By David Dummitt
In February I attended the Exponential conference in Orlando. It was a great week of connecting with other church leaders and church planters from all over the world.
This year’s conference theme was “Hero Maker,” based on Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird’s new book by the same name. I had the opportunity to facilitate workshops alongside of Dave, Warren, and others as we talked about a shift in practices that we as leaders must make in order to carry out the Great Commission: moving from being heroes to being hero makers. This message is a game changer for the church.
The message of Jesus flipped the world on its head. Many of his teachings are counterintuitive and require paradigm shifts: The last will be first. The greatest person is the least. The leader is the servant. Life comes through death.
And the real hero is the person raising and releasing other leaders, the hero maker.
Jesus modeled hero making throughout his life. He invested strategically and intentionally in twelve men and then sent them out to do likewise. Yes, he taught crowds. Yes, he ministered to thousands. But it was those twelve that Jesus equipped and empowered with his message, his authority, and his practice.
The truth is that my natural desire is to be the hero. Most of us want to be “the guy.” But that mind-set is the very thing that gets in the way of us actually winning for the kingdom. So, instead, let’s follow the way of Jesus and strive to develop others to be the heroes.
Here are the five practices of hero makers:
Hero Makers Practice Exponential Multiplication
Addition is good. But multiplication is better. When we shift our mind-set from being the hero—from striving to maximize ministry through our personal efforts—to developing others, we fuel multiplication and maximize the reach of the gospel. Effective ministry happens through developing and releasing other people.
We should leverage our positions to invest in others who will invest in others, and so on. There is only one of me, but if I develop five people who each develop five more people, then we are talking exponential multiplication.
Hero Makers Practice Permission Giving
As a lead pastor, I have authority over my church. I can choose to hang onto that authority, or I can choose to look for the potential in others and empower them by giving them permission to lead.
Jesus modeled this type of leadership. He had all of the authority, and then he gave it away to his disciples. He charged them to feed the crowds, heal the sick, and baptize in his name. Jesus was secure in his identity and authority, and he celebrated that his disciples would do even greater things than he did (John 14:12).
Dave Ferguson puts it this way, “Ask yourself, ‘How can I affirm [others] and give them permission to go far beyond their wildest dreams?’” Hero making starts by affirming people through what we call “ICNU” conversations. This is just an abbreviated way of saying, “I see in you.” This is a conversation where we intentionally notice and call out the potential we see in other people. As hero makers, we become great noticers of what God can do through others, and we look for opportunities to say, “I see _____ in you.” Maybe it’s a gift or the way you see God using someone. Look for it and speak it to the person.
Then practice leading with a yes. Give permission to people to grow and step out to lead. This can be uncomfortable. Permission giving can strike a few nerves: losing control, rejection, or someone passing us up in influence and authority. But if we want to lead like Jesus, we will speak to people’s potential and give them opportunities and permission to lead.
Hero Makers Practice Disciple Multiplying
Hero making isn’t job training, it is cultivating lasting relationships with spiritual sons and daughters. It is sharing wisdom, experience, and expertise with the people we are developing. But hero making is also sharing our lives—showing up for celebrations and for crises. It is walking side by side through the ups and the downs as an influencer, adviser, and leader. Then it is launching people out to be hero makers for others.
At 2|42, we use the 5 Steps of Apprenticeship to help intentionally multiply disciples:
- I do. You watch. We talk.
- I do. You help. We talk.
- You do. I help. We talk.
- You do. I watch. We talk.
- You do. Someone else watches.
We should be investing in others in such a way that they are equipped to do what we do, and then release them to innovate and take things to new levels while also becoming hero makers to others. But once we have sent out our apprentices, we remain in relationship as influential leaders in their lives.
Hero Makers Practice Gift Activating
One of the most powerful and profound moments of Exponential every year is the commissioning of leaders who are stepping out to plant more churches. Hundreds of leaders come forward to be prayed over and sent out.
This commissioning is the fourth practice of hero makers. Ferguson calls this a “shift in blessing.” We shift from asking God to bless the gifts he has given us, to also asking God to bless the gifts he has given to others.
Gift activating can be as simple as placing your hands on your apprentice’s shoulder when they are ready to launch out on their own, praying over them, and intentionally sending them. It is a clear demarcation that our apprentice is ready to “go.”
Hero Makers Practice Kingdom Building
Making a shift from being the hero to being a hero maker requires practicing a new way of counting . . . to using kingdom numbers to define a “win.”
We need to measure what really matters, and to do that we have to adjust our scorecards. Instead of measuring only head counts and dollars, hero makers also measure kingdom impact through two simple metrics:
- The number of people you are currently apprenticing
- The total number of apprentices you and your apprentices have ever developed and released
The first number is usually a handful or so. The second number should grow exponentially as your “graduated” leaders reproduce more leaders who reproduce more leaders.
That’s legacy. That’s playing the long game to win. That is kingdom building.
As I look ahead to the rest of my life, I want to be less about the size of my church and more about how many heroes I can make of other people and seeing themhave great impact for the kingdom. If we as church leaders make this strategic shift, I am convinced we are going to experience bigger kingdom wins than we ever could have imagined possible in our lifetimes.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church in Michigan, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide.