Dave Ferguson: Ask the Right Question

Asking the right question can change everything. The just-right question can be a disruptive agent, cutting through years of complacency to redirect a leader’s or team’s focus toward extraordinary new insights.

Let’s look at today’s church. We know that only 7% of all churches are reproducing churches—ones that go on to plant churches that plant churches. The biggest difference between them and the other 93% of churches is the question they ask. 

It is my observation that most pastors and church leaders in the Western world keep asking, “How do I grow my church?” What makes this question dangerous is that it is a good question, but it is not a great question. 

In a moment I will share with you what I believe is a great question that every church leader should be asking. But first let me give you four reasons why “How do I grow my church?” is problematic by breaking down its words.

1. I

“How do I grow my church?” is not a great question because the focus is on “I” as in me, all by myself. We aren’t meant to accomplish Jesus’ mission all alone or in competition against others. We need to replace the “I” with “we.” Reproducing churches know that Jesus’ vision of Acts 1:8 will only be accomplished through a community of multiplying leaders, and by collaborating with other churches to start new churches.

2. Grow

This question also isn’t great because it implies the goal is only growth. Yes, the church was meant to grow. And yes, healthy things grow. But growth is not the endgame.

Reproducing churches replace “grow” with “multiply” because they want to see the kingdom expand from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. These churches understand that growth is not about creating more seating capacity; it is about creating more sending capacity.

3. My

The churches we lead are not yours or mine; we are only stewards. We need to look at our ministries and churches and acknowledge they are God’s. Reproducing churches, which often live with a keen awareness that they are only temporarily managing this gift, replace “my” with “God’s.” 

4. Church

“How do I grow my church?” is almost always asked with the lowercase “c” church in mind. That’s shortsighted and missionally unaware. Leaders who ask this question are focused on growing their castle, not God’s kingdom. Reproducing churches are far more concerned about the growth of God’s kingdom than their individual church. 

But if we look more closely at churches that are planting new churches, they are asking a far better and truly great question: “How do we multiply God’s kingdom?” 

They have shifted their focus from individuals to collaboration; from growing to multiplying; from personal ownership to stewardship; and from the local church to the kingdom of God. 

Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

We need to pay close attention to the questions we are asking because asking the right question can change everything.