Leading churches

Reproducing Leaders

When we set out to plant a church two years ago, my wife, Kristen, and I were compelled by one thing above all else: a passion for the gospel that leads to a reproducing vision.

That meant it wasn’t our call to start one church with the dream of growing that church. Rather, our heart was to start a church that was a sending church—to raise up leaders, finances and vision to send people out to various places to start new locations and churches. A movement of reproducing churches.

With that in mind, we made the decision to spend the first nine months of our church plant doing a leadership residency at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Ill.* We had actually been coached by numerous people to skip the residency, because we had all that we needed to start a church (seminary education, 10-plus years ministry experience, appropriate gift mix, etc.). In addition, we had to raise a year’s worth of income that wouldn’t be going directly toward the church plant.

Regardless, we knew that if we wanted to start a reproducing church, we needed some fine-tuning of our own DNA, language and vision, and the residency seemed the best opportunity for that to happen.

From day one of our residency, it was reinforced: It’s the gospel of Jesus that drives us—the mission of helping people find their way back to God. One of our greatest opportunities to live that mission is to be a reproducing church.

In practice, the biggest thing that Community Christian Church taught us is that if we can reproduce at the micro level (artists, leaders, small groups, services), then we can reproduce at the macro level (locations, churches, networks and movements).

Looking for leaders

When we launched Anthem Church (EFCA) in October 2009, our goal, then, was to immediately be reproducing. In short, everybody needed an apprentice: Whatever it is that you’re doing, bring someone with you. That applied from our teaching pastors all the way down to our setup team. (I think it’s the nature of being a pastor to always be lurking around, looking for potential leaders.)

Have you ever said, “I see in you a passion for Jesus and an ability to lead. Would you be willing to apprentice with me and see how God might want to use you for His kingdom?”

That is a big conversation to have with someone. It is valuable on so many levels. It forces you to pay attention. (I believe that there are many gifted, called, Spirit-filled people whom we overlook.) It lets people know that they are valued contributors on this mission.

And finally, it articulates the reproducing vision. Every time you have that conversation, you are reaffirming the vision to take the things you’ve heard and pass them along to faithful people who will teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

I teach you and you teach others

Using a specific apprenticeship process (see “Steps of Apprenticeship,” below), we were able to reproduce some key leadership roles early on. Within the first six months we had brought more than 40 musicians on stage to help us lead worship, with four worship leaders and four worship-leader apprentices. We had also gone from two community groups to eight, as leaders identified and trained apprentices, and then handed off leadership responsibilities.

From the start of Anthem, I have been apprenticing Kevin Bailey as a campus pastor. He is apprenticing as a leader, teacher, vision caster and church planter. It has been a great experience to have an apprentice from the very beginning. I quickly learned that I couldn’t just do what came naturally to me as a leader; I needed to also be teaching someone else what that looked like. It forced me to articulate the vision better and, ultimately, has made me a better leader.

That relationship is now bearing fruit: We are in the midst of starting our second campus, in Camarillo, Calif. Both Kevin and I are identifying apprentices with whom we hope to launch campuses/churches No. 3 and 4.

Our dream is that each and every church we plant would hold this same, incredible passion for the gospel that leads to a reproducing vision. Many churches talk about it; it’s not a new idea. But it truly is our whole reason for existence.

*Community Christian Church was started in 1989, and its leaders spent the first 10 years dreaming about what it would be like to be a reproducing church. Over the last 10-plus years, they have been living out that dream. Now they have 13 multi-site locations, with 20 other churches planted around the country and two internationally. They later founded NewThing—a movement dedicated to being a catalyst for reproducing churches. Another church that’s a great example of this vision is Reality in Carpinteria, Calif.

Matt Larson

Matt Larson served as youth pastor in several EFCA churches before he and Kristen planted Anthem Church in Thousand Oaks, California, with a launch team of 150 individuals. Matt’s parents, Steve and Connie Larson, are lifelong EFCA leaders. Steve currently pastors The Bridge (EFCA) in Newbury Park, California.

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