Below, Exponential President Dave Ferguson unpacks the first of five essential practices in shifting from hero to hero maker.
“If I could just lead a church of 1,000 people, that would be so awesome.”
As a young leader, I remember that being my big dream—until a senior leader in a workshop challenged me to take that dream and multiply it by a million. I quickly did the math.
That’s a billion people. There’s no way I could do that. My church couldn’t do that. Even if I started a network of churches, a whole denomination, we couldn’t do that.
I realized that I would need to work through tens of thousands of leaders to do that. That leader’s challenge forced me to begin to think multiplication.
The Cataylst to Multiplication Thinking
The first shift in moving from hero to hero maker is multiplication thinking because it causes us to think beyond ourselves, beyond our churches. Instead of thinking the best way to maximize your ministry is through your leadership, you begin to realize that the best way to maximize God’s ministry is through multiplying and developing other leaders.
While the term “hero maker” and the “five hero-making practices” framework are new, multiplication thinking is part of an ancient truth we see in the life and ministry of Jesus. Look at Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Jesus didn’t think the mission would happen just through Him. Jesus’ words in Acts–the last ones He says on planet Earth–shows us that He knew the mission He set forth in Matthew 28 would happen through others who would multiply others. He was applying multiplication thinking. Ultimately, this kind of exponential thinking is catalyzed by a compelling cause or a bigger dream, the courage to think big and the humility to realize that this big idea won’t happen through you alone.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity. I was sitting with him in his office in Americus, Georgia, when he looked me in the eye and said, “Dave, don’t you think everyone deserves a simple, decent place to live?”
Just the way he said it with such conviction—it was like an adrenaline rush shot through me. That compelling cause, that bigger dream, compelled Millard Fuller to say, I can’t do this on my own. Even as a successful businessman, He knew he had to work through multiple volunteer leaders who would come together and build homes. Today, Habitat for Humanity is the biggest home builder in the world. His big dream catalyzed his multiplication thinking.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Sam Stephens about multiplication thinking for the “Hero Maker” podcast. Sam is the leader of India Gospel League, which has birthed a church-planting movement of 90,000+ churches throughout South Asia. Sam said that for his first two years of leadership, he didn’t think multiplication because he wasn’t dreaming big.
“When I became the leader, my first thoughts were about sustaining an organization. The Lord helped me make the shift from organization sustaining and empire building to multiplying His Kingdom and releasing it into His hands. That shift in thinking removed the barriers and boundaries and wiped out the fear of failure. It gave me great confidence that God was doing His work through me and great courage to take risks.”
Probably the best example of a Level 5 church that we have today is Hope Chapel led by Ralph Moore. As a young leader, Ralph began to dream big about a movement of multiplying churches. But he knew it would only happen through multiplication thinking. Ultimately, he made the decision that he wouldn’t be the hero. Instead, he would make heroes of thousands of church planters.
Applying Multiplication Thinking
Not long after that leader challenged me to multiply my vision, I started to sketch out a dream on the back of a napkin of how we would reproduce churches throughout Chicagoland in the city and the suburbs. Today, we have multiple sites throughout Chicago, and our NewThing Network currently has north of 1,300 churches throughout the world.
The big part of that came as a result of this first practice of multiplication thinking.
At the 2017 Exponential East and West conferences, we gave everyone a “dream napkin,” and I challenged them to write out their dream and tag me on social media with a picture of it. I loved seeing the big dreams of these leaders.
I’m going to challenge you like that leader challenged me. Take a minute and grab a napkin and write out your dream. Use graphics, words, whatever. Now, I want you to take that dream and multiply it by 100 and then begin to ask yourself, How could I do that? Are you beginning to realize that this dream won’t happen just through your leadership and that you’ll need hundreds or thousands of leaders? (If you can accomplish it on your own or with your church, you need a bigger, God-sized dream.) Now you’re using multiplication thinking. I want you to take this napkin and hang onto it. Visualize what it would take to make that happen. Pray and ask God to use you to do this. And then share with a few friends and get their input. Also, I’d love to see it. Put it on social media: #Exponential.
The first step toward shifting from hero to hero maker is multiplication thinking. To learn more about how you can make this shift, check out our 2018 Hero maker conference. It will feature 175+ speakers, 200 workshops, 9+ tracks, and 5,000 church planting leaders in sunny Orlando, Florida. Don’t miss the largest gathering of church planting leaders in the world!
Dave Ferguson serves as president of Exponential while leading Community Christian Church and overseeing the NewThing Network. His new book (with Warren Bird), Hero Maker: 5 Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders, releases February 2018. Visit exponential.org/2018 to learn more about hero making at the the upcoming Exponential conference in Orlando (Feb. 26-March 1).