We Were Multiplying (And I Didn’t Even Know It)

When I returned from my sabbatical in 2015, one theme from God’s Holy Spirit burned hot in my heart: Mobilize to multiply. God’s passion for the nations had never been more clear to me, and the most logical place to start doing that was with the people I had grown to dearly love since planting the church in 2004. After all, multiplication is the heart of the Great Commission, the storyline of Acts, and the end time picture in Revelation.

Over the next two-plus years, God began providentially answering this prayer more fully in my own life personally, as well as in the life of our church corporately. Through sovronic opportunities, “chance” encounters, “it-just-so-happened” events, on-the-spot conversations, as well as ordained moments and planned meetings, our gracious Father began opening doors hinged to exactly that: multiplication. Whether at the Exponential conference or the Sending Lab, whether in a conversation with a young, potential planter (at my “second office” at Chick-fil-A) or on the phone with a church veteran looking to relocate and lead, God has been so faithful in providing numerous opportunities for us to put action to intention. And all along the way I’ve heard testimonies from churches and pastors who have reproduced themselves locally in satellites, planted other churches nationally, and/or reproduced themselves over and over internationally as well. Multisites, video venues, campuses, plants, making disciples—all are current words being used to describe the one thing to which God calls his people—multiplication.

At some point, though, I was struck with this thought: This is exactly what my home church did for years; this is the kind of church in which I grew up. Candidly, our church was multisiting, campusing, venuing, planting—multiplying—and didn’t even know it! It made me smile while I remembered there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Some context first. I grew up in Chattanooga, TN, at Highland Park Baptist Church in the mid-to-late 70’s and 80’s. We were the “Church of the Green Light,” and reaching out —“going”—was in our DNA. It was a church alive with passion and mission.

For instance, when we ran out of space in the main auditorium (later named Chauncey-Goode Auditorium), they began another service in the gym with live teaching by one of the staff from the church or college. Then, when we needed even more space, they began another one in Phillips Chapel, an adjoining auditorium right next door. Whatayaknow—we were multiplying through other venues.

Additionally, our church had developed over 60 chapels, located in Chattanooga and the surrounding area, where many of our college/seminary profs, sometimes even upper-level students, would pastor and preach. Yep, over 60 “satellites!” Arguably, one could say these were loose campuses of our church. Some of them eventually became autonomous. Ah, church planting.

See what I mean? The italicized words in the previous two paragraphs are the current words in the discussion of multiplication. Yet this is, in many ways, precisely what was happening back then. We were multisiting, and didn’t even know it. We were adding venues, and didn’t even know it. We were opening campuses, and didn’t even know it. We were planting churches, and didn’t even know it.

One thing we did know: We were multiplying.

Though I write that we “didn’t even know it” with a tad of satire, you get the point, don’t you? Multiplication isn’t new. Exponential didn’t think of it. NAMB didn’t invent it. Acts 29 wasn’t the originator of it. Frankly, neither did my home church. It’s been around since Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). Or since Paul said, “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Multiplication has always been the plan, no matter what you call it in your own neck of the woods and place in time.

I realize some have negative experiences from their time at HPBC and TTU. But personally, God used that environment in a deeply significant way in my life, the fruit of which is apparently sprouting still now as I seek to lead our own small body of believers to reproduce perpetually. I believe the incredible impact of that place was mainly due to how my godly parents helped me process all of it. Not once was I ever taught at home that rules made me spiritual, or that externals produced righteousness. It was clear in the Stiles home that true spirituality was an inside deal, not an outside show.

I also believe it was because of the way my parents allowed so many other godly people to speak into my life at key moments, such as Richard Jones (my Jr. High youth pastor), Joey Ford (my high school ensemble director), Tim Loftis (a youth leader), Anna Karnes (a high school teacher), Jim Blair (my wrestling coach), and many more. My parents were never insecure, threatened, or critical. They were, instead, grateful for any investment someone might make into their kid, open-armed, and supportive with time and resources.

God empowered all of these people, beginning with my parents, to be multipliers—investing in me in ways that I still remember and from which I have benefitted over and over. I trust I, too, have passed it on to others who have passed it on to others who have passed it on to others…and so forth. That’s more than addition. That’s multiplication.

In some ways, my home church was ahead of its time. Maybe not in its verbiage, but for sure in its values. And I’ll be forever grateful for the impact of a multiplying church with people who were committed to “making disciples of all nations.”

22 Comments on “We Were Multiplying (And I Didn’t Even Know It)”

    1. Thanks, David! Appreciate your comments. And yes, I think my parents are pretty great too! 🙂 So glad God works generation after generation. Blessings!

  1. Todd, what an awesome trip down memory lane to relive the awesome influence we enjoyed at HPBC growing up. I am reminded that all the times we sang together, including the summer evangelistic trips with your dad as the special music, and that we were being trained in the art of multiplication. Over the years when teaching Sunday School, I often referred to our story of having over 200 kids in youth group go door to door soul winning on a Saturday morning, and am still astounded by our boldness. I am convinced that the simplicity of the gospel could still be shared that way, and not always require a new unique strategy to be effective. I am thankful for the testimony of our upbringing, and the fruit it still bears today. Gods speed my friend.

    1. Thanks, David! Loads of memories for sure! Funny how our gratefulness grows as we grow older, isn’t it? Thankful for you being there in those years when good friends make such a big difference. Appreciate your comments!

  2. Enjoyed reading this, Todd. As a veteran I hear little comments from our younger staff at times how the current trends are way ahead of the old dusty methods we had. I do think today’s innovative leaders do have a nack, tho for labeling it.
    Loved my TTU days, too.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Butch. Yes, we should be thankful for the things each generation brings to the table that not only continue what we’ve been given, but how it helps to enhance it. Appreciate you taking the time to reply.

  3. I was at TTU and HPBC because of my parents, Darryl and Gerry Burt. It was a neat place to grow up. I am always grateful for growing up on that campus. The men I heard preach and women that mentored my mom and I are some of my greatest memories. The basketball team and games definitely also encompass my favorite memories too. I was happy to watch what unfolded there. I only realized how good it was when we moved to Southern California in 1984. I loved my time there and definitely learned so much about missions and church planting.

      1. Gary, my dad was married before he arrived to TTU. They now live in Southern California. I will ask my Dad if he remembers you.

    1. Julie — yes, the speakers who crossed that platform over many decades were incredible. I doubt we knew then what a humble privilege we were given. Appreciate your comment. Best to you!

  4. Well stated Todd! It was one phenomenal place to attend and ministet in! Thanks for the perspective !

  5. Great times! Great lessons! It was an amazing environment! The list of wonderful teachers, leaders, and friends who were my spiritual counselors is too long to lists! And the church goes on and on and on!

  6. Love the look back and the comparison. Those were sweet memories for me. My days of service in the various ministries molded me for a life of service.
    So thankful for Dr. Pierson, Dr. Ittermann, Dr. Adman, Dr. Stiles, Dr. And Mrs. Nichols, and many others that invested in me and had patience with me.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Caryn. You’re right — we are all the product of a thousand touches. Glad your experience prepared and enriched you as it did me. BLessings!

    1. Glad you commented, Rusty! And no worries on the typo…I’m sure everyone knew what you meant. Great memories with you at TTU, as well as in those early years of youth ministry in Atlanta and Jonesboro. So thankful you’ve been faithful through the years! Proud of you!

    1. Appreciate the comment, Gordon. And they weren’t the first either. Just another in a long line of multipliers I’m sure. Thanks for chiming in.

  7. Todd thanks for the great word. I too was impacted in a positive way from working in Jr Boys Club with Abb Thomas to having my first opportunity to serve as a youth pastor in a chapel (satellite) in Dalton, GA. Your mom and dad were always an encouragement to me as well as your cousins Mark and Doug Stiles. May God use us to continue the mutiplying movement in our generation. Forever Grateful.

  8. Todd thanks for the great word. I too was impacted in a positive way from working in Jr Boys Club with Abb Thomas to having my first opportunity to serve as a youth pastor in a chapel (satellite) in Dalton, GA. Your mom and dad were always an encouragement to me as well as your cousins Mark and Doug Stiles. May God use us to continue the mutiplying movement in our generation. Forever Grateful.

  9. It was blessed tonight reading though these replies and your wisdom, Todd. I was at TTU 1981-86 and met my wife, Rena Rowland, there. We are married 31 years this year. HPBC and TTU hold a sacred place in my heart and life…always. Thanks to all for your comments and memories. Heaven will be so sweat as we reminisce of God’s goodness during our temporary time on this beautiful blue ball. Godspeed to all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *