Dear Staff, Church Council, and Call Committee,
God is up to something among us in this new year. Are you ready?
[Alert, as you are now accustomed, this is a somewhat longish letter from me, but I really ask that you read the whole thing. The short version: I would like you to order a book and start reading it in preparation for our Lenten observances]
In mid-December, I asked the ELCA Clergy group on Facebook a simple question. What one book would you invite your congregation to read together, if your leadership had indicated an interest in studying mission development and models for multiplication, multi-site development etc.?
One dominant response I received was to go visit multi-site churches and multiplying churches. As a result, I've been working with some mission developer pastors to do Skype interviews or some other kind of conversation so we can learn first hand from innovators on this topic. Watch for these in coming months.
However, many of you have said you really liked the Almost Christian book study we did last summer, and are ready for another book. So I pressed on with the question, and although pastors offered a wide variety of ideas, the most frequently suggested book, hands down, was Dave and Jon Ferguson's book Exponential: How You and Your Friends can Reproduce a Missional Church Movement.
Here's the book description: Authors Dave and Jon Ferguson communicate a simple strategy that will engage millions of Christ followers and challenge every church leader to become a reproducing follower and leader. Exponential lays out a brief but solid theology for a reproducing strategy, giving practical 'how-to's' for reproducing Christ followers, leaders, artists, groups/teams, venues, sites, churches, and networks of churches. Weaved throughout this book is the amazing story of Community Christian Church, which was started by five friends who used the reproducing strategies found in Exponential to grow one of the most influential churches in the U.S. and develop a network of reproducing churches. Many of today's Christians consider the missional challenge of Jesus---feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, bring people to God's Word---as inspirational but not something that's achievable. Or, they've heard the challenge of Jesus and are frustrated with how little they've done. Jesus gave his followers this mission because he wants them to hear it, be inspired, and then actually do it ... Exponential will show them how. Exponential is the anchor book in the Exponential Series.
The book also (of course) has a web site that gives more information about the book series, conferences, initiatives, and so on, which you can visit here, http://exponentialseries.com/ There's a really cool series of videos you can watch that connect with each chapter.
In the process of learning from my fellow clergy, especially pastors who lead missional and church planting movements, God really started to move. We now have formed a cluster of ten pastors who, together with the authors of this book, have agreed to meet weekly for a Skype conversation to envision and learn about the ideas in the book Exponential.
I also know that we have been looking for a focus for our Lenten study, and our stewardship chair has been encouraging us (as has our council president) to identify a process for energizing participation in our committees, teams, and ministries, as well as focus directly on mission. We want to do this because we want to respond to God's gifts in our lives, and God's call on our lives. The purpose of this book is to communicate a simple strategy that will engage every Christ follower and challenge every leader to become a reproducing leader. Their hope is that every church will become a reproducing church, including ours. I think this book will offer just the kind of study and encouragement we need to move forward in fruitful ways.
So, here's my request. Would you please order yourself a copy of Exponential and start reading it? You can download it to your Kindle or order a hard copy. I'm going to begin reading this book now together with this team of clergy. Then as we head towards Lent, we'll invite the congregation into an all church study of the book as our Lenten discipline, with Wednesday messages and worship tailored to match themes and chapters in the book.
It will help us immensely if the church council, call committee, and staff have already read the book before we start the all congregation Lenten study. Thanks for taking time for this. I trust it will bear fruit.
Pastor Clint +
p.s. I'm sure when we all start reading this book, we'll all respond to it differently, and disagree with parts, and agree with others. I'm not offering the book as a silver bullet on how to move us forward in mission, but rather as a way for us to be challenged and grow in relationship to a book many of my peers hold in high esteem. Let's wrestle with this together. I think we will all grow!