The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“How Inspirational Leaders Multiply Leaders“
May 9, 2022
Intro: As organizations, we often ask, “How do we multiply our organization’s impact?” But isn’t a better question, “How do we multiply our organization’s leadership?” Today we’ll talk with an internationally known leader and author who will help us develop and multiply our organization’s leadership.
Al Lopus: Hi, I’m Al Lopus, and you’re listening to the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where we help you create a flourishing workplace. The problem employers are facing today is that more of our employees are quitting than ever before. Some people are calling this the great resignation. And now with millions of open jobs, how can churches, Christian non-profits, and Christian-owned businesses face this tidal wave of resignations while attracting new, outstanding talent? And we know that having a flourishing workplace with fully engaged employees is the solution. I’ll be your guide today as we talk with a thought leader about key steps that you can take to create a flourishing workplace culture.
So, now let’s meet today’s special guest.
Leadership is a forward-looking practice, and to keep a healthy organization growing and thriving, you always need to be developing new leaders—and not just people who will lead, but those will also have a vision for multiplication of leadership. And our guest today will help us understand the importance of multiplying leaders and how to invest in this model of leadership development so you can have fantastic teams.
And I’m delighted to welcome Dave Ferguson. Many of you know Dave. He’s a lead pastor and co-founder of the Community Christian Church, a thriving, multi-site community in the Chicago area. And he’s also the visionary for New Thing, an international church-planting movement, and the president of the Exponential Conference. Dave’s written a number of books, including Exponential, Hero Maker, and B.L.E.S.S.
So Dave, it’s been a few years since we’ve talked with each other. Welcome back to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Dave Ferguson: Thanks for having me, Al. It’s good to be back. And I guess I didn’t realize how long it has been.
Al: It’s been—we started working together, now, I think eight years ago, so it’s great to reconnect.
We’re going to talk about the multiplication of leaders, growing leaders who then grow leaders. And let’s talk about a bit about you first, Dave. In your own leadership, I’ve looked back, and when we did our podcast a few years ago, we wrapped it up, and you left us with this phrase, “As a leader, you reproduce who you are.” And boy, I believe that is really true. So let’s start talking about self-leadership. That’s a topic these days, for sure. How do you keep yourself growing and rooted as a person and as a leader?
Dave: To me, the most important form of leadership probably is self-leadership. I think I’d get an amen from you in that and for this reason is that leaders are culture creators, and if you like the culture that’s around you, chances are you helped create it. If you don’t like the culture that’s around you, chances are you helped create it. And it probably started and reflects a lot on you, particularly, I would say, if you’ve been at some place more than three years.
For me, one of the things I’ve tried to do over the last decade or so is a simple kind of five-minute exercise, maybe it’s even less-than-five-minute exercise that I do almost on a daily basis. And part of it is grounded in the fact that I think all of us tend to drift. I don’t think any of us start out with an ambition of going, “You know what? Five years from now I want to be 35 pounds overweight.” I don’t think any of us start out, you know, getting married and go on our honeymoon, going, “You know what? I hope 15 years from now we have a distant relationship and are in counseling and are considering divorce.” And I don’t think any of us intentionally get into ministry and then somewhere going, like, “You know, I hope a couple of decades from now I find myself compromising the very things that I’m teaching on Sundays.” And I think what happens is little by little we just drift.
And so one of the things I’ve tried to do under the heading of self-leadership is something I call the RPMS. And it really comes from, I think, what is Jesus’s own kind of description of self-leadership. It says early on that He grew in wisdom and stature and also in favor with God and man. And so for your listeners, maybe they’ll go ahead and do this, and since we’re doing this also on video, I’ll just kind of show you here. This is my journal.
Dave: And at the top of my journal, one of the things I do is I write these four letters: R, P, M, and an S. And, basically, it stands for—RPMS, stands for relational, physical, mental, and spiritual. And one of the first things I do, because you can see it’s right at the top of my journal, I give myself—you’ll appreciate this as a numbers guy—so I give myself a score, like on a scale of one to 10. Okay, how am I doing relationally? And that might be around, like, okay, how is my marriage? How are things with my kids? How am I doing investing in friends? And I think, really, as I reflect right now, things are good at home, things are good with my kids. I do think I’m at a little bit of a deficit friendship. I need to be more intentional about that.
Then, there’s the physical part. One of the activities that I enjoy a lot is running. I also try to get in the gym and lift a little bit, but running’s the primary thing. And so right now, I kind of tweaked my knee a couple weeks ago, and so I haven’t been out, and I’ve got a half marathon coming up. And so this one’s kind of trending downward, so it’s a little lower.
Mental. It’s funny, ten years ago when I first started using this, the M, standing for mental, was actually around, more around, like, the idea that leaders are learners. What am I reading, and what am I exposing myself to? But I’d say in the last two or three years, a lot of us, including myself, that mental part is more about like, okay, how’s my mental health?
Dave: How am I doing in that regard? And right now I’m doing pretty good with that. There’s some people that I’m talking to that are kind of keeping me focused on the right things.
And then the last one is spiritual, and that’s really what’s going on between me and my relationship with God. How am I doing with the disciplines that I know keep me from drifting?
For some folks, they will love this. Other folks will think I’m a little bit neurotic. When I literally give myself a score on a scale of one to 10 on each of these, and I look at the previous day, and if the score goes up a little bit, then I give myself an arrow going up. If it goes down, I give myself an arrow going down. If it’s the same, I put a dot. So it’s almost like the stock market. How is it trending? And then I give myself, actually, a cumulative score and the average of all these.
And for me, this is an exercise that I can do in way less than five minutes. As I think about it now, probably more like two or three minutes every day. And it’s not so much the exercise, but it’s just the literally stopping, pausing, and reflecting, like, how am I doing relationally? How am I doing physically? How am I doing mentally? How am I doing spiritually? so that I don’t accidentally, you know, two years from now, find myself in some place I never intended to be. This is kind of one form of self-leadership that’s been really beneficial for me over the last, I’d say, decade.
Al: I love it, Dave. Yeah. Well, first of all, I don’t think you can say you’re neurotic unless you put that on an Excel spreadsheet and graph it. Then you might be.
Dave: This proves your point, Al. We actually have on our church website—you can go there. There’s a video, and then you can download an Excel spreadsheet—I’m not making this up—and keep track of how you’re doing from month to month.
Al: Okay, yeah.
Dave: So, case in point. I am a little bit crazy, but maybe it’s still an effective tool that your listeners could use.
Al: I love it, Dave. Absolutely.
So RPMS, I mean, we know what RPMS are, and, yeah, relationally, physically, mentally, spiritually, every day, you know, how are you doing? What a great self-evaluation. And that, as you say, you don’t intentionally want to drift, but we’ve seen what that’s like. We’ve experienced it personally, where we’ve drifted in all of that. We’ve gained weight. We’ve seen distance appear in relationships. We’ve seen thinking kind of be unhealthy, especially in COVID, being isolated. And of course, our walk with Christ, on a spiritual basis, we can even gauge a sense of closeness there. What a great start. Yeah. Thanks, Dave. We’ll see how you graph it out in the future.
You know, I know that you value having a healthy workplace culture at Community Christian Church, and as you say, you know, leaders are culture creators. You know, what do you see as a connection between developing leaders and having a healthy workplace culture?
Dave: I don’t want to pretend to get this one right, because there’s a lot of work to do. But to me—and this is the phrase I like to use, and I’m not plugging a book, but I like to use this phrase—I think when you begin to see yourself as a hero maker, I think in your own leadership development of others, that’s what actually creates, I think, a healthy culture, because when the culture is focused on, “How does it make me successful?” or even “How does it make the church successful?” I think that’s when things tend to go south. I think the hero-making leader is the kind of leader who says, you know, “My fruit grows on other people’s trees.” A hero-making leader is the kind of leader who’ll say, “I’m the platform; I’m not the show.” And so the hero-making leader is someone who looks to people on their staff and says, “Okay, there’s a set of gifts that God has given them. There’s an Ephesians 2:10 dream that God has placed. You know, there’s a good work God’s prepared in advance for them to do. How do I make sure that they accomplish that?” I would say, even as a church, that you begin to turn the vision upside down instead of the vision being like, “Hey, we can do it. And you as a part of our church, you can help. How do you plug into our vision?” I think if you flip it the other way around—and we’re working really hard at doing that at Community—is, “No, you can do it. And we can help you. There’s a good work that God prepared in advance for every person to do, and if we can help you discover that, then I think our church together will actually accomplish more.” And I think in having that kind of a mindset, a hero-making mindset, and flipping the script, I think that is—at least that’s what I’m attempting to do to create a healthier culture.
Al: Isn’t that the purpose of the church, to equip the saints?
Dave: Yeah. And who knew that Paul would actually be the guy who would be able to tell us how to have healthy church culture.
Al: Yeah, exactly. Wow. Gosh, I love that.
When you’re looking at qualities in leaders, you know, there’s a difference in those who are able to lead in terms of addition, one-at-a-time growth, versus those who have the potential to multiply. What qualities are unique to those who are able to multiply their leadership? What have you seen?
Dave: We can do a couple hours on this one. I’ll quickly share a few things. I think, first of all, is the paradigm shift that happens. My experience has been, Al—and I would love to know if you would verify this—is that most church leaders, they wake up thinking, “How can I grow my church?”
Dave: “How can I grow my church?” And that kind of thinking is good; it’s just not great, because the preoccupation really is, by just the thought life, focused on addition. How can I grow my church?
Dave: If we can get leaders, church leaders, volunteer leaders, instead to wake up asking the question, how can we—okay? instead of “I”—
Dave: —multiply?—that’s different than grow—
Dave: —and I’d say, thirdly—God’s kingdom—not just my church—that is a fundamentally different question. And when you begin to make that kind of a mental paradigm shift, what it causes you to do, I believe, is a couple of things. It causes you to dream bigger. And most of us in leadership, whether it’s a volunteer or small-group leader or someone who’s leading the Sunday School class or a senior pastor, most of us only have a dream for what we’re trying to get done as big as what we could possibly accomplish. And that force is only growing. And I think you’re making an important distinction. I hope your listeners pick up on this: a mindset that folks are growing instead of multiplying.
We got time for a quick story?
Al: Yeah, please. Yeah. This is a great topic.
Dave: I’m sitting in a workshop. Maybe you know Neil Cole?
Al: I don’t, no.
Dave: Neil Cole’s a guy who—he’s written a lot on church multiplication, and a really good, great thought leader. This goes back several years ago. At that point in time, my dream—listen to the way I even say this—my dream for my church is I want to see it grow to be a thousand people. And I thought that would be a big deal. And I think in my own mind, I was like, “You know what? Maybe I could communicate well enough to attract a thousand people. Or maybe I could organize people. I could get a hundred small groups with ten each. I could get to a thousand. I organize well enough to get a thousand people. My church would be a thousand people.” Neil says this. He says, “What I want you to do is I want you to take your current dream for your church. I’m thinking a thousand people.”
Dave: And then he says, “Now I want you to multiply it by a million.”
Al: Oh, wow.
Dave: Right. So a thousand times a million gets a billion. So I’m going a billion. And then he says this. He says, “Now I want you to figure out, how can you accomplish that dream?” And what happened is it just exploded my paradigm of trying just of moving from growth to multiplication. Exploded my paradigm of growth and forced me into multiplication. Because all of a sudden, when he said, “Now I want to figure out how to do that. How would you get to a billion people?” I knew, I had enough sense—okay? He was a young leader—to go, “Okay. One church can’t get to a billion people. I can’t communicate well enough to get to a billion people. I can’t even administrate to get to a billion. In fact, what I would have to do to get to a billion people is I would have to invest in lots and lots of other leaders. I’d have to actually multiply church planters. In fact, I couldn’t even stay in my little denomination; I’d have to work with other denominations.”
And all of a sudden, this big dream pushed me, okay?, to think even bigger.
Dave: And I think part of what the difference between leaders who have all the, like, “How can we grow?” over “How can we multiply?” fundamentally starts with a paradigm shift of really a dream, a bigger dream, that is bigger than yourself. And I challenge leaders, “You know what? If you don’t have a dream that’s bigger than you, okay?, or if you don’t have a dream—let’s put it this way—that makes you dependent on God,—”
Dave: “—you need to get a bigger dream.” And I don’t say that in a scolding way. I say that in an opportunity kind of way, because I think there’s a lot of leaders out there that do, are kind of like me. They strategize around, “What could I accomplish?”
Dave: And that’s good; it’s just not great, because what if you begin to strategize around, what could all the people in my church, if I unleashed them, and Ephesians 2:10, you know, good work God prepared in advance for them to do, and multiplied that, I mean, then you really got something.
Dave: So I could give you—in fact, we wrote the book Hero Maker, Warren Bird and I. We actually went through and did a focus group with some of the real thought leadership across the United States, even some of the global leaders. And we put together a long list of, what are the characteristics, the traits, of those leaders who are really multiplying leaders—not just what we’d call level three, which is growing, versus level five, what we call multiplying. That’s another conversation for another day. And we ended up with about 25 or 30 of these characteristics, and we kind of combined some and eliminated some. But, basically, then, we got it down to five, and that’s, when we wrote the book Hero Maker, we said, “Here’s the five practices of leaders that multiply their leaders.” And that first one, the first of the five, was what we called multiplication thinking, which is the ability to dream bigger than just yourself. That’s kind of the first paradigm shift.
Al: That’s fantastic. And I like that very much. Let’s take our dream and multiply it by a million. That really takes us outside of our comfort zone, and it helps us really realize.
Dave: For some folks listening, they’re going, “Okay, that’s absurd, a billion people.” Well, then, I’ll tell you what. Do this. For anybody’s listening, take your current dream—whatever it is—multiply it by a hundred. Just multiply it, like, realistically, by a hundred, whatever that looks like. And then begin to strategize, “Okay, how can I accomplish that?” And I would encourage them, you know, write it down on a single piece of paper. You can use a diagram, you can use your words, whatever it is, but really try to figure that out. And I promise you, especially if you do it prayerfully, it’ll force you to a place where it’s something, “Okay, you know what? I can’t accomplish this on my own. I have to work through other people.” And then you’ll become a multiplying leader.
Al: Yeah. Listeners, that’s great advice. I’ll say even, Dave, on our part, I don’t know, a couple of years ago, we looked at our own long-term vision for Best Christian Workplaces. And, you know, we were seeing, you know, 80 or so flourishing workplaces that we were working with, and we set a goal of a thousand flourishing workplaces in the year 2030. So put a timeframe on it. That’s completely changed the way we look at this. I mean, it’s way beyond anything that I could do, and not that it was already a growing organization. But yeah, that’s a God-sized goal, you know, what’s the way? I mean, so you’re challenging me. We only looked at 10 times. You’re saying, “Look at 100. You know, look at a thousand in terms of what it is.”
Well, let’s talk about training leaders, because that’s what we need when we talk about that kind of growth. The different ways to help leaders grow is what I’d like to ask you. What are some important pathways or training types to consider as we invest in training for multiplying leadership, the kind of thing that we’re talking about here?
Dave: I think, quite simply put, there’s lots of different ways we can do it. There’s lots of great tools out there. But I think it still comes back to relationships. If you go back to Jesus as our example, you know, there’s a place in John—oh my goodness. I don’t remember the verse here—but John—your listeners can Google it—and it just says Jesus—talking about Him and His disciples—Jesus spent some time with them.
Dave: It was talking about His relationship with His disciples. And that “spent some time with them,” actually, this is the phrase diatribo. It’s a Greek word, a composite word, which means “to rub off.” And it actually is this idea that Jesus spent time rubbing off and on with the disciples. If you go back through the Gospels and take all the different events in the Gospels and say, “Okay, which of these events were with large groups? Which were with small groups?” it’s relational. Jesus, by quantifying it, Jesus actually spent 73% of His time that we see in the Gospels with just the 12 in relationships. I would say, yes, there’s a ton of great tools out there that you can use. Use those tools, pick your favorite tools, but I would say make that 25% of your effort. Make 75% of your effort, three-fourths of your time, just hanging out with folks.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
Dave: You know, spending time with them. I mean, being their friend. Before I got here, I spent an hour with a guy who wants to plant a church, just having coffee. And my question, “Hey, what’s the dream?” He’s telling me his dream of what he wants to do. And I’m asking, “How can I help?” And he’s telling me, “Here’s some ways that you can help.” And there’s nothing that replaces, I think, that really replaces that.
Dave: And I would add this for leaders listening in, though, because as your church, as your organization grows, the question then becomes, “Okay, how do I invest myself relationally?” because now all of a sudden, I got, yeah, I have people at lots of different levels. And here’s something I’ve tried to do. I would say invest yourself relationally at the smallest organizing principle or organizing group, and then also invest yourself relationally at the largest organizing group. And then let your staff and your team and everybody else do everything in between.
So practically speaking, at this point, I lead a church called Community Christian Church, which you mentioned in that introduction.
Dave: But I also lead something called New Thing. And New Thing is our church-planting mission. We’ve helped plant over 5,000 churches in 40 countries. So what I do now is I actually, like, Tuesday night, last night, I lead a small group. And I’m in the process of asking one of the guys in that group to be my apprentice. There’s, like, 16 of us in that group, and it’s just a group that meets every Tuesday night. Good folks. And I want to be investing relationally in a small-group apprentice leader. Part of it is because I think everything that multiplies macro has to multiply micro. I need to be involved in that. I need to have stories to tell other people how I do that, too, for integrity’s sake.
Now, then, I skip a whole bunch of layers in between of church staff and even our New Thing staff who are working with church planters. And then at the higher end, I’m looking for what I would call gifted kind of entrepreneurial apostolic leaders who can actually lead networks of church plants. Does that make sense?
Al: Yeah, right.
Dave: I try not to do as much of the stuff in between, but as it continues to grow, that’s kind of where I am now. So someone who may be listening in, let’s say they have a church of 200 folks and they have a small staff, so I would say find a small-group apprentice leader, and you do that. Let your staff do all the stuff in between of developing leaders and coaches. And then maybe what you’re doing is you have a leadership resident that you’re training and investing in, who’s going to go plant the next church. So you do at the smallest level and at the highest level.
But back to your question, too, about what’s important as far as, you know, training, I think the most important thing is relationships. If you’re doing self-leadership well and you have a track record of growing and multiplying something, you hanging out with them and sharing with them and then together finding the resources to stuff you need, that’s where the magic happens. And in some ways, I think we over complicate it. I mean, if you’re just friends, just friends and going, like, “Hey, what’s your dream, and how can I help?” that makes all the difference.
Al: Yeah, all about relationships. I love that, Dave. And, yeah, I challenge all of our leaders, are you in a small group with apprentice leaders and just sharing life together, every Tuesday night in your case? I love that idea. Yeah, well, that’s—
Dave: Well, I mean, that’s following Jesus, right?
Dave: I mean, He had a small group with 12. It turns out it was, like, all of us work for this.
Al: Do we model Jesus? That’s the next question now, absolutely.
Dave: Okay, so far, takeaways have been Paul gives us a little clue on church culture, and Jesus gives us a clue on leadership development.
Al: Yeah. Yeah. There we go. Yeah. Can’t go wrong with that.
Well, you know, Dave, you’ve been doing leadership development now for decades, you know. Do you see some generational shifts in developing and multiplying leaders? You know, as you connect with emerging leaders, in the twenties and thirties, are there some new paradigms for leadership development that you can share with our audience?
Dave: I’m going to answer two ways. One is I think people are still fundamentally people.
Dave: So in that regard, I think it’s a great question, but I wouldn’t let it throw you off too much, like, “Oh, I don’t know how, you know, millennials, I don’t know how Gen Z, I don’t know how they think.” Yeah, you do. They’re still people. They want to be loved. They want to have belonging, and they need a purpose.
Dave: Those things are core, and that’s probably 90%. Having said that, though, I do think, yeah, I think, in my own work with those in their twenties, I do think it’s a generation now that’s less patient in waiting for an opportunity to lead. And I say good for them. We need to get them in the game and get them more opportunities. So I think they are less patient, and I think that’s fine.
I think they’re, also, I would say—and I’d love to hear your feedback on this—I think they’re also more collaborative. I think in some ways it’s reactive, but I also think it’s good. I think they’ve seen kind of the demise of the solo superstar leader. And when that person ends up in isolation, and it’s more of an authoritarian kind of culture, what that can do to other people, and it’s not good, and so I think in some ways it’s been reactive to that, but I think it’s a healthy reaction. So I think they’re more collaborative, which is good.
I would say, thirdly, I think those that are their twenties, also in their thirties, there’s a much higher value for diversity, which I think is also a plus. I think they want to see people of color at the table. I think they want to see men and women at the table. And I think they value the input of those folks. And many of them have personally benefited from it. And they don’t want to look around the table and, you know, just see, you know, old white guys.
Al: Exactly, yeah. And that is a huge issue in this generation. And I’ve heard millennials saying, you know, “I’ll go into a situation, and if I don’t see diversity, then I don’t stay, period.” But as you say, they’re less patient to lead. They want to have opportunities right off the bat. And you know, the other thing I’d say, Dave, and you’ve seen this, I know, is that they really do want to make an impact with their lives. They want to serve and be part of something that’s really significant, greater than themselves. Yeah, no question. And great contributors as well. I like the collaborative. You’re right, just in the culture, the collaborative nature, the education system. They’re working in teams. They’re working collaboratively to accomplish a goal. They can realize that together they can do more than they can individually, and they want to be part of a group where they can contribute in that regard. Yeah, absolutely.
You know, it should go without saying that when you’re talking about leadership development and multiplication of leaders within a church context, the spiritual component is essential. And sometimes it’s left out, quite frankly, because there’s so many secular models and so on that are popular. But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between leadership development and the marketplace from the church. Share with us the importance of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, for example, as we develop and multiply leaders. I’ve noticed this is a theme of the Exponential Conference this year. So tell us a little bit about that.
Dave: Yeah, that was. We just wrapped up our Exponential Conference, and it was our theme. And the response from it was very, very positive and I think much needed. I think there are a lot of things that you find in kind of a secular marketplace and the church when you talk about leadership development that are similar. And again, I would put it, it’s not because I think we’re borrowing from the business world or the marketplace, but it’s because I think all truth is God’s truth, and it works both places. So there are a lot of those principles that work both places. I think the thing that you’re driving home, and good for you in this conversation, the differences, key differences, is I think our motivation. I think the motivation in Christian leadership is always about the mission and the lordship of Jesus. And so, I mean, everything we do at Community, everything we do at New Thing, everything we do at Exponential, we try to drive the good. How is that going to help us accomplish our key contribution to the mission of Jesus? And so I think that’s the motivator. It’s not a financial motivator. It’s not a power motivator. It’s not an influence motivator. No, the motivation there is the glory of God, and how do we help, you know, Jesus be Lord and His mission get accomplished? So I think that is a key differentiator and a really, really important one.
The other thing I think that’s also different is, I don’t know how I’d phrase this, but maybe where you get your direction, where you get your guidance. And I think what we’re looking for is, how do you consistently hear from God?, which if you’re a Christian leader in the business world, it makes sense. But if you’re just in a secular marketplace, that doesn’t make sense to people. I would contend, if I could kind of wave a magic wand and change one thing about every person in my church or every person that’s a part of New Thing and Exponential, it’d be like, “Okay, how do we hear from God every day?” because if you hear from God every day and then you’re acting on that, that’s the game changer.
I know one of the things for me over the last two-plus years now, going back to that March of 2020 when COVID first hit, that Thursday, when they said, okay, we’re not going to—we basically went into lockdown here in Chicago, every day since then, I’ve been praying James 1:5, which is, you know, where God promises to give you wisdom if you ask for it. And I’m kind of like, “Okay, God. You promised, so I’m asking for it,” and asking Him to give me wisdom because I feel like there’s so many things that I’m leading and I really do want to get it right. But I know to get it right, I need to hear from Him.
Those are two different things, I think, that stand out about Christian leadership versus other kind of leadership.
Al: Yeah. And even, you know, you talk about tools, 360s are something that we’ve worked with, and you know, there’s a number of great 360s out there that are, you know, purely secular focused. But, you know, we’ve included spiritual vitality, for example, as a key under character, and then spiritual leadership, which is, you know, clearly different than just strategic leadership. But yeah, hearing from God and how—that’s a great question—how do we hear from God every day, and are we putting ourselves in a position to do that? Great point.
You know, your work through New Thing is focused globally. And as we talked about big vision and big goals, you know, when you consider global church movements and multiplying leaders in other cultures, are there some differences in the skills and tools that are important? What have you found there, Dave?
Dave: Yeah, I think there are. And I think, with humility, those of us in the majority of the world, in the West, where we’ve got to really lean into our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, there’s some things we have to offer them, but they clearly have some things to offer us. One of them, I think, over the last couple of years is there is a different level of resiliency. I see particularly—and I’ll kind of point out. I’d say the leaders that I get to interact with in Africa are the leaders I get to interact with in India. Once we were going through COVID, there was a week at New Thing, we just called it dream week, where we spent just a little bit of time trying to connect—we have about 400 networks around the world—trying to connect with as many network leaders as we possibly could, just to hear how they’re doing and check in with them and stuff. And myself included, and a lot of us across the United States, I mean, we were feeling really beat up and I think tired, whether it’s the politics, or whether it’s masks, no masks, vacs, no vacs, race, all the different things, you’re caught in the crossfire of all that. As we talked to our friends in Africa—I’ll never forget this—there was one particular network we have in Cameroon, and we logged on, and all of a sudden, they log on, on a Zoom call, and they’re not in their church. They’re in a parking garage. And we’re like, “What are you guys doing in a parking garage?” Well, for those listeners who don’t know, I mean, Cameroon’s in the middle of a civil war right now. And so they were, like, “Oh, well, we heard gunshots by the church. And so we scrambled out of there and came over to the parking garage,” and there was, like, a dozen of them that all wanted to be on this call. And they’re like, “But we didn’t want to miss the call.”
And what I found is I talked to folks like them and then other leaders in that part of the world, and particularly in India, is when we talked about, like, the pandemic, it was, like, “Yeah, COVID’s been really, really hard.” But they would also, “But you know what? Going through a civil war is also really, really hard.”
Dave: “Or going through persecution is really, really hard. Or struggling with poverty is really, really hard.” And there was—there is—a different level of resiliency, I’m finding. And I don’t say this to the shame of us in the West. It’s kind of like I’m a runner. So it’s like the gun sounds to start a marathon, and we hadn’t been training. So it’s not really, like, a shame on us. It’s kind of like, no, we just hadn’t been training for it, and so we don’t know how to go that hard. And they’ve been training for it for a long time, through poverty or persecution or whatever, or wars or other things. And so I think there is some resiliency things that we can really learn from our brothers and sisters there.
I’ll throw one more thing, and then I’ll—because I’m kind of rambling here—but I’ll throw one more thing. The other thing I think, too, that they get right in that part of the world is around discipleship, where, like, we just had a long conversation about leadership development and multiplying leaders. I think we have a lot to offer them about that, and I think we can help them. But what we haven’t done a great job is I think actually how do you disciple the everyday person in following Jesus? And I think they have done a much better job of that. And I think, in some regards, I think what we’re seeing post-COVID, particularly in American church, is I think maybe it’s revealing some of our lack of discipleship. We’re actually, through New Thing, we’re putting together a whole cohort on kind of, we’re calling it a disciple-multiplying catalyst. And we’re really, we’re going to take some of the things that we’ve learned from that part of the world and share it here with American leaders and other leaders around the world. But I think they’re ahead of us on that one.
Al: Yeah. And clearly a theme that I’m hearing just around the church overall is a focus, refocusing on discipleship, maybe as a result of coming out of what we’ve experienced.
Well, Dave, gosh, this has been great. Great to reconnect, and thank you for your contributions. And just looking over our conversation, we started off with self-leadership, and we learned about your RPMS—relationally, physically, mentally, and spiritually checking in to see, even on a score, evaluate yourself on a one-to-10 basis every day. And are you improving or going up or going down? It really does help you kind of keep in touch on those things. And then, you know, how we develop leaders, and not think about, how can I do it, but how can we help others do it? and really focus on servant—I mean, that’s servant leadership in spades. And then multiplying leadership, how can we multiply God’s kingdom, and do we really have God-shaped goals, something that will really inspire us to think beyond ourselves, beyond what we can do personally, but what does God want us to do? And I love the reference and your book Hero Maker with Warren Bird. It talks about that. And then, you know, what’s the key to multiplying leadership? I mean, all of us listening, we’re leaders, and we’re really interested, so how do we perpetuate and multiply leadership in our organization? And your point is, number one, it’s all about relationships. And let’s start off with small groups, and do we have a small group of people that we meet with who we can share life together and how you can actually model leadership in small groups? And so this has just been, you know, great. We’ve talked about leaders in their twenties and thirties, other leadership development, how we work globally. It’s just been a great conversation.
But Dave, I bet you’ve got one more thing you’d like to add about this topic that we’ve talked about.
Dave: I think I’ll go back to where we started. I think that simple reminder, when you take all the things we just talked about, leaders reproduce who they are. So I think, to your expertise, you’re about creating healthy cultures, and you’re going to reproduce who you are and what you do. And so that’s why all the things you just talked about are so important, because if we get those things right, there’s a good chance that we’re going to reproduce a healthy culture.
Al: Well, Dave, thanks so much for your time and your contribution today. This has been fantastic. And most of all, I appreciate your devotion and service to our loving God and your passion for multiplying leaders so the church can grow and flourish worldwide. And that’s our goal. We believe that Christian-led organizations, the church, should set the standard as the best, most effective place to work in the world so that others will be drawn to Christ. So thanks so much for taking your time out today and speaking in the lives of so many listeners. Thanks, Dave.
Dave: My pleasure, Al.
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