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Just the Quotes from Exponential East 2015











Jim Tomberlin
  • “If they can do this in Mississippi, it will work at your church.”
  • “Growing churches have collaborative leadership teams.”
  • “God breathed into us the desire to be fruitful and productive.  God mastered multiplication (Gen. 1:28).”
Ying Kai
  • “We’ve been asking people to come when we should be telling people to go.”
  • “People don’t share the gospel because they don’t know where to start and they don’t know what to say.”
  • “Don’t ask for permission to share the gospel.  We don’t need permission to share Jesus’ love.”
Steve Murrell
  • “Jesus’ job, build the church.  Our job, make disciples.”
  • “In the western church ‘discipleship’ is a class to help members become better members.”
Joby Martin
    • On Matthew 16:19, “Are you building key rings, or handing out keys?”
  • Steve Stroope
    • “Acts 1:8 is not sequential, it is simultaneous.”
    • “Leadership is anticipation.”
Dave Ferguson
  • “The words we use reinforce the values of our culture.”
J.D. Greear
  • “Get beyond the idea that the call is for very few and the rest of us are just here to pay for them.”
  • “The future of the Great Commission is not in the hands of pastors, but in the hands of ordinary people who are disciples who make disciples.”
  • On John 16:7 “We are better off with the Holy Spirit in us than we are with Jesus beside us.”
  • On James 4:1-4 “How much of what we ask for, do we ask for as an adulterer?”
  • “What we do in church will not reach a majority of people because a majority of the unchurched people have no plans to be there.”
Mario Vega
  • Rough translation, “I had one of our men call me this week and ask, ‘How can I plant a church in Chattanooga?’  I don’t even know where Chattanooga is, but I told him, ‘Here is how you plant a church.’”
Michael Frost
  • “It is the stories we tell that give us the courage to believe and the strategy to reach the goal.”
Randy Frazee
  • “Is your church a starfish or a spider?”
Mark Jobe
  • On restarting dying and declining churches. “What you do with the first one will either open new doors for you, or close them forever.  Other people will hear how you do this.”
Derwin Gray
  • “Is who we are worth multiplying?”
  • “What we need in America is multiplied weakness; tear filled pastors.”
Danielle Strickland
  • “Let them see you bleed.”
Bob Roberts
  • “We don’t know how to do ministry in the open square because we don’t know how to love well.”
Ajai Lall
  • “We live in a world full of extremists.  It is time for Christian extremism.  Extreme love.  Extreme compassion.  Extreme forgiveness.  Extreme concern for the lost.”
Max Lucado
  • “Your actions have no thermostatic impact on God’s love.  God has determined to love you.”
  • On John 2, “‘They have no wine.’ You will never find a more naked, honest prayer than this one.”
  • “If prayer depends on us, we have no hope.  If prayer depends on the one who hears, then we have incredible hope.”
  • “Give your problems to Christ before they get to you.”
Oscar Muriu
  • “Do not let the smallness of your vision limit the greatness of our God.”
  • “Most of us know only sustaining faith (as opposed to mountain moving faith).  We under-challenge God.”
  • “An over abundance of caution is killing the church today.”
  • “Brave means God does not have to explain Himself to you.”
  • On Galatians 2:20, “Dead men are not afraid.”
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Best and Worst from Exponential East 2015











Last week I spent four days at Exponential East hosted by Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, FL.  Exponential is a movement of reproducing churches envisioned by Dave Ferguson, lead pastor of Community in Chicago.  This was my first time participating in the conference and I plan to return in 2016.  I left the place with a notebook full of takeaways.  Here is my list of the BEST and WORST from Exponential East 2015. 
  • WORST - Realizing how un-cool I really am.  Maybe it is the shape of my head or the shape of my face, but there is nothing about me that can pull off the whole “I’m wearing a toboggan in Florida in late April” thing and make it look awesome.  Scanning the crowd I realized that I was one of only a handful of people who did not have facial hair or a forearm full of tattoos.  As a matter of fact, I think I saw the other ten clean shaven, tat-less preachers at the Jacksonville pastor’s conference in January.  Hey fellas, next year let’s sit together and exchange Ike Reinhard tapes.  I am so 41, suburban, white guy pastor.
  • BEST - Not coming home from Tampa with tattoos, a toboggan, or facial hair.  Tattoos look like they hurt.  I’m too old to get that sort of thing started.  I sweat a lot, so a toboggan would only be torture.  My wife loves me clean shaven - AND THAT is all that really matters (if you know what I mean)!
  • WORST - The technical glitches during Eric Bramlett’s segments.  
  • BEST - Realizing that my church is not the only one Satan hates.  Technology remains very much in the realm of Hell and the Devil messes with all of us equally well.  
  • BEST - Eric Bramlett’s introduction of Max Lucado to a parody of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Even if somehow it remains possible that you are a Christian, have never been to Lifeway to pick up communion wafers, and know nothing about Max Lucado, you can still appreciate this.  If you know anything about the great Max Lucado - you will love this!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Gg537_WrY
  • WORST - Looking on Google maps and thinking Port Richey is not far from Lutz; only to realize once you’re there that Florida is nothing but long stretches of toll roads.  Flight from Birmingham to Tampa - $250.  Daily commute on toll roads - flying is cheaper.
  • BEST - The 2 hour nap I took on Monday afternoon at the Hampton Inn in Port Richey. Great staff, great room, great price, very clean.  Pastor crash - much needed.
  • BEST - The Brazilian thing I ate for lunch on Wednesday.  I’m sorry that I can’t remember the vendor, nor do I have any idea what you called it - but HEY that big wrap of meat and stuff, it was really good. 
  • WORST - Thank you Exponential for the strategically placed snack baskets in hidden corners.  Your volunteer staff gave me the warm-fuzzies,,, BUT,,,, have you ever eaten a Nature Valley Oats and Honey bar?  Fiber - GOOD, resulting dental bill from eating honey coated concrete - BAD.
  • BEST - The Exponential red t-shirt volunteer staff.
  • WORST - The Exponential red t-shirt volunteer greeter guy that kept trying to touch me - on the way in - on the way out - OF EVERY SESSION.  Dude - I’m not a hugger.  Slow your roll.
  • BEST - The worship band with the mysterious violin girl - very Mumford of you all.
  • WORST - The worship band sitting behind you on the flight home and feeling the pressure of failing to share Jesus with the obnoxious Alabama fans beside you, while also having to exercise the Fruit of the Spirit - Don’t Punch People, the worship leader is watching you and so is God.
  • BEST - Propaganda.  Because most of my readers are probably more familiar with Bill Gaither than with hip-hop artists, allow me to explain.  Propaganda is a collision of Scripture and urban plight in spoken word.  In his lyrics he is harshly honest about what the church believes itself to be, what if fails to do, and what it categorically ignores about itself and the world it is called to engage.  I am not cool enough to have ever downloaded any Propaganda tracks.  My daughter loves him.  Yet at Exponential I was glued to every word.  Incredibly convicting. 
  • WORST - The moments when I imagined myself before my church, on stage beneath a single smoky spotlight, without notes, wearing a torn T-shirt, bringing rhythmic, poignant, edgy spoken word to the good Baptists of Northwest Georgia.  Not good.
  • Even worse - The guy who actually tried to do that last weekend at his church.  Please send YouTube link!
  • BEST - If @prophiphop would give me a follow back on Twitter!  I would get a ton of awesome pastor/dad points.  (That’s @BrianBranam just in case).
  • BEST - Multi-site workshops.  This is not to say that the other workshops were not stellar, but I actually signed up for Exponential because of the multi-site workshop, so I attended nothing else workshop wise.  I saw a lot of room 214 in the children’s wing.  The entire conference was more than I expected, but the multi-site sessions were everything I needed.  The speakers brought a great balance of content for the guys way down the path of multi-site while remaining relevant for those of us who are just entering the on-ramp.  
  • WORST - When I showed up a few minutes late to Randy Frazee’s session, he stopped what he was saying and asked, “Guy in the red shirt, who just joined us - why are you here?”  Oh crap, the guy who re-wrote the Bible just called me down like a sixth grader.  Me and Frazee, we’re good.  He emailed me his notes.  Great session.  Sorry I was late.  Please don’t tell on me to Max Lucado.  Yay Church of Christ.  He Chose the Nails, The Story, I’m a big fan.  Won’t happen again.    
  • BEST Quotes -
    • Jim Tomberlin
      • “If they can do this in Mississippi, it will work at your church.”
      • “Growing churches have collaborative leadership teams.”
      • “God breathed into us the desire to be fruitful and productive.  God mastered multiplication (Gen. 1:28).”
    • Ying Kai
      • “We’ve been asking people to come when we should be telling people to go.”
      • “People don’t share the gospel because they don’t know where to start and they don’t know what to say.”
      • “Don’t ask for permission to share the gospel.  We don’t need permission to share Jesus’ love.”
    • Steve Murrell
      • “Jesus’ job, build the church.  Our job, make disciples.”
      • “In the western church ‘discipleship’ is a class to help members become better members.”
    • Joby Martin
      • On Matthew 16:19, “Are you building key rings, or handing out keys?”
    • Steve Stroope
      • “Acts 1:8 is not sequential, it is simultaneous.”
      • “Leadership is anticipation.”
    • Dave Ferguson
      • “The words we use reinforce the values of our culture.”
    • J.D. Greear
      • “Get beyond the idea that the call is for very few and the rest of us are just here to pay for them.”
      • “The future of the Great Commission is not in the hands of pastors, but in the hands of ordinary people who are disciples who make disciples.”
      • On John 16:7 “We are better off with the Holy Spirit in us than we are with Jesus beside us.”
      • On James 4:1-4 “How much of what we ask for, do we ask for as an adulterer?”
      • “What we do in church will not reach a majority of people because a majority of people have no plans to be there.”
    • Mario Vega
      • Rough translation, “I had one of our men call me this week and ask, ‘How can I plant a church in Chattanooga?’  I don’t even know where Chattanooga is, but I told him, ‘Here is how you plant a church.’”
    • Michael Frost
      • “It is the stories we tell that give us the courage to believe and the strategy to reach the goal.”
    • Randy Frazee
      • “Is your church a starfish or a spider?”
    • Mark Jobe
      • On restarting dying and declining churches. “What you do with the first one will either open new doors for you, or close them forever.  Other people will hear how you do this.”
    • Derwin Gray
      • “Is who we are worth multiplying?”
      • “What we need in America is multiplied weakness; tear filled pastors.”
    • Danielle Strickland
      • “Let them see you bleed.”
    • Bob Roberts
      • “We don’t know how to do ministry in the open square because we don’t know how to love well.”
    • Ajai Lall
      • “We live in a world full of extremists.  It is time for Christian extremism.  Extreme love.  Extreme compassion.  Extreme forgiveness.  Extreme concern for the lost.”
    • Max Lucado
      • “Your actions have no thermostatic impact on God’s love.  God has determined to love you.”
      • On John 2, “‘They have no wine.’ You will never find a more naked, honest prayer than this one.”
      • “If prayer depends on us, we have no hope.  If prayer depends on the one who hears, then we have incredible hope.”
      • “Give your problems to Christ before they get to you.”
    • Oscar Muriu
      • “Do not let the smallness of your vision limit the greatness of our God.”
      • “Most of us know only sustaining faith (as opposed to mountain moving faith).  We under-challenge God.”
      • “An over abundance of caution is killing the church today.”
      • “Brave means God does not have to explain Himself to you.”
      • On Galatians 2:20, “Dead men are not afraid.”
  • WORST - That convicting feeling you get realizing all of the things you could have done and should have done.  The sense of loss in the years you did less than that for which the gospel calls.
  • BEST - Knowing that we have a redemptive God who is sovereign in all things.  He never fails.
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The Mistake of Making Easter Ultimate

Easter presents the church with a natural attendance spike.  There will be a lot of effort put into extending invitations and even offering incentives for people to come to your church.  For the most part it will work.  There will be  a huge swell in attendance.  There will be people who hear the gospel for the first time.  There will be people who will be saved Easter Sunday and it will be a huge turning point in their life.  There will be those who reconnect to church who have been away for years.  The Lord will bless the day and the efforts of a people who truly exalt His Son, but there will be some things that happen after Easter Sunday that will not meet your expectations.

Some people will show up and leave never to be seen or heard from again.  Some of us will work hard to get a friend to attend church with us.  They will come.  Eventually though, the conversation about returning may grow stale, perhaps even awkward as we drift off into the summer months.  Why is this often the case?

For some people we make a huge mistake when it comes to Easter.  We make Easter ultimate.  What I mean by making Easter ultimate is that the entire conversation and invitation has been about attending church with you on Easter Sunday.  Been there.  Done that.  Now leave me alone.

For those that do everything we dreamed they would on Easter Sunday; loved it, coming back, saved, changed, connected . . .however you want to quantify success, those people are like low hanging fruit.  For whatever reason they were ready for a change.  There was something the Lord was doing in them that made them ready to respond.  Yet for those that are thinking only in terms of kindly responding to your invitation to Easter, of whom responding to Christ or coming back to church is not even on the radar, what do we do so that Easter is not the ultimate end of their exposure to the gospel?

Easter as third space.

For that seemingly unresponsive friend you invite to Easter service, you might as well be inviting him or her to outer space.  The technical term for Planet Easter Service is 3rd space.  

The concept of 3rd space, or 3rd place, was first introduced in the early 90’s to describe a place outside of home (1st place) or work (2nd place) in which people meet and interact.  Evangelicals extended this concept, inspired by a talk given by Erwin McManus, to describe a strategy for Christian cultural influence.  1st space is a place where everyone is familiar.  2nd space describes a broader group of working relationships.  These people are less immediate in your life.  They are less like you, but they are the people you interact with everyday.  In 3rd space you are an alien, a complete foreigner.  You don’t know the lingo.  You don’t know how it works.  3rd space is a realm in which you have no relationships, a place you will only go by invitation.

Think about it, for church goers, your church is a 1st space.  It may be a 2nd space at worst.  You are familiar with the surroundings, the customs, the lingo, and the people.  But for those you invite to Easter, church is 3rd space.  It is unfamiliar and strange.  

You call it worship.  But for a person unfamiliar with church, the words on the screen look like Christian karaoke.  The sermon is a sales pitch.  The invitation appears to be the walk of shame.  The offering is probably offensive.  You may love church, but your friend is alien to the whole thing - and perhaps extremely uncomfortable during the experience.  Don't let the smile on their face fool you.  They are being polite. 

Allow me to wax prophetic about your post-Easter conversation with your friend, which may take place as soon as the parking lot or perhaps the next day at work. 

“So what did you think?”

“It was good, I enjoyed it.”

“So would you like to go back with me sometime?”

“Sure.”

To the alien mind the word “sure” means, no chance.  Weeks will go by.  Your friend will not return.  At some point they may even communicate to you the not so subtle hint that they would like for you to quit asking.  Because you made Easter the ultimate end, your Easter service was the unfortunate end.  

Your friend was kind to you.  He or she came to the service.  They felt foreign to the whole thing.  Who in their right mind wants to continue subjecting themselves to an alien experience?

Here is the key.  The conversation about the gospel can’t find its ultimate end in 3rd space, it has to work its way into something more familiar.  How can you accomplish this?  Below are some suggestions on how to change the space:

  1. Extend the Easter experience into a more familiar space.  After Easter service, have a plan to move from 3rd space back to a 1st or 2nd space where the two of you have common ground.  Go on a bike ride.  Plan on sharing Easter lunch with your friend at your home.  Don’t just digest the meal, somehow digest the message.  Talk though the experience.  The more immediate you are with this the more effective.
  2. Don’t be offended by criticisms.  If your friend talks about parts of the service or the message that made him or her feel uncomfortable, or perhaps even points they disagreed with, don’t freak out.  The gospel is offensive.  Sympathize with the comment and work through it.  Humor is a great way to disarm tension.  Don’t laugh at your friend by laughing at their objections, but don’t shy away from laughing at yourself.  If you don’t think Christians are funny, visit John Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like.”
  3. Don’t belittle questions.  Your friend may ask questions that seem elementary to you, but if you make them feel stupid Easter will be the end.  For instance, not everyone understands that the Bible is broken down into books.  When your pastor says, “Go to John” that could be taken several different ways.  Never assume anyone knows the most basic stories of the Bible.  When your friend asks questions, it is an invitation from them to you to reduce the alien nature of the church as a 3rd space.      
  4. Make mental clips into conversation pieces.  If your church has an app, webpage, or you pastor writes a blog, use that content to share with your friend and keep the conversation moving forward.  You can do this in a not so awkward way by sharing thoughts from past sermons or articles that pertain to the natural course of conversation.  “My pastor said . . .”  “I read the other day . . .”  Instead of, “O.K. so now I want you to sit here and watch this 30 minute message from last week and let’s talk about it tomorrow.”  Make your own mental clips into conversation pieces.  Your friends are like you.  They need answers to life.  Surely something your church is saying is meaningful to that conversation.  
  5. They came to your 3rd space, accept an invitation to come into their space.  McManus’s talk on 3rd spaces was really focused more on this concept.  The reason most of us make very little cultural impact is because we will receive very few invitations into 3rd spaces.  If you do make it into 3rd space, you may be every bit as uncomfortable with that experience as your friend was with their Easter experience.  Recently I have accepted several invitations to speak to groups that were galaxies away from my normal Sunday context.  Don’t be afraid to venture into a galaxy far, far away from Easter.
  6. Don’t farm out follow up.  I mentioned this in my post about making Easter effective, and I want to reiterate this point again.  Your pastor is a comeback killer.  If all your friend gets from Easter is a call or a visit from your pastor, they will never come back and they may want to kill you :).  The pastor is the master alien.  The visitation team is merely his minions.  Your friend probably won’t appreciate an alien invasion from 3rd space.  If you wait on the pastor and his minions, you have immediately moved the gospel conversation back into outer space!  You keep the conversation going in 1st and 2nd space.  
  7. Help your church get over Easter.  To be successful at reaching people, your church needs to ultimately become less of a 3rd space.  Sometimes churches become calloused environments focused only on meeting the needs of the people already there.  Eventually the church becomes a closed group that becomes more and more difficult for you to invite friends.  We need an honest answer to this question.  How many people do you see each Sunday inviting their friends?  If people are not inviting people to your church, something needs to change.  People will bring people to a place that is meaningful and exciting. 

    Look around.  Does the nursery look like a kennel for Christian babies?  Does the seating look KJV?  Do the Sunday School or small group spaces look like a visit to the principal’s office circa 1953?  If the bathroom at the rec. field has more going for it than the stalls at God’s house, oh my!  You see the needs before your friends do.  Help your church get over Easter by getting involved in the daily process.  If you are prone only to serve at your church on clean-up day or at the egg hunt Easter week, Easter has become your ultimate end.  Be a servant all year long. 


Easter can be an ultimate experience or the ultimate end.  Think of how you can use this incredible holy-day to keep the conversation about Christ going with your friends.
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An Effective Easter

Easter presents the church with its greatest natural opportunity on the calendar to share the gospel.  Here is a short list of ways you can help your church have an effective Easter.

1) The Lord wants to bless your Easter services, make sure He can.

God has proven that for those who will exalt His Son, obey the commands, love Him, and love people that He will bless with bountiful growth (John 12:32, Acts 2:42-47).  If God can see that a local church is serious about obeying the commands, preaching the gospel and discipling people He will send people their way.  Make sure you do nothing in attitude or action that God would say, “I can’t bless that.”  Let there be no apathy, selfishness, or self-righteousness.  Make sure the sermon is faithful to the Biblical text, the music is Scriptural, and the teaching in every group is doctrinally sound.  Make sure that the building is uncluttered and reflects that it is owned and operated by the redeemed people of a Holy God.  Be a people God can bless and you will be blessed with people!

2)  The invitation begins in the parking lot.

The parable of the sower and the seed shows us that the battle for fruitful response begins early, not late (Matthew 13).  Many people who come to your church campus for Easter services have been fighting battles for years.  Don’t make them struggle even more to find parking, nurseries, or comfortable places to sit.  If they feel uncomfortable at the front door they sure won’t feel comfortable in the altar.  Remove every obstacle, fear, and feeling of awkwardness.  Make sure they know their kids are safe.  Help them understand what is about to happen in the service.  Use the bulletin.  Use sermon notes.  Make a friend, sit with them and explain to them what is about to happen.  Communicate clearly from the stage what you want people to do, sit, stand, pray - give them cues don’t leave them guessing.  Also remember, if you are not willing to fill out a card, no one else will.  If you are not willing to give, no one else will.  If you are not willing to sing, no one else will.  If you are not willing to listen, no one else will.  And most importantly, if you are not willing to respond to the invitation, not one else will.  Lead people to the altar, don’t think they will awkwardly walk the plank alone!  It is hard to be new.  People want to respond, but they are looking for cues from you that what they are doing is OK.

3)  Everyone is a greeter.

Melanie Smollen from Faith Perceptions says that guests at your church want to know:  Do you see me?  Do you hear me?  Do you know that I am here?  Do you care?  People expect to be greeted by the pastor and the greeters.  People will determine if they are seen, heard, acknowledged and cared for by a church if they experience those things from people who are not expected to do so.  Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That word was for everyone at your church, not just the greeters! 

4) People will come if you ask them.

Thom Rainer shares some startling statistics from his insightful book The Unchurched Next Door.  82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.  This means most people are just waiting on you to ask.  However, only 2% of church members will actually invite an unchurched person to church.  In a given year, 98% of church-goers never extend an invitation.   

5) Don’t farm out follow up.

Don’t expect someone else to follow up.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a person is going to be birthed into the Kingdom that they must go through the church office.  Meet someone this Easter at your church.  Get their name.  Find out how to contact them and you follow up.  They expect a letter from your pastor.  If you want to leave a lasting impression, let them hear from you; not because it is your business, but because you care.

6)  People will be talking about your church when they leave, it’s up to you to determine what they will be talking about.

What do we want them to say about the nursery?  What do you want them to say about the music?  If you are the pastor who will be delivering the sermon, will you say something so impactful, simple, and memorable that people will be talking about it for several days?  What will people be saying about your building?  People will talk, positively or negatively.  Give them something great to say about their experience at your church this Easter.
7)  Tell people what’s next.  

Church folks are notorious about complaining about people only coming to church Christmas and Easter.  If you want to remedy that, tell them what’s next.  Otherwise, in many people’s minds, Christmas is next.  What’s your next event?  What is the sermon next Sunday?  What will the children, students, or small groups be doing next?  Are you playing softball this Spring, going to lunch this afternoon?  The leaving is just as important as the greeting.  If you don’t have anything worth coming to within a week after Easter, you might as well wish your guests a Merry Christmas as they walk out the door.  

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