Multiplication Insights From Exponential West 2016

The fourth-annual gathering brought 2,000+ church leaders to learn together and focus on becoming a Level 5 multiplying church

Lindy Lowry

“You can build the best, strongest ship, but regardless of the strength of your ship or how gifted you are, you can’t make the wind blow. Only God can transform. Are you positioned in the spaces where the wind is prone to blow?”

Offering the final message at the fourth annual Exponential West conference at Mariner’s Church, Village Church and Acts 29 leader Matt Chandler asked the crowd of 2,000+ church leaders to consider the pivotal question. From the stage, he urged leaders to join God in the adventure He has for us.

“You may have been moved this week to plant a church or start a church-planting residency. Maybe you’ve made the decision to be a sending church and figure out what that means for your church. We just want to create a space to pray for you, to bless you and to give you an opportunity to mark some things in your heart.”

Stirred to action, hundreds of church leaders, including complete families, made their way to the front of the room—what has become a moment integral to Exponential conferences. Church-planting leaders, such as Derwin Gray, Ryan Kwon and Joby Martin, have all felt the call to plant and multiply at an Exponential conference.

“This moment is always my favorite part of the conference, where we see the culmination of how God uses this week to work in the lives of leaders and their churches,” says Exponential Director Todd Wilson. “We hear from many leaders who say this inflection point was the start of their church plant.”

For Los Angeles Pastor Ben Pun, Chandler’s invitation offered him an opportunity to be prayed over by longtime friend DJ Chuang. The 36-year-old pastor has sensed a call to plant out of the Chinese church where he leads young adults.

“When the call came to come down and be prayed for, I went immediately,” Pun said. “I felt like God was just really reminding me, ‘I have called you to do this. Church planting is My plan for you.’ Even though what I’m about to do is scary, the week just repeatedly affirmed that our confidence is in God and that in the end, church planting is the best way to reach people.”

Our confidence is in God and in the end, church planting is the best way to reach people. – Ben Pun

Pun plans to launch his church next fall across from the parent church where he currently pastors, partnering with them for children’s and youth ministry. Eventually, he hopes to multiply this model in other Chinese churches.

Below, we’ve gathered insights from the week’s main sessions and more than 75 workshops collectively focused on moving the needle of church multiplication in the United States from less than four percent to a tipping point of 10 percent.

To multiply, leaders must confront and continue to wrestle with three main tensions: motives, measurements and methods.

Kicking off the week, Exponential President Dave Ferguson introduced the conference’s Becoming Five theme, asking leaders to focus on three words and three questions throughout the three days and in the weeks and months after:

Motives: Is the church I lead (or will lead) going to be about my kingdom or God’s Kingdom?

Measurements: Is this church going to be about growing or sending? Will your primary measurement of success be about your church or how many churches you can start? Ferguson reminded leaders that growth requires us to consistently ask ourselves: Are we growing to increase seating capacity or sending capacity? If the answer is sending, then we have to develop new metrics because “what you measure improves and what you celebrate gets repeated.”

Methods: Will I be more about relaxing or risk taking? Will I prioritize buildings or planting churches? Will we plant a church before we build a building? How will we use a building platform to plant more churches?

Multiplication rests on us loving people unconditionally and seeing everyone as a church planter.

Everyone is called to God’s mission, and anyone can become a church planter. Throughout the week, we heard story after story reflecting that truth. But Hope Chapel movement founder Ralph Moore drove that message home. To date, Hope Chapel has a family tree of more than 2,000 churches on all seven continents. Moore planted Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, California, 45 years ago, and has seen all walks of life be discipled and go on to plant a church.

In an on-stage interview with Dave Ferguson, Moore shared, “We promise people to love them as is, and we take that promise very seriously. We disciple people and see everyone as a church planter. Because we have a low threshold into leadership, we’ve seen the gospel taken to pockets of people that we just won’t reach with white or black megachurches. If we aren’t willing to go to the small places, we won’t reach the people in those small places.”

A multiplication culture needs to start at day one.

Church planters have the opportunity to instill multiplication values in their church and leadership team, avoiding the issue of later having to secure buy-in on multiplication from an established church. Saddleback Church Senior Pastor and author Rick Warren challenged leaders in the pre-launch phase to “build multiplication into your church’s DNA from the start.”

As 2/42 Community Church planter and Lead Pastor Dave Dummit told us in Session two, “Start your ‘here’ (the church you’re planting) with ‘there’ (the next church you’ll plant or support) in mind. If you focus on ‘there,’ then ‘here’ will take care of itself. In that first year phase, it’s so important to get this ‘here/there’ tension right.”

We also heard from Ambassador Church planter and Lead Pastor Ray Chang who shared his church’s multiplication start on a panel of sending pastors (one of 75 workshops):

“We had to develop a vision of multiplication from the beginning,” he said, noting that in their first year, the church brought in a church-planting resident who planted in Ambassador’s first year. “We knew we had a limited window of time to emphasize multiplication and create this culture, so we started immediately.”

Multiplication will require sacrifice.

Whether it’s people, big givers, leaders, money or ego, multiplication will require openhanded generosity. The Summit Church Pastor J.D. Greear reminded us that through “confident sacrifice” and “Kingdom selflessness,” the Kingdom of God advances. “The sense of loss is always painful,” he said, adding that the people who volunteer to go with a church planter aren’t usually sitting on the sidelines of your church. “But we have to care more about the Kingdom of God than our relationships, ministry and our name. God did not call you to a platform; He called you to an altar. The blessings He has given you are for His Kingdom.”

God did not call you to a platform; He called you to an altar. – J.D. Greear

Multiplication reveals God’s provision.

Repeatedly, leaders drove home the message that when we seek God’s Kingdom first, He will provide. Greear noted that for every leader they give to church planting, God raises up three more leaders. AT&T Executive Cynthia Marshall shared her life story of repeated loss and adversity, each time countered by divine provision.

“I’m a witness that when we trust God, there’s no need to verify. We have enough evidence.” Marshall challenged us to answer telling questions:

  • Can you testify of the victory before it’s over, knowing that God will provide?
  • Can you relinquish control of everything and trust God with every aspect of your life?
  • Can you step out without a compass and trust God to be your compass?
  • Can you stand steadfast and transform in the storm?

Multiplication requires risk.

Will you live out your years coasting through life, or will you take risks to do something new and grow God’s Kingdom? Planter and pastor Albert Tate encouraged us with the truth that, “God is not done with you. God has something greater for you.” Drawing from the lives of Moses and Abraham, Tate pointed out that God has a reputation for tapping us on the shoulder just when we’re comfortable in life and saying, “Trust Me and let’s begin again!”

God is not done with you. God has something greater for you. – Albert Tate

Multiplication changes lives.

The bottom line is that the Church is God’s Plan A for reaching the world. There is no Plan B. Church multiplication is about reaching people with the gospel. To fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, we must be a multiplying Church that carries His gospel into every nook and cranny of society. In his opening message, Dave Ferguson shared that reaching the 10 percent tipping point could be the turning point for a lost and hurting world. “More and more people are finding themselves farther from God, and there is no church to help move them back.”

Ed Stetzer offered his latest research on movements and multiplication and challenged us to multiply churches that are intentional about evangelism. “Multiplication is the method; gospel life change is the goal. When we embrace evangelism and multiplication, the Church moves forward.” Stetzer shared his life’s purpose, reflecting his recent decision to become the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College: “I don’t want to spend my life shifting existing Christians into cooler churches. I want to see unbelievers changed by the power of the gospel.”

When we embrace evangelism and multiplication, the Church moves forward. – Ed Stetzer

Exponential is all in.

Exponential is committed to seeing multiplication happen and equipping church leaders to become Level 5 multiplying churches. We will continue to create and distribute resources—including national conferences, regional events (look for more in 2017), eBooks, assessment tools, webcasts, courses, podcasts, videos and weekly content—that give leaders the inspiration and practical tools they need to become part of a multiplication movement. We are devoted to bringing leaders together to wrestle with what it looks like to reach Level 5 and specific pathways for getting there, and we are passionate about partnering with church-planting organizations as we change the scorecard and define a new set of metrics that celebrate the multiplication of life-changing churches.


To take in the full Exponential West experience, order the Digital Access Pass featuring the main sessions from Exponential West 2016 and all of the main sessions from Exponential’s 2016 Becoming Five events (Exponential East and the D.C. and Chicago Regional Conferences) – more than 20 hours of multiplication-focused content!