As executive catalyst of Mission Orange County, Chris Lagerlof works with church planters and leaders throughout Southern California’s Orange County area to mobilize and multiply churches. In the interview below, he talks about Mission OC’s passion for multiplication and what he’s 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 levels of churches and offers a profile for each one. How do those levels and their respective profiles fit with what you’re seeing with Mission OC leaders?
The heart of what we do at Mission Orange County and Christ Together focuses on seeing the church multiplied and mobilized to impact every man, woman and child in their geography with repeated opportunities to see, hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In many ways, we serve as a catalyst in our network to see churches think through a lens of multiplication.
Most churches in Orange County don’t have a strategy or model to multiply disciples and churches. They provide great ministry and programs but get stuck at Level 3. In Orange County, it’s easy to be satisfied if you’re operating at Level 3. Numerical growth is happening, resources exist, and new ministries emerge. It feels good. But the reality is that at Level 3, the church can easily mistake participation for transformation. When this happens, we produce a different kind of disciple, and our strategies tend to focus more on church growth instead of church multiplication.
Essentially, Mission OC exists to inspire Level 3 churches to become Level 4 churches and then Level 4 churches to become Level 5 churches. When this happens, Orange County will hit the tipping point for gospel saturation.
At Level 3, the church can easily mistake participation for transformation.
What would you say are some of the greatest affirmations, epiphanies or “aha’s” you had while reading the book?
I was moved by the chapter on rethinking the operating system. I love what Todd Wilson wrote: “Pause and reflect on the potential unintended consequences. We are called to make biblical disciples who GO as an expression of their increasing maturity. Too often, we are building churches that spend most of their time attracting, appeasing, and seeking to keep cultural Christians sticking around.”
Todd nailed it! We’re using a 19th-century operating system in the strategies and models we choose for our churches. The reality is that Jesus built the original operating system, and it worked really well. We need to revisit what a first-century operating system looks like to become healthier and more effective multipliers.
Another huge takeaway was how important it is to get the principles of Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church into the minds and hearts of church planters because they are the future of multiplication. We need to train up a generation of multipliers and movement leaders. We focus so much of our time and energy on “putting new wine into old wineskins.” Reading this book reminded me of how critical it is to get Level 5 thinking into the DNA of the leaders we influence and equip to plant churches. Doing this well will redefine the current prevailing church, and the next-generation church will look completely different!
Jesus built the original operating system, and it worked really well.
Todd and Dave offer several direct and indirect challenges to church planters and church planting leaders. What are some of the tensions of multiplication Mission OC is dealing with as you consider these challenges to multiply?
There are several tensions to multiplication we see on a regular basis:
- A lack of resources (funds, staffing, time, etc.) allocated to a strategy of multiplication.
- Looking through a church framework instead of a Kingdom framework. Like Bob Roberts, lead pastor at NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas says, “If you start with the church, you don’t always get the Kingdom. But if you start with the Kingdom, you always get the church.”
- The lack of an ecosystem or tools and resources to build a culture of multiplication that reproduces disciples and churches.
- Focusing on models that are dollar-dependent instead of models that are disciple-dependent.
- Senior leadership that lacks experience and passion for multiplying churches and movements. Many pastors we work with have never planted or been part of a church plant.
What specific action steps has Mission OC taken as a result of reading the book?
We’ve already started to ask churches we work with to take the online Becoming Five Assessment, which helps create a dialog around their current level of multiplication and future aspirations. It’s a healthy and honest assessment that can really help churches think through who they are today and who they want to be in the future. We love the dialog and opportunity this assessment tool creates for Mission Orange County to inspire and equip planters to build a better strategy and model for multiplication.
How are you challenging, inspiring and equipping leaders in your network differently because of what you read?
Every year, Mission Orange County equips 10 churches to become church planting churches. We call our training “Multiply: Becoming a Church Multiplication Center.” In three years, we’ve equipped 41 churches and helped them develop a multiplication strategy and model that begins with the disciple and ends with the church. Collectively, these churches have committed to plant more than 250 churches in the next decade. This year, we will require every participant to complete the Becoming 5 online assessment and read Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church as part of our training. At the same time, the book has helped us frame a common language around the idea of what a multiplying church looks like—a language we’ll regularly use with our partner churches and church planters.
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?
I’ve found myself repeating Genesis 1:28 in my thoughts and prayers:
“… Be fruitful and multiply.” That’s God’s heart for anything He has created and entrusted to us. There’s no doubt that we’re praying more often for churches and church planters to increase their heart for multiplication.
Introduce us to a Mission OC church, pastor or planter that’s doing a particularly good job of multiplication?
Rudy Paniagua is the first name that comes to mind. Rudy was called to plant two and a half years ago, was assessed, trained, and has planted. Now, he’s the Hispanic church plant director for the Assemblies of God churches in California. He has planted and now assessed and trained numerous planters using the process we took him through.
You can take the FREE Becoming Five Assessment Tool Chris Lagerlof talks about at becomingfive.org