Imagine that you discovered a cure for a fatal disease that has infected people throughout your region of the country. You want to deliver that cure to people so you establish a hospital with doctors and staff that are trained to treat the disease with the life-saving cure. People flock to your hospital to seek the cure and receive the gift of healing and life. Before long, your staff is overwhelmed with the people coming to the hospital to seek treatment.
There isn’t enough square footage for the task. Your parking lots are full, you don’t have enough exam rooms, your diagnostic equipment can’t handle the demand. Your goal is to offer this life-giving cure to as many as possible, so you decide to expand the hospital. You increase staff, you hire more doctors, you expand the parking lot and update your facilities. Still more people come until you are faced with overcrowding once again, then you must repeat the process of taking on more debt and expanding again.
After a while, you have reached a lot of people who live near your hospital with the offer of a cure. The problem is there are people who don’t live near the hospital and can’t easily access the treatment. The solution to reach them isn’t keeping the cure at one ever-expanding location. A better, more effective approach would be to send your best doctors and staff to start new treatment centers in different locations to reach the most people in the effected region. The original location would then transform into a teaching/equipping/sending hospital.
The strategy of keeping the life-saving treatment at one location is obviously flawed. It doesn’t make sense to keep building a bigger hospital. It seems shortsighted—maybe even selfish—for the hospital to keep its best doctors and staff for itself when there are so many people who are dying, who don’t have access to the life-giving treatment and skill that is kept at the one location.
This is a modern parable of what many consider a successful church. It is growing, people are attending in the thousands, it attracts a talented and gifted staff. But to keep the momentum, lead pastors of those churches have to keep adding staff. They have to keep adding more buildings, taking on more debt so that they can attract more people. It’s a never-ending cycle of debt, buildings, staffing, so that the church can attract the most people. To achieve this—for many pastors—would be a dream come true. But there are more than a few pastors who have reached the “dream” only to wonder, is this all there is?
What if the modern church had a different measure of success? What if we really wanted to reach the most people with the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ? What if—instead of keeping our best staff—we created a sending culture where we purposely send our best staff to plant other churches? And what if those churches send their best staff to plant churches? What if the local church practices what it teaches its people about stewardship, that you sacrifice and give your very best to God and trust Him? And when we do that, God blesses what we have surrendered to Him and multiplies it. What would happen if churches practiced that same stewardship principle when it comes to their finances and staff? What would happen if churches have such a radical trust in God that they free their best staff to launch new churches in new locations and different communities? What would happen if churches budgeted to plant other churches?
Exponential is a network of pastors and churches that are doing just that. They are instilling a sending and planting culture in their churches. They realize the old model of churches not devoting resources and holding onto their best staff is not as effective in making disciples and growing disciples as the churches that have a sending culture.
When it comes to kingdom impact, small multiplication math is much more effective than mega-churches who have no church planting strategy. Ralph Moore is someone that is not on our radar when it comes to celebrity pastors, yet he is considered a legend within the leadership of Exponential. Ralph Moore is lead pastor of Hope Chapel Honolulu. He spoke at the Healthy Growing Churches pre-conference session at Exponential to a standing-room-only audience. Through Ralph’s leadership and vision, Hope Chapel was planted as a church dedicated to planting other churches that plant other churches that plant other churches, etc. Over time, Ralph Moore’s small multiplication math has resulted in planting over 2,200 churches worldwide that have had an eternal impact on the lives of more than a quarter million people. By his own admission, Ralph Moore is not the most charismatic personality. He would say his strength is teaching not preaching. You wouldn’t pick him out in a lineup of Christian superstars, Hope Chapel Honolulu is not a mega-church, they rent space for their gatherings, they have never owned a building and never will, and yet what God has accomplished through one man’s vision is incredible. It can be argued that Ralph Moore’s impact on this world is far greater and more lasting than any mega-church pastor.
If you can go to one conference a year, go to Exponential East in Orlando. The main sessions are inspiring, and the breakout sessions can be tailored to any track of ministry you need (discipleship, planting, evangelism, technology, social media, church turnaround, and so much more). As an added bonus, you will have the opportunity to do an Exponential pre-conference with Healthy Growing Churches. You will connect with a network of church leaders who will fan the flame of what God can do through ordinary people like Ralph Moore and through ordinary people like us. If you didn’t get a chance to go to Orlando this year, you can attend a regional Exponential that will be held in Chicago (November 7-8, 2017). You can find more information, as well as lots of free resources at exponential.org.
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