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The Power of Two or Three by Church Multiplication Associates

by Neil Cole, Phil Helfer, Mike Jentes & Ed Waken

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It took six open-heart surgeries to get Zac’s attention. While recovering from the last surgery, he sensed a call from God to initiate a non-profit organization for young people. He explored the possibilities and listened to the needs of his city to see how his burden for youth would fit. Zac buzzed around the city trying to start a few things, but none of his efforts were gaining traction. His heart grew for his city, particularly for the youth and their unmet spiritual needs. He prayed, planned, poked around, only to become provoked when he couldn’t break through. At this point of provocation, he met Brent.

They had a conversation at one of Zac’s son’s baseball games and a special friendship was kindled. Brent was a believer and solidly involved in a different local church than Zac. As their friendship developed, Zac shared his heart about what God was calling him to do for the youth in their city. A huge smile came across Brent’s face as he shared a similar vision. In short order Zac, Brent and their families joined hands in reaching out to the youth of their city.

They prayed, strategized, networked and eventually formed a youth ministry and youth council for their city. This youth council was recognized by the city council and now they directly report to them as well. The youth council offers a variety of programs to invest in the lives of young people and their families. People have come to Jesus and the city’s spiritual needs are beginning to be met.

Zac and Brent are regular guys who go to different churches, yet they chose to link arms because of the common call on their lives to reshape the youth of their city. They both found a place to serve. God brought them together to partner and they have brought God’s plan of peace into the lives of hundreds as a result. Apart they both seemed to be spinning their wheels, but once God brought them together things began to happen.

The book of Ephesians reveals that the church is the fullness of God on earth and He wants to use the church to fill all things (Eph. 1:23, 3:8-12 & 19-21, 4:7-16). This can only be accomplished as every believer embraces their identity as an ambassador in the mission field where God has planted them. As we saw in the story above, God’s divine work often begins by using two or three.

Multiply Triangle A THEOLOGY OF TWO OR THREE

In the Beginning God

This phrase is the starting point of the Bible: “In the beginning God…” (Gen. 1:1). Our God exists in a community of three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It may not have been crystal clear when Genesis 1 was written, but from the whole of the Scripture we know that our God is not just one, but three-in-one. God was, is, and always will be the Trinity. We often glide over such an obvious truth.

It’s Not Good for Man to be Alone

And the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion...." (Gen. 2:17). Prior to this passage God had called everything He made good: the sun, the moon, the plants, the animals, everything! Then He saw a person all alone and says, "This is not good." People are made for partners.

While God was remedying the problem, listen in to the conversation: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…He created them” (Gen. 1:26a, 27c). The beginning of the human race was a party of two (Adam & Eve) created by a party of three (Father, Son & Spirit). Every human family since has started with two as well!

Two or Three Throughout

The Bible often elevates a group of two or three to significance. For example, “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deut. 19:15) This is grace and wisdom in action. Protection from the ill will of one person is the purpose here. The last phrase is important: A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three. To see something established, it requires more than one.

Both the Old and New Testaments mention the phrase "two or three." It is interesting that at least ten other times “two or three” is suggested as an ideal size at which to conduct ministry. The Bible does not say “two or more” or “three or less,” but regularly “two or three." Perhaps it is good to have some flexibility without too many options.

In the wisdom literature, Solomon shares, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc. 4:9–12) Solomon certainly advocated for groups of two or three.

The New Testament Scriptures contain several other reasons why two or three may be the ideal size for effective fellowship and ministry.

Accountability & confidentiality are stronger with two or three. Whether concerning an accusation against a brother or sister in the church (Matt. 18:15-17) or an elder (1 Tim. 5:19), instruction around handling these issues require two or three.

Two or three provide simpler and more balanced communication. When there are many voices, it is difficult to hear and difficult to speak. Two or three is the perfect size group for clear communication and for everyone to participate. With several perspectives, the group can have a more balanced conversation and find it easier to reach conclusions as well. Paul wrote the following regarding gatherings of the church: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church…two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time…Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said….For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:26–33)

More flexibility is another strength of two or three. Most of us have had the experience of trying to coordinate the calendars of a handful of people. An advantage to a group of two or three is a better opportunity to actually schedule time together. In addition, Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matt. 18:20) Jesus promises to make the meeting when two or three come together, no matter where or when it might be.


Extending Influence by Twos

A couple of important examples of the expansion of ministry appear in the New Testament.

In the Gospels
[Jesus] sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” (Luke 10:1b) The whole of this chapter is full of important items, yet here we will emphasize only this verse. Notice that Jesus didn’t send a core team, or an individual—He sent a team of two. This ought to encourage the most common person to engage in ministry in the context of two or three.

The spiritual accomplishment of these dispersed teams was so great that Jesus is “full of joy” upon their return (Luke 10:21). Often people wonder, “How much can just two people accomplish?” It’s clear when these teams are directed by Jesus they can accomplished much—even making Him joyous!

In the Acts of the Apostles
In a gathering of five church leaders who were seeking the Lord’s face for direction, another insightful example occurs. The Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2b-3) Don’t miss that it was the Holy Spirit who instructed the group to send a team of two. Paul and Barnabas operated as traveling evangelists covering 1500 miles (Acts 13:4-14:28) with much fruitfulness!

We see in these two examples that as God seeks to expand His work in the world, He calls and He sends out workers two-by-two. Jesus describes the kingdom of God with the parable of the mustard seed, which starts small and then eventually grows very large. “Again He said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." (Mark 4:30-32)

The growth of the kingdom of God starts with the smallest of groupings—two or three. Jesus reinforced that the kingdom must start small and grow via multiplication to have great and expansive influence. Not surprisingly, this is consistent with who He is and with His wisdom as articulated throughout the Scriptures.

EVERYONE CAN PLAY

Kylee and Tara were second grade friends in a public school whose hearts were soft toward the Lord. They were part of different churches and still decided to have a time together each week to share about what they were learning from the Bible, what was going on in life, to pray for others, and to play!

A classmate named Megan was intrigued that these two were getting together afterschool. They told Megan what they were doing together and invited her to come one week. Megan asked her mom if she could participate even though they weren’t part of a church or even religious. She got permission and started coming to talk and play afterschool once a week.

As the weeks rolled on, Kylee and Tara continued to live out their faith in front of Megan. Soon Megan decided to follow Jesus as well. She was led to follow Jesus by her two friends—kids who were ambassadors for Jesus. The group of three kept on going!

Chad and Missy were praying for Chad to find a good friend. On his first day of a new job, Chad met Ron and they hit it off immediately. In addition, another co-worker named Stacey became friends with both Chad and Ron. Over time, it became apparent that Chad and Stacey were believers and Ron was not.

Night after night Chad would tell his wife Missy about how much he appreciated Ron’s friendship. This couple, along with Stacey, began praying for Ron’s salvation. Chad and Missy also shared Ron’s story with their house church and more prayers were offered up for Ron’s soul.

Missy invited Ron and Stacey over for a meal. Together they all enjoyed conversation, laughter and good food. After several more months of prayer, connecting and conversation, Ron and Stacey were invited to Chad and Missy’s house for a church gathering.

Ron and Stacey came to that gathering. Ron had never heard about Jesus from the Bible. He had never heard about creation or many other Biblical teachings. He was full of questions and wonderment. God was stirring Ron’s heart and using Chad, Missy and Stacey to draw him to Jesus.

All of this happened naturally and effortlessly. They had a whole bunch of fun—just two or three sharing life as friends. After a few weeks of Ron’s involvement in the church gathering, the Holy Spirit convicted his soul, he admitted his need for Jesus, and committed his life to Christ. Ron is now sharing Jesus with his co-workers, family and friends.

The power of two or three is part of the wisdom of God, chronicled in the Scriptures and working itself out in the lives of Christians everywhere. Groups of two or three are a simple and powerful component in the growth and expansion of the Church. Won’t you step out with one or two others and be a part of God’s work?

Download/Print PDF of this Article.    *Quoted Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


Weblinks & Resources:

“Increasing the Workforce for a Greater Harvest.” By Neil Cole
“It is not Good for Man to Be Alone.” By Mike Jentes

“Multiplying on the MicroLevel: We All Began As a Zygote.” By Neil Cole

“Missional Success.” by Ed Waken

“The Day of Small Beginnings.” By Mike Jentes
“The Networking of Groups.” By Neil Cole
“The Secret Source of Unlimited Leaders.” By Neil Cole
“Why Less is More.” By Neil Cole
Search & Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference. By Neil Cole

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