As 2022 brings almost weekly culture shifts and unexpected journeys into uncharted territory for church leaders, Exponential is pursuing the next season of multiplication with confidence and intentionality. Exponential’s mission—16% of all U.S. churches (an estimated 53,000 congregations) becoming reproducing churches—remains the focal point and the driving goal.
The preparation for this season of “next” brings new opportunities and ventures all tied to the 16% mission—including several leadership transitions and the upcoming relaunch of the highly respected and venerable 37-year-old Leadership Network.
The Future is Bright
After 17 years serving as CEO for Exponential, Todd Wilson is transitioning from CEO of Exponential, effective April 1, and will move into a strategic advisor role for five to seven multiplication-focused ministries, including Exponential and Leadership Network.
Dave Ferguson who has partnered with Wilson to lead Exponential for the last 17 years, will step in as interim CEO while Exponential searches for Wilson’s successor. Additionally, church leader Carrie Williams, founder of the national ministry Truth Republic, leader of Exponential Ventures for the last two years and a leader at The Church of Eleven22, will serve as the new CEO of Leadership Network, effective February 9.
While some leadership transitions might signal unrest and failure in an organization, Exponential’s shifts are coming at a time when the ministry is thriving. “All is good, really good, actually,” Wilson remarks. “These transitions are proactively happening for all the right reasons.”
Wilson explains that Exponential learning communities are not only doubling but being offered for campus pastors, worship leaders, and executive pastors. The online community has grown to over 25,000 people. Exponential has reproduced itself through global initiatives and added regional conferences in Nashville and Raleigh/Durham this year.
After two years and suspending Exponential Orlando 2021 due to the pandemic, the annual global conference is set to start March 7 and is expected to sell out. Executive Director, Terri Saliba, comments, “We had no idea that the last time we were together would now be so long ago. It’s interesting that our 2020 theme was Together, and we haven’t been able to gather since. We are experiencing more energy toward being together in a few weeks than we’ve ever seen before. The largest number of speakers and greatest demand for sponsors will deliver an amazing week of being Empowered: Moving with the Spirit.”
“We’re making these changes to 1) position Exponential and Leadership Network for our next season of growth; and 2) position me to use a greater percentage of my time and strengths in helping facilitate that growth.”
In the past five years, Exponential has birthed Exponential Europe, Exponential Australia, Exponential Ventures, and Exponential Español. In the coming weeks, Exponential will steward the relaunch and next season of Leadership Network.
“These expanding ministries are helping us move the needle on healthy church reproduction,” Wilson explains. “Exponential has an expanding footprint and opportunities both domestically and globally. We have a powerful and clear mission that drives all our decisions and a truly amazing team that’s 100% sold-out to the mission.”
This momentum, along with a passion for the 16% mission, led Ferguson to step in as interim CEO. A move he compares to the switch from shortstop to second baseman.
“Todd and I are kind of just switching positions,” he says. “When he came to me and told me he wanted to make a shift and suggested that I fill in as interim CEO rather than rush the process, I was glad to do it. I feel a real sense of ownership. I love Exponential and the 16% mission. We have so much momentum on so many things.”
He points to record numbers at Exponential’s live gatherings, as well as the strength of Exponential’s online learning community, the Hub. And he sees a unique opportunity for global collaboration as Exponential’s overseas initiatives continue to build.
“Exponential Europe had 100 round tables and 2,000 church-planting leaders last year,” Ferguson says. “They just recently pulled off 10 more regionals. Exponential Australia and Exponential Español are also gaining a lot of traction. I think there are things we as church leaders here in the United States are going to be able to learn from these global church leaders that are going to help us a great, great deal.”
Finally, Ferguson is anticipating the relaunch of Leadership Network and the opportunity to extend the ministry’s legacy into the future and embed multiplication into the leadership focus.
“I think we’re going to be able to do a great job of passing along innovation to leaders, but instead of it being about leadership only, Leadership Network will also be about multiplying leaders. It will have a movemental component.”
The multiplication/reproducing focus drew Williams to the role. As part of the leadership team that planted The Church of Eleven22, led by Joby Martin, she has seen the impact of a multiplying church.
“At the core of everything that Leadership Network does, we want to have 100 times impact,” Williams says. “We want to help leaders better understand how they can multiply, not just via church planting, but their own potential, the potential of their teams, the potential of the people in their community to plant churches. While Exponential focuses on church planting, we focus on the people behind the church planting and how to mobilize them for 100 times impact.”
For Wilson, the decision to shift from 17 years of leading Exponential to strategic advisor to leaders of several organizations emerged from his desire to focus his energy and talents. He shares the process and events that led to this pivotal move:
Over the past three years, it has become increasingly difficult to steward my giftedness well for maximum impact. As Exponential has grown and expanded, I realized I’m spending less of my time in the CEO role doing only what I can uniquely do to advance the mission.
In a conversation last summer with Linda Buford, wife of the late Kingdom entrepreneur Bob Buford, she said, “Todd, you’re like the captain of one of those giant cargo ships. You’re carrying so much load!” She thought it was a compliment, but it perfectly described the growing angst I was experiencing. From the depths of my spirit, the unspoken response was, “I don’t want to be the captain of a giant cargo ship, responsible for managing a larger and larger ship, no matter how important that ship is.”
I took several months to rest, listen, and discern. The team at Blessing Ranch and several mentors spoke into the decision. The outcome was that my personal calling has been screaming loudly for me to reposition my GO (the “where” you’ll pursue your unique calling). Instead of leading an expanding ministry like Exponential, I want to leverage my strengths more fully into a portfolio of impact-making ministries that advance the 16% mission.
Wilson quotes his mentor Bob Buford: “My fruit needs to grow on others’ trees. I want to help them multiply their orchards! I’m sold out to the Exponential mission to see 16% of U.S. churches reproducing and will continue working diligently on it until my last breath.”
Growing Healthy, Reproducing Churches
As part of the move toward that 16% mission, Exponential acquired Leadership Network last year and over the coming months will functionally relaunch the 20-year-old dormant ministry that for 35 years convened leadership conversations and fostered innovative movements to activate the Church to 100X impact. In many ways Exponential and Leadership Network go hand-in-hand, both part of the Bob Buford legacy.
Buford founded and supported Leadership Network 20 years ago and from the early years of Exponential, the beloved leader was a major influencer on both Wilson and Ferguson.
“We come from the same heritage. Bob was our hero maker,” Ferguson relates. “Both organizations are the platform that holds up and supports church leaders.”
Williams is excited to carry that legacy forward. “Bob’s heart really was innovation to see what’s next,” she says. “We’re going to stick with that, but take it beyond and ask, ‘How do we get to the 16% mission by looking to see what’s next?’”
What Exponential is to church planting, Leadership Network will be to the growth of healthy, reproducing churches. Thus, partnering with both organizations will bring support in both areas. The relaunch will see the return of many of Leadership Network’s signature offerings like research, online innovation summits and learning communities, and will feature new initiatives and resources.
Each week, live online shows will be available via six primary content channels led by strong, practitioner leaders: microchurches, metaverse churches, next gen leadership, Church NEXT (the next generation of church operating systems that are capable of reproducing), healthy leaders, and Biblically sound management principles.
“I can think of no better way to spend my time and apply my skills, my talents, my gift sets my passions into ultimately equipping leaders to see and pursue what’s next,” Williams says. “You excel the leader, you excel, the church. You build the leader, you build the church, you have healthy leaders, you have healthy churches. I love the idea of stepping 10 feet ahead to see what’s coming and partnering with people all over the globe to figure out what’s coming next and share that with like-minded people and leaders so that we can move together instead of as individuals. I can only imagine what Exponential and Leadership Network can do together.”
Ready to Pursue What is Next
Exponential is ready for what is next in the life of churches and her leaders worldwide. It is an exciting time of growth for this 17-year-old organization.
“We are in an important season of restructuring and adding to our team so that we can advance church multiplication,” states Jason Stewart, Exponential COO. “We are blessed to have recently added new team members: Gino Beltran, Marketing and Network Director; Patt Alderdice Senseman, Content Director; Bruce Walker, Programming and Engagement Director; and Aaron Barnett, Content Specialist. Exciting days are ahead for our mission at Exponential.”
The Hub, Exponential’s online community for multiplication activists, is undergoing a significant expansion to include even more live and on-demand content. With the acquisition of Leadership Network, relevant and timely content will flow freely through the Hub to church leaders around the global.
With Ferguson and Williams moving into the lead positions at Exponential and Leadership Network, Wilson is ready for the future on mission—a mission larger than the organization he founded, and the network reimagined. The sense of sending Wilson as a missionary for the greater good is an exciting prospect for Exponential—a new form of multiplying in the reproducing church space. It’s not a loss but an expansion of reach to pursue what is next.
“We know that opportunities like these will continue to emerge,” Wilson says, “if we cooperate with God. We are ready for this next season. Because when churches and disciples are multiplied, eternities are changed. Ultimately, that’s what we’re all pursuing.”
Now is the time for us to watch expectantly for these opportunities as we move toward Exponential’s 16% mission together.