Dave Ferguson: An Unprecedented Opportunity

Now we’re back to the question we started with: “What are you going to trade your life for?” If you, as a leader, want to leverage your life for impact, it will be by being that hero-maker—the person who raises and empowers others, the leader who multiplies leaders who can multiply. Are you finding younger leaders you can invest in? Can you make heroes out of them? Will you be able to use your growing platform to step right off it and put others on? How do you become the bow and someone else becomes the arrow? How do you invest in others?

I’m a big fan of large churches, because large churches have the opportunity to have tremendous influence for phenomenal multiplication. And what we’re trying to do at Exponential and NewThing and our other efforts is to put people on the stage who may have a significant measurable impact, but have done it through multiplication. We know that as young leaders see different people on a platform like that, they’ll want to mimic the multipliers.

One speaker we had at Exponential last year was Ralph Moore of Hope Chapel. He’ll tell you upfront that he struggles with some self-esteem issues, that he’s not the most compelling communicator from the stage. But his ministry has planted more than 1,000 churches. When he starts doing the math, there are hundreds of thousands of people he’s impacting. Which, if you think about impact just by the numbers, is X-times the influence of some of the largest churches in North America. Looking at a guy like Ralph, who may not exactly fit the polished, articulate, confident conference-speaker mold, it’s possible to glance past this incredible impact he’s having. He becomes an example of true success. Pointing to him is an example of what it means to leave a tremendous legacy. Hero-makers can impact not only thousands or tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of people over the course of a lifetime.

You mentioned that your love for church is so strong that you have to be careful not to love it more than Jesus. Other leaders will relate. How do you nourish your spirit in the midst of service?

For me, a few things keep my focus where it needs to be. One is the daily discipline of journaling. Corporate worship holds me there as well—saying that feels like a cheesy sermon point but it’s true. Truly seeking to worship in our gatherings does great things for me.

But you know what else helps me? When I hear other people’s stories of how they found their way back to God. That makes it real. It reignites the original passion. We have—all churches have—the most incredible people, with the most incredible stories—simple stories, tragic stories, even funny stories. As they found their way back to God, they overcame trauma, addiction, loss. They all remind me of what I am trading my life for. To make heroes, to follow this mission, we all share in helping people find their way back to God. That’s what keeps my attention where it should be, reminding me that this is about Jesus, not just leadership development or organizational designs, or all those things (that I love!) that can distract me. Watching people encounter God—that does it for me.

We recently had a dinner with about a dozen emerging leaders in our church, people we want to really invest in. We brought them all together and asked them to tell the story of how they joined our church and team. And several of them found their way back to God at Community. I could feel emotion well up inside me when they each told their story.

What advice would you give the “hero-makers” reading this?

First, dream big. When we started Community, we were a bunch of college friends who had a breakfast meeting to determine what we wanted this church to be. We basically outlined a threefold vision. Phase 1: We wanted to be an impact church, making a neighborhood impact wherever we go. We wanted to be a church that, if we left, the neighborhood would ask what they needed to do to get us back. Phase 2: We wanted to be a reproducing church. Phase 3: We wanted to be a movement. [Laughs.] I mean, I was 25, Jon was 23, and my buddy was 21. You almost have to be that young to dream that way.

But that’s how we talked and how we prayed—that God would bless us to catalyze a movement. Even when we started NewThing and we had all of about seven church planters sitting in a room here at Community, we’d ask things like, “How can we reach a billion people?” Ridiculous. But don’t hesitate to dream that way. Read Acts 1:8—Jesus’ dream for the church is the “ends of the earth.” That is a very big dream. We have to grab that big dream.

That brings me to the second point: Start small. The way you do that is simply finding one or two people to apprentice. No matter what you’re doing, invest in them. Then, when they think they’re ready and you think you’re ready (there’s no secret formula for this), they are ready. Bring people along with you. Let them hang out with you. Rub off on people. Help them any way you can. Be available. That’s what shaped me in the early days, and what is driving my ministry to multipliers. It is small things that can make heroes, and heroes can change the world.

Paul J. Pastor is editor-at-large for Outreach magazine, and author of The Listening Day: Meditations on the Way (Zeal Books). PaulJPastor.com