Learning from Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church

A Q&A with The Effective Church Group’s Bill Easum

January 28, 2016

As the founding partner for The Effective Church Group and author of 19 books, Bill Easum has helped more than 1,000 churches worldwide. In the interview below, he talks about multiplication and what he, a church planting veteran, is learning from the new book Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church by Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson.

Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church describes five distinct multiplication levels of churches and offers a profile for each one. How do those levels and their respective profiles fit with what you’re seeing happen in your network or ministry?

In my 50-plus years in ministry, I’ve seen and worked with all five levels of churches, but I’ve only seen two Level 5 churches, New Hope in Honolulu and Hope Chapel in Honolulu. Most of what my groups have seen and worked with have been Level 1-3 churches. It’s amazing how the Exponential profiles of each level correspond with what we’ve seen. But unfortunately, a large part of our ministry is with Level 1, 2 and 3 churches that are mostly mired in either survival or growth by addition and accumulation of people. These churches seldom have any concept of being a “sending” church and would feel severely threatened if they even thought about becoming one.

The bright spot in our ministry is with the young church planters who don’t bring the baggage of established churches. We feel they are easiest to work with and understand the sending concept.

Describe three of the greatest affirmations, epiphanies or “aha’s” you had while reading the book.

Aha No. 1: The possibility that church planting is the hope of the future rather than multiple sites.

Aha No. 2: That there are only two Level 5 churches in the United States and yet hundreds around the world.

Aha No. 3: That there is a major difference between Level 4 and Level 5 churches and that Level 4 churches may have the most difficulty making the transition. One would naturally think otherwise.

Aha No. 4: That discipleship is more important than getting butts in the seats because it provides disciples who will go rather than stay.

The book offers several direct and indirect challenges to church planters and church planting leaders. What are some of the tensions of multiplication that you and your network are dealing with as you consider these challenges to multiply?  

Tension 1: How to make sure that church planters understand the danger of waiting to plant until they can afford it. Along with that, how do church plants balance the need for money and people with their passion to send and plant?

Tension 2: Making the shift from getting butts in the seats to kicking butts out of the seats into the streets has been our greatest challenge to date.

Tension 3: Because most of the churches we work with are Levels 1-3, we are concerned with how to motivate them to multiply. Or if it’s a waste of time since they’re so mired in either survival or addition cultures?

What specific action steps have you taken as a result of reading the book? 

Step 1: I’ve shifted my thinking and teaching from multiple sites to church planting. This doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned multiple site churches; it just means I now see that church planting has the most potential. However, I also see that multiple sites can be stepping-stones to multiplication if done right.

Step 2: I’ve been incorporating more of the sending aspect in my teaching. Whereas I have been teaching “Grow, Disciple and Send” as a model for churches, I’m now putting more emphasis on Disciple and Send.

Step 3: I’ve been blogging a lot more on the subject of multiplication. In fact, one of my partners says I’m “obsessed” by the concept.

How are you challenging, inspiring and equipping leaders in your network differently because of what you read?

In my writing, teaching, and coaching I’ve been asking and responding to different questions. When you’re convinced that sending and discipling are more important than growing or gathering, it changes the way you look at reality. Such as: What if we send and no one shows up? Where will we get the money if we send all our people out to plant? Will the local church be the primary seminary of the future, if not the present? What is the best form of equipping and coaching—courses or on-the-job mentoring?

Asking different questions causes me to find different answers.

How have your prayers changed as you think through what it means to be a Level 5 multiplying church and lead a network of multiplying churches?  

Guidance on how to help the church planters I’m working with not get stuck in the rut of, “I’ll plant when I have the money.” Also guidance on which of the Level 1-4 churches I’m working with has the potential to become a level 5 church.

Is there a church, pastor or planter in your ministry or tribe that’s doing a particularly good job of multiplication?

I’m not working with any Level 5 churches at the moment. But when I think about a church that has the potential to multiply, has the spirit for it, and is doing multiple sites in more than one city then, I think of Church Unlimited, formerly Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas. I’ve worked with them from the beginning 16 years ago. I know Bil Cornelius’ heart. He has the heart and capacity to become a Level 5 church.

To learn more about Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church, take the FREE assessment at becomingfive.org. The assessment takes approximately 30 minutes and helps determine your level of multiplication.

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Bill Easum

Bill Easum

Bill Easum has a 30-year track record of growing congregations in two denominations. His last church, which he pastored for 24 years, grew to become the largest United Methodist Church in South Texas. Bill is the recipient of the prestigious Donald McGavran award for outstanding church leadership. Over the past 20 years, Bill has served as a consultant to congregations and denominations. He is the author of numerous best-selling books such as Church Growth HandbookHow to Reach Baby BoomersDancing With DinosaursSacred Cows Make Gourmet BurgersBeyond the Box and many more. His latest book is Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The Essential Guide to Finding and Keeping the Right People.
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