My Main Takeaway from Exponential

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First of all, I should say the Exponential Conference was great.  Loved it in 2010.  2011 was even better.  The main sessions were very good.  Francis Chan.  The usual assortment of representatives from Australia and the UK (Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, Mike Breen, etc.).  Matt Chandler closing.  Got to hear TWO Eric Bramlett introductions (this one of Matt Chandler…very funny).  What’s not to like.

Great breakouts, too.  Caught a really good one with Mike Breen and Alex Absalom (co-authors of Launching Missional Communities: A Fieldguide).  Sat in a very good session with Will Mancini (the author of Church Unique and founder of Auxano).  Always challenging to catch one from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (the Tangible Kingdom and Tangible Kingdom Primer guys).

Had tons of really good hallway conversations.  Seriously, I ran into many, many of the leading thought leaders.  Wish you’d been along.

But…you know what my main takeaway was?  Many of the key players think core-to-crowd will get the job done.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love ’em.  They’re some of my best friends in ministry and I really do love them.  But they think you can start with the core and work outwards.

Guess what?  I don’t believe for a minute that’s how it happens.  Love the notion of a missional community.  Convicted by the thought that 60% of adults are unreachable by the attractional model.  Absolutely certain that the core-to crowd approach leaves untapped the massive potential at crowd’s edge.

On the last day I found myself talking with a senior pastor, the founding pastor of a church of about 1100.  After he told me they were thinking they were closing in on the 15% tipping point mentioned by several speakers at Exponential as the stage where you were just about to get traction I said something like this:

What if you took into consideration that the 600 unconnected folks at crowd’s edge…who consider your church to be their church…would tell you that 8, 9, or even all 10 of their best friends, have never been to your church?

What if you could come up with a topic that they’d be open to inviting their friends over to talk about (i.e., relationships, purpose, parenting, marriage, hope, etc.)?  And what if you could find a way to help 10% of the folks on the edges of your congregation actually invite their friends over to their house?

Here’s the kicker: What do you think is the easiest way to connect the largest number of unconnected folks from the 60% to a Christ-follower?  Start heading down the missional community path?  Or leverage the potential of crowd’s edge?

Full Disclosure?  I’m a fan of both.  I love the idea of a missional community.  I’m trying to come up with a way that I can start a Sunday afternoon, hangout with a bunch of great friends and bring your friends…to Mark and Debbie’s.  I absolutely LOVE the idea that Gabe Lyon’s presented in The Next Christians.  That is totally me.  But…I am resolute in my conviction that the easiest way to connect the largest number of people to an environment where they can experience the life-changing power of Jesus Christ…is to leverage the power of crowd’s edge.

What do you think?  Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Nathan Creitz on May 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Mark, I love that you keep pushing us “toward crowd’s edge”. I’ve read your posts on the 60% that aren’t reached by the attractional model. I guess the only qualification I would have is that some of those leaders you talked with at Exponential are reaching them with the attractional model. I appreciate that you say “I’m a fan of both” because I think that from a bird’s eye view (or to be more specific, from God’s view), both approaches are being used across the nation for God’s glory.

    I’m reminded that Jesus was incarnational, missional, AND attractional (though not necessarily attractional in the same way as some of our entertainment-driven churches today). Jesus is probably the only one who could find the right balance and we are all striving to follow His lead. But some of us are better at doing one or the other. Some are more attractional simply because of their personality and giftings. I think the best approach to ministry is to do our best to find the balance and live and lead like Jesus.

    Your posts are extremely important for the church because there are some who fall into the attractional camp exclusively because in some ways it is easier. Actually investing time and energy into people who are living “at crowd’s edge” can sometimes be exhausting. But we need to make sure we find a balance and do everything possible to reach out to people in our communities!

    Thanks again for your insights!

  2. Anonymous on May 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Nathan! It does need to be both, for sure. In fact, On the Verge, the newest book in the Exponential series (by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson) is about being both attractional and missional.

    My biggest aha after sifting through the conference learnings was that their understanding of the best way to recruit and develop missional leaders is to start at the core, cast vision to the core, invest time in the core, hoping to see them go out into the community and start missional communities in order to reach the 60%. I’m convinced that doing that leaves you in a core-to-crowd mode while it’s more productive to leverage the existing relationships crowd’s edgers already have (and build it in reverse), developing a crowd-to-core flow.

    Can it be both? Absolutely. In fact…it must be both.


  3. Bryan S on May 4, 2011 at 7:39 am

    At the church where I serve we have challenged the congregation to find ways throughout the year to “Love Dangerously.” This can be something as simple as giving away your happy meal to the beggar on the corner or watching your neighbors kids while they go to the store to get some milk and cereal. It can also be something as intense as being involved with a ministry to former sex-offenders. Whatever it may be we are empowering everyone to make known the message of Christ without any restrictions; we are encouraging them to share the gospel of Jesus and if necessary to do so with words; we are inviting them to participate in the work of God’s kingdom from their vantage point/perspective/context/etc.
    In doing so we are attempting to create a church culture that doesn’t focus all our energy on what we do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, but what we do as Christians every time the Holy Spirit nudges us to act on His behalf.
    It is crazy to even say this, but lately some of the most spiritual conversations have been with my neighbors when I let my dog out to run in the front yard and watch my kids ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac. To step outside of my routines and my busy schedule to just breathe the fresh air of spring and have a spontaneous conversation has really helped me think about the crowd’s edge and beyond. This has been a way that I am trying to “Love Dangerously” and it is really challenging me with what it means to do church, what it means to be a Pastor, what it means to be a Christian.
    All that to say, Mark I appreciate your thoughts on the crowd’s edge. It resonates deeply

  4. Anonymous on May 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for jumping in here Bryan! Isn’t it amazing when we actually connect at the very edges? Great word!