Have you ever considered that big dreams are the birthright of every believer?
Throughout Scripture, the most basic words of our faith—hope, promise, heaven, eternity—connect us to our future. Scripture is filled with verses that urge us to look forward. We anticipate what lies ahead and look to identify our role in God’s mission to redeem the world—essentially Jesus’ dream of a movement spelled out for us in Acts 1:8. Right before his ascension, Jesus shared his dream with his followers (present and future):
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes up on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
As Christ-followers and leaders of his church, we have been invited to dream big with him. Through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to venture beyond our home base and ultimately take his good news to every tribe and every nation.
Allowing your heart and mind to pursue a vision that’s bigger than you will change you in significant ways. When you begin to get a clear vision for multiplication, you start to see how God is preparing and shaping you for that vision.
Dreaming Big Changes Your Questions
When it comes to big dreams, one question will lead to another. The size of your dream will often determine the types of questions you ask. Easily manageable, smaller dreams require one set of questions, while big dreams will lead you to ask an entirely different set of questions. Since starting NewThing Network, my [Dave’s] questions have changed with the size of my dreams.
Ten years ago, our dream was to start a network of new churches, so I had to ask, “How can I attract, train and deploy church planters?” Now, our dream is to see a movement of reproducing churches, so I’m asking, “How can I create systems that reproduce networks and attract, train and deploy apostolic leaders?”
As you start to ask the challenging questions, your scorecard for how you measure success will begin to change. While we may still ask, “How many people worshipped with us this weekend?”, a multiplication vision requires us to think toward the future and identify new metrics of success:
- How many churches will we plant this year and over the next five years?
- Will we budget significantly for church multiplication (an actual line item)?
- How many new churches outside our own church will we support?
- Will we release and send out leaders to multiply churches—even our most valuable leaders?
- How many people will we encourage to leave and start a new church?
- If we pursue multiplication and our weekend attendance goes down as a result, will we see ourselves as successful?
Dreaming Big Changes Your Prayers
Big dreams drive us to our knees. A vision for multiplication that’s too big for you and your church to accomplish through your own efforts and giftings keeps you looking to God and depending on him.
For Brian Bloye, senior pastor and church planter of West Ridge Church in Dallas, Texas, prayer was a catalyst to the church’s transformation from a congregation focused on size and growth into a community bent on kingdom multiplication.
“I knew that God was going to have to do a work in our staff and in the leadership of our church,” Bloye explains. “And then he was going to have to do a work in our church. Even though I knew it would be a hard work, I knew that if I was praying about multiplication, if I was praying about reproduction, if I was praying about sending, then I was praying in line with God’s will. If you pray in line with God’s will, you will begin to pray powerful prayers.”
Dreaming Big Changes the People Around You
Big dreams are contagious. When we get a vision for multiplication and begin to share it, we start a chain reaction. Think about the times you’ve seen people’s souls awaken as they began to wonder about the role they could play in advancing the kingdom. Sharing a clear vision for multiplication will slowly begin to change the people in your path in two different ways:
People start to take ownership of the vision. Following a big-dream leader removes much of the mystery about how to pursue a vision.
Watching a leader achieve his or her dreams removes fear and insecurity for everyone else who might dare to dream. People begin to see themselves as visionaries.
Dreaming Big Changes You
Leaders who are pursuing Level-Five multiplication can easily look back to see how dreaming big has changed them personally:
A multiplication vision deepens your relationship with God. When you depend on God to fulfill a vision he has given you, your relationship with God—how you see and respond to him—changes … and changes you.
A multiplication vision shapes your closest relationships in ministry. When we pursue a God-given vision, like-minded people with the same passions and goals inevitably cross our paths. Our opportunities to influence and be influenced by high-capacity leaders increase.
A multiplication vision keeps us laser-focused. When opportunities come our way with no clear connection to multiplication, it’s an easy “no.” A clear vision gives us a filter through which we can run every idea, opportunity and decision.
Dreaming Big Changes Your Church
Casting a clear, compelling vision that calls your church to a specific purpose and mobilizes people into a life of mission lays the foundation for a church that thinks, acts and prays differently than a church focused only on its own growth.
Vision incubates a kingdom-centric church. When people know and truly grasp that they are part of something with eternal impact, they begin to be less focused on building their kingdom (their church) and more focused on seeing Jesus build God’s kingdom. That means fewer tensions to navigate and greater buy-in on all fronts as you pursue multiplication.
Vision nurtures a culture and community of biblical disciple-making. Everyone in the church is a biblical disciple-maker, reproducing disciples in community. Making and multiplying disciples is paramount.
Vision activates your church’s “sending” impulse. Multiplication spreads spontaneously and exponentially. People know they are called to make disciples and be part of a church that releases and sends disciples.
What would it look like if your church embraced and reflected all of these values? How would things be different? How would your community transform? What would it look like for you to lead a church that’s working together for the purpose of advancing the kingdom?
Vision in Action
Here are just a few of the examples of how churches are dreaming big and multiplying:
About a decade ago, The Summit Church sensed God giving them what planter/pastor J.D. Greear calls “an audacious vision” of planting 1,000 churches by the year 2050—three times as many churches as attendees in the Durham, North Carolina, congregation. Starting with only two missionary families in the field, The Summit Church continues to make notable progress and press on toward their dream, Greear says.
When New Life Church was three years old, the leadership team made a fundamental decision to focus on kingdom growth over its own growth. That one decision has shaped the DNA of the Chantilly, Virginia, church. In 2004, New Life began to dream of moving from one church plant every four years to one per year. Now, the church is pursuing an aggressive multiplication vision of planting 20 churches each year.
In 2009, The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, launched the 100 People Network, a long-term initiative that engages the entire congregation in three roles (goers, senders and front-end mobilizers) to send 100 people from the church for two years or more to reach the 6,000 unreached people groups in the world.
“From the very beginning we’ve really defined our success not by how many people we could get through the doors, but by how many people we can equip and send out,” says Lead Pastor Matt Carter. “We asked, ‘What can we do in this limited amount of time that God has given us to make a dent in the Great Commission?’”
Joining Jesus in his multiplication dream moves us toward this picture.
Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson are co-founders of Exponential. Both are multiplication activists, bent on seeing the U.S. church reproduce. “Dream Big: Pathways to Multiplication” is Exponential’s theme for 2017. Download the new free eBook, Dream Big, Plan Smart: Finding Your Pathway to Level Five Multiplication by Todd Wilson (with Will Mancini) at Exponential.org.