A Leadership Conversation with Dave Ferguson
Dave Ferguson and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about the state of multiplication in the church. Dave is the lead pastor at Community Christian Church, an innovative multi-site missional church with eleven locations in Chicago. In that conversation, he shared a disheartening statistic from some research he’d been a part of: Of the churches in our country that are growing, less than 4 percent are multiplying.
Why is that? All churches have leadership potential sitting in their services but a culture of discipling leaders is often missing. So, in this episode, Dave shares a little about 5 essential practices for leaders to multiply leaders in the Church.
In this episode, we discuss:
Practices we see in reproducing/multiplying churches
The biggest reason churches struggle with leadership development
The primary leadership mantle pastors wear, whether they realize it or not
Join the Conversation:
We’ll be talking about multiplying leaders on social media this week using #unstuckchurch. What questions do you have after listening to the episode? Tweet directly with Dave at @DaveFerguson.
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If you enjoyed this episode of The Unstuck Church Podcast, subscribe for more here:
- Video Version of the Interview with Dave
- Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird
- The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health
Tony Morgan: 00:00 Hello everyone, before we get into today’s episode of the Unstuck Church podcast, I have a new resource I’m excited to share with you. For years, pastors have told me they feel stuck and that’s ultimately why I started the unstuck group, but this month I’m offering a brand new tool to equip you to lead and unstuck church. It’s my first ever online course. I took a look at the 12 most common issues I’m singing in churches that get stuck and I developed out a full path to equip you to lead a church to health and growth. If you are a lead pastor and executive pastor or a lay leader, or if you’re not in ministry today, but feel called to pastor someday, this content is for you. It’s practical. You’ll get action steps in each lesson to begin putting the things you learn into practice. I believe it’ll give you the confidence and training you need to break barriers to health and growth in your church. We’re including a private Facebook group and we’ll have special live events for the participants. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Enrollment is open today, but we’re only keeping it open for a few weeks so we can make sure to really engage with and support this first group going through the course. Check it out at courses.theunstuckgroup.com/library.
Tony Morgan: 01:36 Welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast. Each week we share a conversation to help your church get unstuck. Today I’m going to be joined by a special guest, Dave, as the lead pastor of Community Christian Church in the Chicagoland area. Dave has recently written a book called Hero Maker, which is about leadership development, and we’re going to have a conversation about the five essential practices for leaders to multiply other leaders. Now this conversation was originally recorded for video. So the audio isn’t the same quality you’re accustomed to on this podcast, but hang in there. The content itself will certainly help you take your next steps in your ministry and leadership. So now here’s the conversation with Dave. Want to welcome Dave Ferguson with me today. Say hello to everybody. Dave. (Dave: Hello everybody.) How you doing, Dave? I know we’re going to talk about your new book here in a moment, but we, in all the conversations we’ve had through the years, we’ve never had a chance to talk about your role with the new thing network. Could you just give a quick overview of what new thing is all about?
Dave Ferguson: 02:43 Sure. Long, long story short. I’m probably, man, 12 years ago or so, we had a youth pastor who, a guy who I loved, came to me and said, hey, I want to do what you’re gonna do. And I said, what or what you did? And I said, what did I do? And he said, plant a church. And it’s kind of embarrassing. We hadn’t planned into the churches up to that point. We’d been around for, you know, I dunno, 10, 12, 13 years and uh, kind of put him off because I want them to be our youth pastor. I said, well, what are you thinking? He said, Denver. And I said, once, just go out there and check it out and then come back and we’ll talk about it. And he went out there hitting back after being gone a week. And he had raised more than $100,000 in less than a week.
Dave Ferguson: 03:23 And he said, yeah, I think God behind us. I said, yeah, I think you’re right. So, um, what we did is we got him and his wife up in front of our whole church and said, hey, it’s clear God’s at work here, David, we’re gonna go plant this church. And I think some of you ought to go with him if he’s, if God’s in it. And we had about 35 families that moved from Chicago out to Denver to plant that church. And we stayed in a relationship and that was the first church. And then fast forward to today, there’s about over 1500 churches that are now part of New Thing and 177 networks. And the primary thing that we do is really just how do we help churches multiply and reproduce. And my role is, is really kind of just the visionary, kind of like, okay, where are we taking this thing next?
Tony Morgan: 04:06 Well that’s great. And I have churches periodically, they tell me, uh, you know, can, can multisite churches be about church planting as well and can church planting churches about multisite as well and always say, well, you need to go check out what the Ferguson brothers are doing in Chicago, man, because they’re doing both very well. So thanks for sharing a little bit about that story, but sure that, that aside, uh, my primary reason for wanting to connect with you today is about your new book. It’s called hero maker and it’s about multiplying leaders. And so tell me, first of all, why’d you write, write the book?
Dave Ferguson: 04:43 Um, a lot of it of course comes from my experience, but kind of the, maybe the, um, the catalyst for it was through exponential, but the third hat. So I’m kind of, I’m the pastor of community Christian Church in Chicago. I also am a visionary for new thing, but the third hat I wear is president of this conference called exponential. We do a bunch of other stuff, but as we did research on churches in North America, we discovered that trips can basically fall into five different categories. You’ve got level one churches that our church is in decline level two churches, there are churches that are plateaued and about 80 percent of all churches fall into those two categories. Level three are churches that are growing and you got about 16 percent of all churches. Then you’ve got these special two categories and what we call a level four, level five, level four churches are churches that are reproducing.
Dave Ferguson: 05:28 I’ve ever started a brand new site or a brand new church, only about four percent of all churches across the United States had ever done that. And then you’ve got this last category of multiplying churches. Those that have a kind of serial planners movement making churches. Um, and I mean maybe you got a handful at the most across the United States. So we started looking at all those churches, particular as level four, level five churches and the leadership in those reproducing and multiplying churches at the smallest level. A small group and missional community leaders and also at the senior level. And we went to look at them and say, okay, so what are the practices in those reproducing and multiplying churches? And, uh, and we also kind of begin to pair it up against the gospels in the life of Jesus, his leadership and how we kind of, we had two different days. We brought together groups of people just to talk about are some thought leaders on this. And we had a whole long list of here’s the practices we see. And then we, uh, kind of pared it down to five. We said here’s the top five, what we call the essential practices of these multiplying leaders. And um, that’s Kinda the core of the book. So if you want to be a leader that multiplies leaders, here’s the things we learned from Jesus, but also from these really kind of premier level four and level five churches.
Tony Morgan: 06:43 Yeah. And I don’t know if you find this to be the case, even the conversations you’re having and certainly in the churches, particularly the ones that are connecting you with you through the new thing network is oftentimes, as I’m talking with churches about this desire to be reproducing and multiplying, it’s just, it’s not a sense of we don’t have opportunities or locations where we could go. And in many cases, the financial resources are actually there as well. The big hangup is the leadership, the they, they don’t have the leaders to go a, do you sense that that’s the case says you’re connecting with other leaders to that. That may be one of the key kind of barriers to multiplication.
Dave Ferguson: 07:28 That’s part of the reason that only four percent are reproducing or multiplied. And I guess maybe I would, I would add a little caveat there. I think the leaders are there. They just haven’t, they just haven’t. They just haven’t been, um, well maybe I’ll use a simple bible where they had been discipled and discipled at a leadership level. And our, as we commonly talk about, there’s just not the right kind of leadership developments been done. I mean, I have to believe that if there’s a mission that God meant for the church to accomplish, he’s put everything he needs inside the church. And so my fundamental assumption is, yeah, the leadership’s there. We just need ways to actually. How do we actually identify those gifts, equip those people to use those gifts and mobilize and send them out to use those gifts and a with each of the practices that we actually have in the book. We talk about these five practices. We give a real simple tool with each of those practices and idea behind that is if someone’s reading that and going like, okay, I don’t want to be the church who doesn’t have enough leaders, I want to be molded mobilizing and multiplying leaders that like that afternoon as they read it, they could begin to put that into practice. And um, that’s part of, uh, part of, part of our hope and dream.
Tony Morgan: 08:36 So you mentioned these five essential practices. Can you give us an overview of what those look like?
Dave Ferguson: 08:36 The first one is multiplication. One of the things that we did was a think tank that we work with people and we saw it. We put all these, this, this list of practices on the board. So I think it was actually Dave Rhodes or may have been Todd Wilson. Somebody said, you know, what these people are. And then they kind of answered the question. They said, these are people who aren’t really trying to be the hero. They’re not, they’re not trying to like be in the spotlight all the time that the real focus is trying to make heroes of other people. And then somebody said, well, then we coined the phrase he maker. And that’s, that’s the thing that’s kind of the umbrella.
Dave Ferguson: 09:43 Um, but with that first practice, first practice multiplication thinking. And um, I know for me, I remember being in a workshop with Neil Cole and um, my dream at that point was I wanted to have a church of a thousand people if I could have a thousand people. And so he kind of called it, I said, I want everybody to hear on this workshop, think about what your current dream is. So I was like, okay, a thousand people. And then he said, now I want you to take your current dream and multiply it by a million. So I’ll go a thousand times a million, a billion. Took me a while to the mat and billion. And then he said this, he said, so now I want you to ask yourself, how could you accomplish that dream? And what he did is he put into practice this practice of multiplication thinking any.
Dave Ferguson: 10:29 And it just, it Kinda was a little a little. Uh, it was a huge paradigm shift in kind of a mind melt because all of a sudden, like a thousand, I thought I could probably pull it off myself, but all of a sudden a billion, you’re going like, I can’t do that myself. My church can’t do it. My denomination can’t do it. I’m going to have to train all kinds of leaders. I’m gonna have to collaborate and work with all kinds of people. And it just kind of forced you to think outside yourself. And I think the first thing that happens with this multiplication thinking is all of a sudden you realize the best way for me, the best way for Tony to leverage his leadership is not just to do it through you, although God’s made you an extraordinary leader. The best way for you to do is how do I actually mobilize and multiply my leadership through helping other people and mobilizing them for ministry. So that’s Kinda the first one, multiplication thinking.
Tony Morgan: 11:14 Um, so yeah, can you list the other four for us without, without going into too much detail?
Dave Ferguson: 11:30 Yeah. The second was permission giving. And in there we talk about having I C N U conversations. How do you give people permission to do those things? The third one that we’ve talk about it, this is kind of the most important one. If you only had to pick one of them and that his disciple multiplying the cycle, the cycle multiplying. And then the fourth one is called gift activating. So once they go through the process, they get to license is actually commissioning those people to fully activate their gifts. Okay. Now you’ve gone through the process of being discipled is leader, go get them. Then the last one we’ve called kingdom building and in a phrase kingdom building is this shift. Instead of counting, counting the people who come to my thing, how do I begin to count? It’s kind of shifting the scoreboard council people I’m sending out to do God’s thing and that’s a big change. So those are kind of overview of the five.
Tony Morgan: 12:20 Yeah. Out of those five, which one do you find to be the easiest for yourself, Dave?
Dave Ferguson: 12:25 Um, probably the, the, the probably the permission. Giving at least the kind of a tool that we use. We call them, we say, “I see in you” (I C N U) the four most important letters of the alphabet. I see in you. I do. I don’t know, maybe it’s a gift. I don’t know. I, I do find myself kind of just constantly. It sounds like I’m bragging a little bit, but I do find myself kind of as I’m in encouraging people and I kind of do have a tendency to kind of see like every person’s possibility. Um, so I think that one comes fairly easy for me.
Tony Morgan: 13:00 I see that in you, Dave. Tony. All right, so let me flip it then. What do you find the most challenging for you personally?
Dave Ferguson: 13:11 I’m probably the third one, which is the most important disciple multiplying. So, I mean, even as a confession, so at a leader, so this is, this is like discipleship at a leadership level. Um, I am. You’ve been around me enough to know like I’m forever, you know, saying hey, you didn’t have an apprentice leader, you need to be thinking about this. So I’m working on this book. This is like, I will say last fall to winter and like I was in a small group but barely in a small group. Um, my, I wasn’t, I didn’t really have an apprentice leader and um, I know that, you know, doing cool podcast with Tony Morgan and all that stuff like that can get in the way of me doing the stuff that I’m actually talking about. So I’m back on it. I gotta I gotta have my small group, Brent King, we meet on Mondays at 4:30 at Starbucks and we’re doing the stuff, but I know if I don’t really stay after that will be the first thing to go and it takes the most work. That one takes the most work.
Tony Morgan: 14:16 Alright, so you’re describing, I mean there’s five characteristics that you go into what it really is to be here on maker. Some of that sounds like, yeah, I can do that. And some of it, some, some of the folks that are watching, listening maybe wondering, I don’t know, can I be a hero maker? And so I guess one of the key questions is do you think anybody can be a hero maker? Dave?
Dave Ferguson: 14:39 Yeah. It’s funny, the more I’ve gotten into this conversation, the more I realize the broader of the application and people even see stuff in it that I didn’t see I two weeks ago I spent some time with about 20 church leaders and they’re going to be teaching this to their whole church because they saw this as something that would apply to just the average person church, not at a leadership level, which is, which well was I was thinking because they begin to talk about, you know, like, like the ice and new conversations, what if we just begin to have those conversations with our kids. I mean, and the, and we had this whole talk around maybe our kids are the most important people and leaders we’re going to develop and discipled, multiply and. Well, I mean, what if everybody said, no, I’m not going to be a disciple and you know, but there’ll be a really be a disciple. Means that I’m multiplying by. So yeah, I think anybody can. I think anybody can can. And um, I’ll go up and say I can and should do it.
Tony Morgan: 15:33 Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, they’re people. I got places us in all different places in life, we have different coworkers and family members and friends and um, there’s a level of influence that you’re describing in this book that I think we, every one of us, uh, there’s, there are lives that God put us around that we should, we should have that type of influence and we’re encouraging people to take a next step. All right, so you started to allude to this in your last response, but as you know, Dave, it’s primarily church leaders that are listening in to these conversations. And so, uh, I want, uh, the pastors and Church leaders are listening now obviously grab a hold of your book and engage it personally, but, uh, how can pastors and church leaders take this resource and implement it with their teams? Any first steps that you would encourage church leaders to consider?
Dave Ferguson: 16:28 Yeah, in fact, I’m all of chapter 12 is about how to create a hero making culture and, um, kind of give a few hints at that and we, and we give it again, try to make it really accessible. Not, not that it’s easy, but it’s easy to understand. And the first we give them seven steps to create a hero making culture and the first one is do it. I mean, I think sometimes in, in all the minutiae, all the stuff we do, we forget as leaders that what we primarily are, where our primary thing is, work culture creators. We are a culture cribs and, and you’re going to reproduce who you are. And so if you want other people in your church, if you want your parents to the hero makers, you know, people will be here with makers making the most of everybody around them in the workplace.
Dave Ferguson: 17:15 If you want your staff team to be investing in leaders and multiplying leaders, I mean, as a senior level leader, if you’re a pastor listening in it, you need to be the one that does it first. You are a, you will reproduce who you are. One guy put it this way, um, he says this, he says you will get the culture you deserve. And um, so I think that that’s one of the things I’m most excited about. Well, I guess I’m excited about two things. One is the average leader taking this and begin to use the practice with. The second thing is like senior level leadership going like, okay, how do we create a culture? Because culture is something that works. Twenty four slash seven, right? A culture just never. It never stops vision. Cassie do once a month or once a year, but culture is something that constantly is reinforcing those values and that’s why I’m excited about that part of it.
Tony Morgan: 17:59 Well Dave, I really appreciate the work you’ve put into this. I don’t know how you turn out great books so frequently you’re going to have to share your secret at some point, but this one’s a great book and I think it’s going to be huge benefit to leaders individually, but more importantly for the cause that I think both you and I are about for the overall health and impact of the churches that, uh, we’re trying to serve as well. So thanks for joining us for today’s conversation.
Dave Ferguson: 18:25 Hey, thanks for having me, Tony. Very much.
Tony Morgan: 18:27 Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation. Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast and if you want to learn more about how to get your church on stock, check out what my team does at theunstuckgroup.com.