people in ancient Jerusalem. (Acts 1:15) By the Spirit, new believers were continually added to the early ecclesia. (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; cf. Acts 4:4) By the end of the first day, “there were added about three thousand souls,” and the Lord continued “adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41, 47) The Greek word translated “add” in Acts 2 is prostithemi (prostith'aymee). Of the 16 times it is used in the New Testament, 11 are translated as “add.” Within a concise period, the number of men alone added to the early church rose to “about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico….And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.” (Acts 5:12, 14) Through the addition of incremental growth, the early church arrived at the necessary critical mass for rapid growth by exponential multiplication. Once an adequate number of converts were added to the early New Testament church, it was prepared for much more significant growth through exponential multiplication. (Acts 6:1, 7; 9:31; cf. Acts 7:17) “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.” (Acts 6:7) The Greek word translated “increase” is plethuno (playthoo'no). Of its 12 uses in the New Testament, 11 are translated as “multiply.” When critical mass was reached, the growth rate of the early New Testament church was evidential of multiplication at an exponential rate. Within its first two years, it reproduced at a rate that is difficult to explain by means other than the multiplication of small group community at a progressively increasing rate. (Acts 616) Based on the numbers recorded in the Book of Acts, it is apparent that the early New Testament church grew to as many as 10,000 new believers during its first two years of existence. World Population Growth Like the early New Testament church, the recent growth of world population has occurred at an exponential rate. Therefore, if the modern New Testament church is to be effective in fulfilling its mission, it must return to a growth strategy capable of keeping pace with the exponential growth rate of world population. During the last two centuries, it occurred at a progressively increasing rate. In about 4100 years, from the approximate time of Noah’s flood until AD1800, the world population reached critical mass at the 1 billion mark. Through exponential rather than incremental growth, the second billion was reached in only about 127 years (AD1927), the third in 33 years (AD1960), the fourth in 15 years (AD 1975), the fifth in 12 years (AD 1987), the sixth in another 12 years after the fifth (AD 1999) and the seventh in about the same length of time (AD 2012). Arrival at 8 billion is projected to occur by 2023. The twentieth century alone witnessed population growth from about 1.65 billion to 6 billion. Thus, world population has multiplied exponentially for the last two hundred years and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.1 The multiplication of world population at an exponential rate combined with an incremental church growth strategy has caused the number of people who have never heard the Gospel to grow disproportionately in relation to the number of those who have heard. For the New Testament church to fulfill its mission on earth, it must grow in proportion to the progressively increasing growth rate of the world population. Therefore, it must once again adopt a strategy for growth characterized by multiplication at an exponential rate. 
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New Testament Church Growth
New Testament church growth characterized by multiplication at a progressively increasing rate can reach an exceptionally large number of people in a short time. The example of growth by exponential multiplication given above started with a variable of two. It was progressively multiplied by an exponent of two. Allowing the variable to represent the beginning number of people in the New Testament church community, growth increases to 32 people by the fourth year. Thus, it would take four years to accomplish growth from two to 32 people. It might not seem like rapid growth. However, if the growth continues to double, it will reach 512 people by the eighth year. 
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Continuing to grow by exponential multiplication, the New Testament church experiences significant growth:

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Its rate of growth uninterrupted, the New Testament church would double in size annually. Thus, it would grow to 8,589,934,592 people in only 32 years. The current population of the world is about 8 billion. Theoretically, church growth by multiplication at an exponential rate could more than encompass the world’s entire population in less than 32 years!

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In contrast, church growth by incremental addition produces a much less significant result. For example, beginning with two people and annually adding two more people yields growth of 64 people in 32 years.
The distinct growth of the living (zoe) church of the New Testament does not occur by human effort through organizational principle and precept. Organic, spiritual, progressive, cooperative, and collaborative by nature, the exponential growth of the New Testament church is a gracious act of God. Therefore, man’s role in the distinct growth of the New Testament church is not trying but trusting. © 2023 James Hiatt 
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