ORLANDO, Fla. (Christian Examiner)—Church planters from throughout North America and the world were encouraged this week to pursue multiplication in their ministries at the Exponential Conference at First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida.
Organizers called the conference the "largest gathering of church planting leaders in the world." Along with the thousands who attended the conference live, it was also available for free via livestream.
Conference speakers included: Dave Ferguson, Brian Houston, Mark Batterson, Ed Stetzer, J.D. Greear, Ryan Kwon, Michael Frost, Matt Chandler and Dave Dummitt.
Here are a few of the highlights from the four-day conference:
Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, speaking at the church whose former pastor, Jim Henry, three decades earlier had led him and his family to faith in Christ, urged attendees to "create the future" of the Church. McManus described in his message his own journey about getting disillusioned with ministry and becoming an artist and filmmaker. Eventually, he returned to Mosaic and pastoral ministry."The reason I'm here is not because this is the easy road," McManus said. "The reason I'm here is not because I cannot do something else as a career or profession. The reason I'm here is because God is madness in my soul that I cannot extricate from my life."
Calling the Church the most significant human endeavor in the history of the world, McManus suggested it was also worth the stress and frustrations that come to those who lead it.
"The Church is the physical expression of the dreams and vision of God poured into His people and then unleashed on humanity," McManus said after quoting the Apostle Peter's words in Acts 2:27. "Humanity needs the dreams of God as their future."
Ryan Kwon, who started Resonate Church in Fremont, California,encouraged church planters present to strive for a "family win" instead of pursuing individual wins. Speaking about the tension between "building our church and building His church," Kwon focused his 20-minute message on asking attendees to consider how competition may be hurting the Church's expansion.
"If we're going to go from a movement of churches that are adding to their numbers to a multiplying church, if we are going to be a Level 5 Church, then we must overcome our Western culture of individualism and embrace a culture of a biblical family," Kwon said. "We no longer fight for our individual win, but we fight for the family win."
A Level 5 Church is a term used during the Exponential Conference to describe a multiplying church.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, used Acts 8 to lay out three characteristics of a sending church—confident sacrifice, Kingdom selflessness and risky faith. "What we're doing is not working," said Greear. "I think we need to return to the Bible, and I think we need to ask whether we're pursuing the mission like Jesus told us to pursue it."
Sharing what he said are three characteristics of a sending church, Greear focused on the need to be prepared to risk. "We know how to teach that principle to our people with their money—to give God their first and their best—but are we willing to give God the first and best of our leaders?" Greear asked.
"Pastor/leader, what if you said: 'God, I'll give you the first and best of my leaders and trust you.' Watch and see how the Lord multiplies and what He does. We've discovered—just like in every other area of your church—you just can't out give God."
Mark Batterson, the founding pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., also focused on the need for risk. Batterson used an illustration of "the Domino Effect" to show the power of one small risk.
The Domino Effect is a 1983 scientific study that showed a domino could topple another domino 1.5 times its size. Batterson suggested that if a person starts with a two-inch domino and continues to try to topple dominoes 1.5 times larger, the person could knock over the Leaning Tower of Pisa in 18 dominoes. Batterson urged the church planters in attendance to look for the one action that'll change all the subsequent ones.
"It takes 280 million tons of potential energy to knock over the 13th domino," Batterson said. "Don't start there. Start with the two-inch domino right in front of you. One decision, one idea, one risk, one day."
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of Dallas' The Village Church and president of Acts 29 Church Planting Network , concluded the conference by reminding those in attendance that no matter what they apply of what they've learned, they can't make their church plants multiply on their own. Only the Holy Spirit can do that, he said."The more you think you're the solution to the problem, the more you put a weight on you that you cannot, will not, bear," Chandler said. "No, you are the bearer of good news—not the Good News.
"Speaking from Acts 13, Chandler noted he can't tell church planters how to "make the Holy Spirit fuel and blow life into what you're doing." Instead he shared three "places where the wind tends to blow"— a serious pursuit of God, a radical obedience to the Holy Spirit, and an open-handed gladness.
Chandler ended the conference by encouraging church planters to do what they can do to apply what they've learned in the conference and let God take care of the rest.
"You can do this," Chandler said. "You hear me? You can do this. You don't need to be comparing yourself with anyone else. ... We can be us, where we are at, and God will be very happy with that."