This week at Exponential West, John Ortberg, Wayne Cordeiro, Danielle Strickland, Efrem Smith, Dave Ferguson, and more asked poignant questions for leaders in any stage of ministry or planting:
- Are you aligning your dreams with God’s dreams?
- Are you multiplying limping churches of segregation or leaping churches of Kingdom diversity?
- What Kingdom vision are you calling people to?
- Is your dream big enough?
- What is your movement today?
- Are you guarding your dream by keeping your weight below the waterline?
- Are you letting the world cripple your dream?
- How are you stepping into your big dream?
From looking at what Scripture shows us about reawakening the wonderment and courage to focus on a big vision to hearing behind-the-scenes stories of how men and women prayed for and pursued multiplication, leaders learned the importance and potential impact of aligning their dreams with God’s dreams. Below, we’ve collected the week’s highlights and observations:
Main Session Insights
A God of big dreams and open doors… John Ortberg asked leaders to think about the open doors God has placed in their lives—how we’re discerning them and why we’re not walking through them.
“We worship a God of open doors—of big dreams! The primary dream is not what you’ll do, but the person you’ll become. God is much more concerned with you than the door you go through. The overarching promise is, ‘I will be with you.’”
Peace lies on the other side of obedience, in finding God in these circumstances right here.
Three future-changing questions. Sharing regrets of waiting 12 years to plant their first church out of Community, Dave Ferguson challenged leaders to ask three questions he wishes he had asked himself and his team during that time:
- Who are the leadership residents on our church-planting team?
- What percentage of our budget will go to multiplication?
- When will we plant our first church?
“Why did it take us so long?” Dave said. “I think it’s because we never asked the question ‘When?’ We had the vision, but we didn’t dare to put a date on the calendar.”
Asking the “when” question will lead you to answer the “who” and the “what.”
Don’t miss the bigger dream. Albert Tate warned leaders of becoming so focused on their dream that they miss God’s bigger dream. He reminded us that as we follow His vision to be the church He has called us to be, God has His eyes on us, His beloved: “Don’t forget that your heavenly Father is saying, ‘Watch how I provide, how I move, how I open doors.’
“If He gives you the vision, He’s going to give you the provision. Don’t miss what God is doing in your life, your church, your city. The world needs something bigger.”
Are we multiplying a limping church of segregation when we could have a leaping church of Kingdom diversity?
What’s your movement today? Ed Stetzer took the crowd on a historical journey of North American church-planting movements, giving examples to help leaders dream a dream others have dreamed. From Francis Asbury, D.L. Moody and William Seymour, to Aimee Semple McPherson, John Wimber, Chuck Smith and Ralph Moore, Ed shared how these leaders trusted and sacrificed to follow Jesus’ call. “Too many people are waiting for a pipe dream—not willing to sacrifice for God’s dream.”
The question for all of us is, “what’s your movement today?”
Naming your dream … Vision clarity strategist Will Mancini introduced us to the concept of “generic vision,” explaining that the greatest problem he sees in leadership teams pursuing a multiplication vision is the tendency to lead into the future with only a general sense of where they’re going. He challenged leaders with the reality that when we don’t name our dreams, we get too excited about the lesser things. “We don’t have a visionary problem; we have ‘imagination stuckness.’ Take the time to pursue the dream God has over you and name it.”
Your vision’s not dynamic until it’s specific.
Calling people to Kingdom vision … Kenyan multiplier (he’s leading a growing movement of churches) Muriithi Wanjau asked leaders: “What is the big Kingdom vision you’re calling people to?”
He reminded us that Jesus didn’t come to plant a church or start a movement. He came to start a revolution that would change the world—a revolution that would bring the Kingdom to earth. And He has called us to join Him in that vision: “Jesus’ mission was nothing short of restoring God’s rule over every aspect of creation. Our mission as church leaders is not to call people to live safe Christian lives.”
Don’t make the mistake of challenging your people to live for something that’s too small when God has called them to be dangerous agents of Kingdom transformation.
Our trials lead us to big dreams … God has a plan and a process. Projecting a distinct cadence in his speaking, urban church planter D.A. Horton shared his story and insights to affirm that our trials—and how we work through them—are catalysts to big dreams.
“Big dreams become manageable and tangible when the person God has given the dream to has been purged and matured through regularly scheduled fiery trials. It’s one thing to cast the dream; it’s another thing to hold on and steward it.
“We live in a broken world, so we have to model what it looks to work through trials as Christ followers. When the world sees us walking and working through adversity, that’s when they will recognize a big God who is pouring Himself out into people living with a big dream. Don’t fight the process; expect Him to mature you as you live it out for the long haul.”
Big dreams require us to upgrade our view of God … Inner-city Philadelphia planter Eric Mason challenged leaders with the question: “Is your dream big enough?” and offered definitive factors to answer that question: “If you want to know whether your dream is big enough, you have to upgrade your view of God. We tend to have big plans but a small God. When you trust God beyond your capacity for what you can’t do but what He can do, God upgrades what you think is big to something massive you could never imagine!”
The weight beneath the waterline … Pastor and author Wayne Cordeiro offered a few lessons in sailing, saying that to withstand changing ocean currents, a sailboat needs more weight below the waterline. That weight, he says, is godly character.
“There’s going to come a point in your life where you’re going to need the weight beneath the waterline. None of us are immune to temptations. The devil wants all of your dream, not a little part. Everything you’ve done is preparing for the moment you’re ready to give up. God gives you His dream, but you seek His favor—what He will do through us—and when you do, you’ll have the weight beneath the waterline.”
Kingdom dreams in a broken world… What does Kingdom dreaming look like in a world where tragedy runs rampant? Pastor and author Efrem Smith tackled the reality of life today (Las Vegas, Charlottesville, Ferguson) and admonished leaders to keep dreaming “multi-ethnic, multiplying, empowering and supernatural” dreams. Don’t let the world cripple your dreams.
In the midst of brokenness and horrific events, we have to dream so that we can be transformers, reconcilers and agents of gospel change.
Dreaming in real life … How do you begin to step into the dream God has given you? Salvation Army Officer and evangelist Danielle Strickland brought the idea of “dreaming big” down to earth: “God is doing something we can’t even imagine. He wants to dream big, not in fairy tales, but in real life through you!” To turn our dreams into tangible expressions, we need to get divine revelation; let go of what we thought we knew; and “just step in,” committing ourselves to live it out.
Strickland quoted Salvation Army Co-Founder Catherine Booth: “There is no changing the future without disturbing the present.”
Stepping into the dream… Exponential has long had a tradition of closing the week with a commissioning service giving anyone the opportunity to step out, be prayed over, and then be commissioned to follow God’s calling—His big dream—for their lives. This year, thousands of leaders took the intentional step to voice their dream for multiplication and be prayed for to go forward and pursue the dream they’ve had tucked away somewhere. Throughout Exponential’s eleven years, this closing time has been the beginning of stories of hundreds, if not thousands, of calls to plant and multiply.
HeroMaker 2018. We kicked off next year’s Exponential theme, “HeroMaker: Daring to Lead a Multiplying Church”— featuring a HeroMaker workshop track and videos from leaders like Derwin Gray and Joby Martin who shared about the hero makers in their lives. We’re continuing the multiplication conversation in 2018 by looking at the kind of leader it takes to dream big and lead a Level 5 multiplying church, including the shifts needed to move from hero to hero maker.
Teaching and training. More than 75 workshops offered specific training and thought leadership in 13 different tracks (including Spanish-spoken workshops). Leaders customized their conference experience, choosing from a spectrum of track topics—everything from church planting, discipleship, and leadership to marriage and family, multi-site and multi-ethnic.
Early morning Bible studies. Wayne Cordeiro and Mariners Church’s Kyle Zimmerman powerfully started Wednesday and Thursday with Bible studies, challenging leaders to tap into the wisdom of Scripture. “One of the greatest gifts of reading the Bible daily,” Cordeiro said, “is an increasing resistance offense.”
Video conversations with high-profile figures like sports celebrity Tim Tebow and worship leader David Crowder, as well as former gang member-turned-church planter Brian Warth, gave the crowd an inside look at the hearts and future legacy of these leaders who have aligned their dreams with God’s dreams. Exponential spent time with these leaders to ask them about their big vision for multiplication.
If you’re planning to, or thinking about, being with us in 2018, there’s no better time to register ($119 registrant/$449 for groups of five through October 9) for Exponential East 2018 in Orlando, Feb. 26-March 1.
If you missed Exponential East and West this year or if you made it here but have no idea how to take back everything you learned to your church and team, the 2017 Digital Access Pass features all of the week’s main sessions and extended sessions. Check it out here.
Fortunately, missing Exponential West doesn’t preclude you from experiencing Dream Big at one of four upcoming live events this fall. The next stop on the Dream Big fall tour is the San Francisco Bay Area (Oct. 25-26), followed by Chicago (Nov. 7-8) and Houston (Nov. 29-30). Regional events feature all five Dream Big main sessions! Plus, the regional events are only two days, making it extremely affordable to bring your team.
There’s nothing like being with leaders who are passionate about the same things that matter to you. The connections and conversations alone are worth the investment. Exponential has made it a priority to do whatever we can (including working with sponsors to subsidize conference costs) to facilitate this kind of live encounter for anyone who cares about Jesus’ Great Commission and His vision to see His Church multiply.