The Untaming

Learning to build missional community in secular France

Perspectives on “Exponential” by Dave & Jon Ferguson


Exponential, Dave & Jon Ferguson

On Saturday I opened up Exponential, by Dave & Jon Ferguson; and here on Wednesday I’ve read well over half of it.  I’m stopping now to pause and reflect because the book is really divided into two main sections and I am more concerned with the first half, which is around launching and building reproducing missional church movements. The second half of the book is about building multi-site churches and massive (probably international) movements: it will be great if one day I need advice in this area!  So this is half a review, really.  Actually, it’s more perspectives on what has struck me personally, and not a thorough or comprehensive review.

The book does what it says on the tin. It is squarely focused on how to achieve exponential growth in church movements.  The authors write out of a great deal of experience and the book is sown with practical ideas, good rules of thumb that have served the authors well.  It is inspiring and challenging, and allows you to dream just that bit bigger.

A few caveats.  Although they started from very small beginnings, on other counts some of the starting conditions they present seem almost impossible to relate to our situation here in France: “when we launched Community [their first church], we had 465 people attend our first celebration!” I am personally much more excited about missional growth than transfer growth [Ed. Note: the 465 was not necessarily transfer growth – see comments below]; and (for my stage in just wanting a grassroots development) about small lean communities than worrying about finances, music bands, and so forth (‘proper church’) that the authors deal with. So not everything was directly relevant to my circumstances, and I’ll simply skip over those bits.  Other people will find those very helpful, no doubt.

So what do I take away from this exciting read? Some important things actually. There is lots of good stuff about developing “up, in, out” aspects (“celebrate, connect, contribute” as they say it), about being Spirit-led, and so forth. But right now these are the thoughts ringing in my mind:

  • The need for big, God-sized dreams and goals.  Godly ambition.Dream big, and let those dreams change the questions you are asking, the problems you are trying to solve, the prayers you are praying, the people around you and you yourself.
  • The importance of building simple reproducing structures from day 1.  Everyone needs apprentices.  Reproduction should be planned from the start.  As the edge of the movement reproduces, so central structures should reproduce too.
  • The fact that everything stands or falls on leadership. A leader needs followers, needs a coach, needs peers and needs an apprentice.  The leaders’ prayer life is a key indicator of the ability of a group to reproduce.
  • Supporting leaders by following the Luke 2:52 model “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men”.  Relational, Physical, Mental and Spiritual areas all need development for leaders to grow.
  • The need to empower others. Tell people what you see in them, and make a big ask of them. Need+Vision=Inspiration.  Need-Vision=Desperation.  Back to the point of casting a compelling vision.

Big dreams.  Simple structures.  Leadership.  Three things I am going to spend a lot of time thinking and praying about.

4 thoughts on “Perspectives on “Exponential” by Dave & Jon Ferguson

  1. Awesome Review! Thanks!

    One thing though – those 465 people that showed up to our launch – well 80% of them were unchurched previously. We’d call that missional growth! What do you think?

  2. Wow… ok, I didn’t pick that up from the book. That’s amazing! How did 370 non-believers (is that the same as unchurched?) roll up on day 1? Were the 95 churchgoers dragging along 4 friends each? Please shed some light on this. I ask because this blog is exactly about the title of your book… how some friends can do this ourselves!

  3. Richard,

    First, thanks for the positive review of Exponential. I appreciate you dedicating space on your blog to getting the word out.

    Second, I saw the question you had and thought I would jump in. When we opened COMMUNITY 21 years ago on that first weekend we did have 465 people show up. We conducted a survey within out Kids City asking them how many of you didn’t go to church before today? The reason we didn’t ask adults is because we thought we would get a more honest answer from the kids. And 8 out of 10 kids told us that they did not attend church. So the 80% were unchurched.

    Our mission at COMMUNITY and through NewThing is all about reaching people who are far from God.

    Hope that helps.

    Thanks again and keep up the good work.


  4. Dave, thanks for pitching in. Brilliant to have the author of the book contributing to the discussion: the magic of the Internet!

    Your story is very inspiring and I guess my comment about transfer growth was a bit too offhand as it is clear that you are all about helping people come (back) to God. It is just that even the largest churches here in France would be happy to get 465 people even at Christmas, so it can be hard to relate US experience to how things here in Europe might look.

    I just reread the relevant section of the book and found the bit I had forgotten: you already had a core team of 40 people before launching the service, and did “guerilla marketing techniques like direct mail, newspaper advertising, billboards, telemarketing.”

    I still wonder what was different about those adverts that would encourage a non-Christian or non-Churchgoer to say “now *that* sounds like a good use of a Sunday morning” but you obviously found the right way! (Any comments about what the difference was?)

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