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Growth on earth can be organic or inorganic. God is the source of organic growth. Mankind is the source of inorganic growth.
Organic growth is lifebased (zoe). In contrast, inorganic growth is lawbased (achieved through organizational principle and precept). Organic growth reproduces by multiplication. In contrast, inorganic growth grows by addition. Growth Organic growth and inorganic growth produce growth at the same rate (multiplication is simply repeated addition). Thus, one is not more advantageous than the other. Growth by addition is produced incrementally. Incremental growth occurs when one or more things are added to a preexisting number of things. For example, if you start with two people and add two people annually. After year one you end up with a total of four people (2+2=4). If you continue to add two people annually you end up with 6 people after year 2 (4+2=6), 8 people after year three (6+2=8), 10 people after year four (8+2=10), and so on. 
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As indicated, multiplication is repeated addition. For example, start with two people and multiply by two people annually. Like addition, after year one you end up with a total of 4 people (2x2=4). If you continue to multiply two people annually you also end up with 6 people after year 2 (2x3=6), 8 people after year three (2x4=8), 10 people after year four (2x5=10), etc.

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While growth by addition and standard multiplication produce a similar rate of growth, there is a type of multiplication that yields much faster growth. It is exponential multiplication.

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Exponential Multiplication
Rather than growth by repeated addition, exponential multiplication provides growth by repeated multiplication. Consequently, it occurs at a progressively increasing rate that doubles each time it multiplies. For example, start with two people again and multiply by two people annually. Similar to addition or standard multiplication, they grow after one year to a total of four people (2x2=4). During year two, however, growth begins to accelerate. Therefore, by the end of year 2 total growth is eight people (4x2=8); after year three, 16 people (8x2=16); after year four, 32 people (16x2=32); and so on. As demonstrated, growth by exponential multiplication is much more rapid than growth by incremental addition. Four generations of each produce significantly different results. Exponential growth produced 32 new individuals in four years while incremental growth produced only 10. Critical Mass Critical mass can be defined as the minimum amount of people necessary to sustain growth by exponential multiplication. Thus, it is important to reach critical mass before exponential multiplication can begin. Critical mass is not typically achieved through multiplication but addition. Therefore, it involves adding enough individuals to sustain the desired growth at a progressively increasing, exponential rate. If critical mass is not reached before attempting to multiply, exponential multiplication will struggle and eventually fail. 
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Small Group Community
Exponential growth at a progressively increasing rate is easier to achieve through small groups than large groups. In fact, it must be noted that the exponential multiplication of large groups is not only contrary to the scriptural record but logistically improbable. Consistent with the scriptural record, small group community provides an intimate support network that is suitable to satisfy the eternal purpose and mission of the New Testament church on earth. It allows for the celebration of shared life with God, His immediate headship, Spiritfilled community, the interactive ministry of eternal life (zoe) by the Spirit through the spiritually gifted involvement of every member of the body, purposeful prayer, the Lord’s Supper as a full, celebratory meal, the intimate fellowship of the Spirit; participatory praise and worship in song; the equipping of the saints, the joyful giving of material goods and finances to meet actual needs; corrective spiritual discipline; cooperative discipleship; and teamoriented outreach. Additionally, small group community is inviting, flexible, mobile, inexpensive, and able to traverse cultural boundaries, and survive persecution. Further, it provides the perfect venue for exponential multiplication of the New Testament church “even to the remotest part of the earth.” It is clear that the growth of the early New Testament church did not occur merely by the exponential multiplication of eternal life (zoe) in individual human beings. Instead, its rapid growth was evidential of the exponential multiplication of small group communities. Confirmation of Scripture By eternal design, the initial growth of the early New Testament church was 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.” After critical mass was reached, the growth rate of the early New Testament church was evidential of the multiplication of small group communities at an exponential or 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. 
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World Population Growth
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. In about 4100 years, from the approximate time of Noah’s flood until AD1800, the world population reached critical mass at the one billion mark. Through exponential rather than incremental growth, the second billion was reached in only about 127 years (AD1927), the third billion in 33 years (AD1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (AD 1975), the fifth billion in 12 years (AD 1987), the sixth billion in another 12 years after the fifth (AD 1999) and the seventh billion in about the same length of time (AD 2012). During the last 100 years, the world population has grown exponentially from 2 billion to more than 8 billion. The twentieth century alone witnessed population growth from about 1.65 billion to 6 billion. Continuing to grow exponentially, the current world population has reached 8.1 billion as of mid2023 It will continue to grow at an exponential rate for the foreseeable future.[1] The multiplication of world population at an exponential rate combined with a longterm 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. 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. Using the example of exponential multiplication given previously, two people multiplied to 32 people in only four years. After year five, the New Testament church grows to 64 people, 128 people after year six, 256 people after year seven, and 512 people after year eight: 
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If growth continues to double by exponential multiplication, it will multiply to 8,192 people by the end of year 12:

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Incredibly, the New Testament church would grow to more than eight and one half billion people (8,589,934,592) in only 32 years. Theoretically, it would encompass the entire population of the world.

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In contrast, church growth by incremental addition produces a much less significant result. For example, beginning with two people and adding two more annually yields growth of 64 people in 32 years.
The rapid growth of the early New Testament church can only be understood by means of exponential multiplication. Nevertheless, there are some who will argue that quality is more important than quantity. Therefore, the church should be more involved in the quality of discipleship rather than growth in numbers. Unfortunately, the quality over quantity debate is shortsighted. It demonstrates unfamiliarity with the vast superiority of life with Christ and the loving brothers and sisters of His body manifested in intimate, small group community. There is nothing more suitable for evangelizing the lost or discipling the redeemed. Too often, the quality over quantity debate views the loneliness of life spent in an impersonal large group listening to a lecture about God as preferable. To this I must respond, Jesus loves all those who belong to Him. The average Christian however, is lonely, doesn’t know the word of God, doesn’t have any unbelieving friends, and wouldn’t know how to share his faith if he did. Sadly, that is not even the worst problem with the quality over quantity debate. It ignores the horrendous future that awaits the multitudes who will spend eternity apart from God. The growth of the living (zoe) church of the New Testament was never intended to occur by legalistic, human effort through organizational principle and precept. It is a fruitless, ineffective strategy that only occasionally leads to the addition of an adherent. Instead, the New Testament church was designed to grow exponentially by the multiplication of divine life (zoe) in the elect. New Testament church growth cannot be achieved for God. He alone can cause His ecclesia to grow. The role of mankind in the growth of the New Testament church is to stop trying and start trusting. © 2023 James Hiatt 
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