This challenge is from a talk Kim gave last year in London. If you prefer, you can watch the presentation here.
Let me tell you about the most patient and gracious language tutor in the world: Li Wei.
For several hours a week while I was living in East Asia, I took language lessons with Li Wei. He knew I was into coaching, and so he would regularly tell me stories about how he was using his coaching skills to disciple new believers in his church, to build relationship with the 6th grade soccer team he coached, and even to evade the family questions at gatherings about why, at 31, he was not yet married. It was fun to hear his energy about using his coaching skills.
I loved Li Wei’s coaching stories. And what I especially loved was that I was actually part of Li Wei’s coaching development. I never did any training with Li Wei, but he was a third generation student of mine.
You see, back when I was living in Australia, 8–10 years prior to my language lessons, I would regularly come to Asia to teach coaching and leadership skills. On one trip, I trained Jack. We stayed in touch, and I continued to mentor him and pass along leadership and coaching skills. Jack met a bi-vocational pastor named Min and his wife Zhang Jie. Jack trained them in coaching skills. When Li Wei became a Christian he was introduced to Min and Zhang Jie. And through that discipling relationship, Li Wei became interested in coaching skills. Who trained Li Wei? Min and Zhang Jie. They passed on the coaching skills and training materials that they got from Jack.
Years later when I moved to Asia, I was randomly assigned a Christian language tutor by the organization that provided my visa: Li Wei!
I loved the reminder that this relationship was to me: that when we take the little bit that God has given us, and we intentionally invest it in others and help them do the same for others, the ramifications can be so much bigger than our personal efforts.
Just like Jethro invested in Moses, who invested in Joshua...and Barnabas invested in Paul, who invested in Timothy…I, too, get to be part of that kind of investment process.
Of course it didn’t just start with me. I’ve been invested in by people like Bobby, and Terry, and Margaret, and others.
Li Wei’s pride and joy using his coaching skills reminds me of God’s amazing mathematical ability to multiply things exponentially. It illustrates what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2, that we are to invest in reliable leaders, who are competent to teach others as well. We pass on what we’ve been entrusted with, to those who will pass it on again, to those who will do the same.
And of course that’s what Jesus did—with the twelve, and specifically with the three (Peter, James, and John). He trained them with the expectation that they would do the same thing he did with them, for other people who would do the same for others.
The Power of a Multiplication Mindset
Recently, I read about a medical ministry in Southeast Asia. Two foreign doctors were running a clinic and doing incredible ministry locally. There was all sorts of healing happening—spiritually and physically. The newsletter reported on the changed lives and the gratitude of this community.
And yet that ministry stands in stark contrast in terms of magnitude and methodology to another doctor—Dr. Thompson, at the Bongolo hospital in Gabon. He was ministering tirelessly to lots of people physically and spiritually. But after 15 years on the field he was worn out. He realized he couldn’t keep up with the demands around him. He said, “I was operating night and day and I knew I was going to burn out… (and) leave, and that everything would go back to the way it was before I arrived.”
At that point he completely changed his strategy. He focused on training locals to provide healthcare, and establishing a residency program for them to equip others as surgeons. Then, those who were trained moved out into other villages, and did more training of more medical people. In this way, the ministry expanded beyond Gabon and all across Africa!
Consider the difference between those two types of doctors. In both places the foreign medical professionals served faithfully. The difference wasn’t their medical expertise, their spiritual maturity, or their prayer life. The only difference was the multiplication mindset of Dr. Thompson: the intentionality of investing in people and helping them to do the same to invest in others.
While ministry and positive impact are great, they don’t necessarily equal multiplication. A ministry mindset isn’t necessarily a multiplication mindset. We can do good ministry, and yet not multiply.
Too often our focus is on what we can do, rather than God’s bigger vision of what God wants to do through the people that we invest in…and through the people that they invest in.
The true fruit of our missional effort is not merely the new followers of Christ, nor the changed lives. The ultimate fruitfulness of our efforts begins to appear when the people that we’ve invested in—those changed lives—contribute their gifts and story to catalyze transformation in the lives of others, and those people go on to do the same thing, so that their community and the entire world is touched. Through the power of Kingdom multiplication, my biggest impact on the world will not just come through what I do, but through what Jack does, through Pastor Min and Zhang Jie, through Li Wei, and through all the other people they will invest in—people I will probably never meet and whose stories I will never know in this lifetime. And that bigger vision, built on a multiplication mindset, is what God is calling each of us to participate in.
1. What’s your God-sized vision that’s bigger than what you can accomplish alone?
2. If you could no longer do what you’re doing, would that ministry come to a halt? How can you multiply yourself so that your impact continues to be multiplied?
3. Who are you investing in? What are you doing to help them be intentional about investing in others?
Are you practicing a multiplication mindset? Learn seven key characteristics that multiplying leaders embody (based on the research from Kim’s DMin dissertation) here. Then, take the self assessment below to discover areas in your own life where making changes could result in greater impact and multiplication.
Kim Zovak has been with Novo/CRM for 17+ years, working as a leadership consultant, coach, and trainer for Christian leaders and organizations in less reached and resourced parts of the world. She is passionate about helping leaders multiply their impact by reproducing more effective leaders, and supporting organizations to build strong leadership development cultures that better achieve their goals. Her passion for leadership development is reflected in her Fuller DMin (2004) focused on leadership multiplication. After living abroad for 14 years (in Australia and Asia), she returned to the US, but continues to train, coach, consult, and catalyze multiplication globally. Kim enjoys movies with her husband and young adult children, travel (especially exploring new places), skiing, scuba-diving, reading, and spending time with friends.