Rhinos, Rabbits, and the Challenges of Multiplying a Church Planting Movement

Partnering together for the sake of the gospel

It is unfortunate, but the White Rhino appears to be on a trajectory to extinction. And there’s little wonder why. Human and environmental factors aside, the rhino has a built-in malefactor that hinders their own proliferation—a gestation period of 16 to 18 months. It takes a year and a half for a rhino to have a baby, meaning that even if all others variables are ideal, the birth rate is going to be excruciatingly slow.

Yet, all other factors are never ideal, so some rhino babies do not make it to birth, while others die soon after. As a result, you’re unlikely to hear about rapid rhino multiplication. Instead, expensive and painstaking management is required simply to avoid extinction.

Contrast rhinos with rabbits. The animal’s name itself has become a synonymous symbol for rapid multiplication. Why? Rabbits have a gestation period of 31 days—one month. This system of rapid multiplication allows the rabbit to persist and flourish despite various environmental impediments that should cause its demise.

Not Either/Or, but Both/And?

But a holistic picture of a successful urban missiology necessitates that churches behave like both rhinos and rabbits.

Churches with a rhino-like gestational cycle may not multiply quickly, but they can multiply effectively. A slower rate of reproduction can allow the church to build a robust infrastructure capable of deploying missionary members and church planters into the harvest.

Self-less pastors in these environments can work to develop systems to train leaders with a unique blend of ecclesiological precision and leadership ability. Given enough time, open-handed rhino-like churches can gain relational authority with other churches in a region such that they are seen …

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