A few months ago, Zondervan sent me a free book to review. Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement came to my doorstep. I started the book with great excitement, but a kitchen remodel, a new roof, and two hard drive crashes set me back a little in completion time. However, I finished the book yesterday and here's the bottom line on it.
The book was written by Dave and Jon Ferguson, two brothers who started a church in Chicago. They founded the church with almost no resources - nothing but a vision from God. This one church has birthed several campus churches, started various other churches, and has now organized many of these into networks.
The book is written from Dave's perspective, with Jon throwing in random snide comments. If my brother Peter ever writes a book, I definitely want the "snide comment" job! The book is well written and easy to read as it's largely just their story.
The book could be summarized by two points. 1. Stop thinking small, get all your friends together, and plant a million churches. Then, keep going. They use their story to convince, motivate, and persuade you that this can be a reality. Should we need this encouragement? No, we probably shouldn't. The Great Commission commands the radical, widespread, yep, even exponential growth of God's kingdom throughout the world. This command is backed by the power and presence of God. If you're still unsure about Christ's ability to bring His plans to fruition, check out Revelation 19-20. However, years of disobedience and a lack of faith have given us spiritual cataracts, leaving us unable to see what God really desires to do. This book is encouraging, not because they give us some magic formula, but because their story affirms today what we should already know - that God will build His church!
2. Intentionally develop leaders! Here again, this should be kind of a no brainer. That's what discipleship is all about, but this book does a really good job of giving some practical ways to develop leaders. Community (their church) believes that every person in every position ought to have an apprentice. In this way, leadership is being intentionally developed on every level. The Fergusons correctly point out that if you wait to mentor leaders until you need the leaders, it is way too late and you are actually hindering the progress of winning souls. Unfortunately, most leadership training occurs more like this. "Hey, I've got the flu. Can you teach my class this morning?" It's sink or swim. What a great way to help people!
At Community they laid out a leadership flow chart. Everyone starts as an individual (obviously!). Then follows leader, coach, director, campus pastor/church planter, and finally network leader. I think it's interesting to how Community is structured, but it doesn't need to be precisely emulated. The big point is, the are intentionally developing leaders. Sounds kind of like 2 Timothy 2:2, doesn't it? :)
They do a great job of breaking down leadership development into five basic steps:
1. I do. You watch. We talk.
2. I do. You help. We talk.
3. You do. I help. We talk.
4. You do. I watch. We talk.
5. You do. Someone else watches.
This completes the leadership circle and creates mature believers who are training others. I've seen these steps listed very similarly somewhere else, and I have no idea who canonized it first, but I think this approach is simple and effective. The three questions that guide their conversations are (1) "What worked?" (2) "What didn't work?" and (3) "How can we improve?"
In summary, it was a great book if you want one path to do this. I loved the emphasis on leadership development and faith in what God can do. Some chapters kind of reitterated their previous motif of leadership develop (ex, reproducing artists, reproducing groups, etc). Each chapter added a little to it, but not exceptionally. Worth a read? Definitely.... but I still like Viral Churches better.