The most obvious example of gift activating comes from Jesus in Matthew 28.
The fourth hero maker practice is gift activating—a shift in blessing. Instead of asking God to bless the use of our own gifts, we learn to ask God to bless leaders that we’re sending out. Gift activating requires that we not fill slots but instead develop people’s gifts and commission leaders to be sent out for ministry.
The most obvious example of gift activating comes from Jesus in Matthew 28. He has been walking with these men He selected, living life with them and modeling disciple making, and now He’s going to turn over the movement to His closest followers. He tells them, “I have all authority, and now I’m going to use it through you as you go out.” With that, He literally commissions them to go into the world and make disciples, and He activates their gifts.
As hero makers, we need to find those kinds of moments for the people leaders we’re multiplying.
Two Key Components of Gift Activation
I’ll never forget being at Nairobi Chapel in Kenya and seeing the senior pastor and my friend, Oscar Muriu, invite 31 men and women to join him on stage. These people had just gone through the third and final track of their Kinara Leadership Program to learn what it means to be a multiplying church. He went on to explain that the church was commissioning all 31 of these leaders to go and plant new churches in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. He looked at the graduates, affirming his belief in their gifts and ability. Then he looked at the congregation and asked them to join him in praying for them. As he prayed, he reached out his hand toward the new leaders as a sign of blessing and asked the congregation to do the same. I’ve never seen that many church planters commissioned by one church on one Sunday!
Pastor Oscar is a hero maker who understands the importance of gift activating.
The Underground Network in Tampa, Florida, is another great example of this fourth practice. The Underground is a family of church ministries microchurches. These churches begin with one question they ask people to answer: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” They take the answers to that question and then build communities around that mission to reach people not encountering the gospel. They wait a year to commission them to see if it gets traction and make sure the leaders are committed. Then they lay hands on them, bless them and send them out.
I hope God gives you opportunities to commission and send out 31 church planters. But I think the key moment is this gift activation.
Commissioning is the simple process of blessing a person or team and affirming the use of the gifts God has given them.
It typically involves two parts:
- Laying your hands on them as a sign of affirmation.
- Praying for God to bless them as you send them out.
Commissioning can be done for a leader (or leadership team) starting a new group or team. It can be done for an individual (or a team) starting a new church. I have commissioned new small group leaders in a home, people who are leaving to start a new ministry or church at staff meetings in restaurants.
Exponential Moments of Gift Activating
At the Exponential conference, the last session is always a gift-activating moment. Over the past 10 years, we have commissioned thousands of people. Personally, it’s fun for me to look back over my shoulder at some of these moments. Some of the most impactful churches in the country have in some ways come to life at that moment. Ryan Kwon was sitting in the middle balcony when he decided to go forward. Recently, we talked to him and he shared his story:
“At the last session, I was sitting in the same seat up in the balcony, removed enough to not be pulled into the things but at the same time all there,” Ryan says. “I was taking some notes, and Francis Chan comes up. I’ll never forget that he gave us an invitation to come up and be prayed for if we were considering planting. To be honest, I wasn’t considering planting at the time. I was thinking about it. I’d been challenged by it. But I wasn’t feeling called to it.
“Then Francis started introducing a song that we were going to sing together called ‘Consuming Fire,’ and he said the first line. ‘I love this song,’ he said, ‘because it starts out by saying, ‘There must be more than this.’
‘Do you ever feel that way?’ he asked the crowd.
“And I remember thinking, That’s me. I feel like that all the time. What really impacted me was when he said, ‘If you’re scared to plant a church, I want you to know it’s okay. And that’s why we want to pray for you.’
“It was the first time that I realized why I didn’t want to plant a church: I was scared. I was scared of failure. I was scared that the calling to plant a church was a call to success and to build a big church and to disciple a lot of people and I thought to myself, I don’t need or want that pressure. I’m just scared.
“But the gospel addressed me that day. The gospel doesn’t call us to success. It calls us to faithfulness. And I felt that in my heart. So I had to stand. And I remember turning to my friend who came with me and saying, ‘I’m jumping. I’m going for it.’
“I made that long walk down the long stairway all the way up to the front, and I knelt down and surrendered all of my fears to God. I just knew that God was talking to me, and I just knew that God was calling me to plant a church.”
Since then, Ryan has planted Resonate Church in Fremont, California, which now has two campuses, and is planting another church. That day, Ryan’s gift of apostolic leadership was activated.
We’ve changed a lot of the things we do at the Exponential conference, but one of the things we’ve never changed and never will is the commissioning service where we facilitate these transformational gift-activating moments that lead to new communities of faith.
That’s what hero makers do. If you want to learn how you can become a hero maker and activate the gifts of others, then 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 vision for 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 East conference in Orlando (Feb. 26-March 1).