I was introduced to Dave Ferguson at a small break-out session at a recent convention of the Foursquare Church. He shared a bit of his story about having a dream with some college friends to reach Chicago with a series of churches strategically placed around city. What he shared with us that afternoon were nuggets of wisdom learned through years of leading a church that had multiple sites, church plants, and reproducing networks of churches. So, I was excited to read the book he co-wrote with his brother, Jon, about how “you and your friends can start a missional church movement.”
I attended his session that day on church multiplication in an effort to learn all I could about it from as many different sources as possible. God had spoken to me during my first year as a pastor one morning in prayer with a vision of sorts where a map of the state of Kentucky came before me and Interstate 75 began to glow, increase in size, and come off the page towards me. The Lord told me that He wanted to use River of Life to plant Foursquare churches up and down Interstate 75, which was crazy to me! I knew nothing about planting churches! I knew nothing about pastoring for that matter! I had taught music in our county’s elementary schools for 9 years. How in the world was I supposed to raise up and release church planters? During the 8 years of our pastorate at River of Life we have sent out two church plants to different parts of Kentucky. But, learning how to recognize the calling in someone to plant a church, how to really raise them up, how to release them and resource them was no small task. I felt I failed our planters and God in many ways and even wondered if maybe I had misunderstood what God told me that day in my office in prayer. So, I was hoping that as I read Exponential, I would find wisdom…maybe a reigniting of the spark for seeing River of Life fulfill it’s assignment of helping the Foursquare Church really grow and expand from the top to the bottom of the Bluegrass State.
I was not disappointed.
Probably the most thought-provoking yet simple truth he offered was that Jesus was serious about what He told His apostles in Acts 1:8. He fully intended for His church to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. To me, this is the driving force behind why we need to think and rethink the ways in which we are “doing church:” because there are billions of people that have never even heard the name of Jesus! During the book, Dave didn’t come out and make bold statements about the need for prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing the task, which for some might have been a turnoff. However, I believe he was making an assumption that anyone reading the book already knew that. He consistently brought us back to prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit, sewing it throughout the book into every story and point. In every “success” was a Christ follower praying, seeking counsel, and THEN taking Kingdom risks when God supernaturally made the way. The book was full of inspirational stories of men and women that had obeyed the Lord in participating in His mission through church planting, leading multiple sites, even leading small groups and accepting the invitation to become an apprentice in their church. People from every walk of life with little to no formal training in Bible college who could have only seen their work produce fruit through prayer and the supernatural hand of God.
I appreciated Dave’s simplifying so many of the important issues pastors face when trying to keep everything in the church aligned to mission. From Acts 2, he brings out three key experiences and relationships that every Christ follower must continue to grow in: our relationship to God (Celebrate), to His church (Connect), and to the world (Contribute). I also appreciated how he articulated the way he develops new leaders through 2 Timothy 2:2: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” From Paul to Timothy to reliable men to others….four generations of leadership development.
Some of the book can be controversial for some, such as “Let the Pagans Play,” pages 82 and 83, where he advocates for those who aren’t Christians being part of the music teams for worship services. Some of the book made my brain get into a cramp, such as part four of the book on reproducing movements of 10,000 and more. It’s a book that makes you think and I highly recommend it. I think I will be referring to it from time to time for helping me think through what we’re doing at River of Life. When I finished it, I felt encouraged to submit the work of my hands to the Lord in leadership and artist development and reproduction. I felt affirmed and challenged in what we are attempting to do at River of Life, participating in the mission of God. And, I felt encouraged to continue seeking God for new churches, new small groups, new leaders, possibly even new sites where River of Life would appear in other cities (like, a River of Life-Lexington Campus). After all, it’s not about addition, but multiplication…exponential growth.