Mercy Road Multipliers Learning Community
This will turn out to be a crazy week. I was in Indianapolis for the Multipliers Learning Community, a group put together by Exponential (exponential.org). Exponential is the largest church planting conference in the world, and it runs throughout the year as a kind of incubator for all kinds of ministry ideas. Church planting is the space program of the church—not everyone will plant a church, but the ideas and experience can be brought into existing churches to help better fulfill the Great Commission. I come home for a day then back to Indy for the Wesleyan Covenant Association International Conference.
The Mulitpliers Learning Community is three two-day sessions in 3 different churches around the country. Each church is pursuing multiplication of disciples and churches in different ways, but each is doing it well. The general pattern of the group I was in was that we heard from Bill Couchenour (pron. Kokenhour), an on-fire layman who works for Exponential; then we hear from the host church about their vision, process, and ministry; the highlight of this group has been we get to hear from Ralph Moore, one of the best in terms of multiplying churches and disciples.
Being at the Exponential Conference is like drinking from a fire hose. It usually takes me two weeks to start to sort out what happens—I am a slow learner, when it comes down to it. The Multipliers Community is even more overwhelming because of how much good stuff we hear! So over the course of some substack posts, I will try to give you the highlights, the things that jumped out at me, things that were affirming, things that were challenging. As I write this, it strikes me that it may also help to describe some of what is important to me, because along the way, I got to hear from some of my heroes—Ralph Moore and Larry and Deb Walkemeyer. Bill Couchenour has been a friend for about 10 years. Steve Cordle has been listening to me share hopes, dreams, and visions for more than a year.
This was my third Exponential Learning Community. The first was in 2013-4, and it was led by Alan Hirsch, all about activating the gifts Jesus gave the church in Ephesians 4:11-13. The second was 2014-15, on disciple-making. It was kicked off by this thing called the National Discipleship Forum, where I officially lost my mind and began a process of reorienting how I do ministry to focus more and more on disciple-making. In between, the Exponential Conference, and people I met there, like Neil Cole and Beau Crosetto, kept the fire going.
So, to start, let me go to the end.
Bill Couchenour was our facilitator. He has been on the outside looking in, with a layman’s perspective of the church. The last thing he said in this last meeting of the group was important. He talked about the 5 shifts a church has to make in order to move from a Level 3 church to a Level 5 church. I will refresh us about the levels next post. For now, Level 3 is the normal growth we see in most healthy, growing churches: they add more people than leave, move away, or die. Level 4 is a church that reproduces, by launching a satellite campus or planting a new church. Level 5 is multiplying; it launches satellites and plants new churches that themselves launch more satellites and new churches.
Bill started by saying that if we add more mega churches and add more people to existing churches, we will just keep falling farther and farther behind. We need to get to the place where churches are planting churches that plant churches and where the people in church are growing disciples who in turn make more disciples.
There are 5 shifts that need to take place. I’ll unpack these later, because there is a lot to say about the challenging ideas here. But a summary will have to suffice for now.
1 .Pastors and staff have to move from “hero to hero-maker.” That is, pastors and staff need to stop running the programs of the church. Their job is to help the members of the church run the ministries God is calling them to. Pastors need to not be the center of the church.
2. Change the scorecard. Most of our score card is “butts and bucks,” how many came, how much did they give? Valid. Those are important. But what about how many gave their lives to Christ? How many are in discipleship groups? How many churches has the church planted?
3. Shift expectations for believers. Got to move away from regular church attendance being once every 6 weeks, giving 2% and supporting a mission trip.
4 .Shifting expectations means you have to change the opportunities for people. See point 1; the staff don’t come up with the ministries, they help the members minister where God has called them. Example: Sarah Terry had a calling to start a new ministry. PJ empowered Sarah Terry to start a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) program here. PJ doesn’t run it, Sarah does. PJ helps make it happen. Sarah is the minister.
5.Change the operating system of the church. This is the hard part. We have been trained up in a system that thinks we pay the staff to do stuff at church, to do stuff for us. And pastors have been all too willing to embrace that. Gives us control and accolades. I hope I remember to tell you about the pastor who thought he would regret his commitment to never say no to any idea that was not sinful.