Four days at Exponential 2010 brought  hours of speaking, listing to great talks and countless conversations with thought leaders, network leaders and pastors from many tribes.  Here are my four top reflections. 

#1 There is a huge difference between church planting and movement cultivating (and some still don't get the difference.) The most important positive change in ministry in North America is not just the increasing interest in the practice of church planting, but the increasing emphasis on the practice multiplying movements, of which, church planting is one step. It's very easy to plant a church without engaging in ministry that multiplies. Two newly released books that will clarify the difference are Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird and Exponential by Dave and Jon Ferguson. I am truly excited to see God at work to make the reality of multiplication more clear and accessible to leaders. 

#2 The most acceptable idol in ministry today is missional service. This idea was stirred  by a comment by Matt Chandler. I will paraphrase it: "Transformation comes through our relationship to Jesus, not through our engagement  in mission." Anytime good things happen in the name of Jesus, the good thing can eclipse Jesus. Right now, altruism is in and much activity is happening in the name of "external focus," "missional communities" and social justice. Let's beware of thinking too highly of our own goodness or allowing the Martha in us to work out the Mary in us.

#3 Great partnerships are important for great accomplishments. The testimony of Exponential itself is one of amazing growth through partnerships. I was impressed with how may networks and denominations made Exponential an internal gathering time (the Auxano team did as well). But this didn't just happen. It was carefully engineered by Todd Wilson who didn't target church planters as the primary audience but church planting network leaders. Everywhere you looked it was possible to spot a partnership in many different forms that you would not necessarily see at other conferences. What was modeled by the conference was discussed as content as well. In particular I liked Billy Hornsby's talk on the Five Relationships for Movements. The fifth kind of relationship he lists is a partner, defined as "groups that want to identify with your idea and are ready to promote it or even finance it." 

#4 Evangelical churches still exist in a vision vacuum. Most of our momentum in ministry today is still driven by personalities, crowd dynamics and great facilities, not vision. For example the church that hosted the conference had vision posters up all over the place, but if you asked the volunteers about the vision of the church, all you got was a deer-in-the-headlights stare. I talked with two pastors both from different very large, rapid growing churches. They were quick to say, "We are doing better with clarity that we ever have." Yet with a very simple clarity test, it was fairly obvious that these assertions were misguided. Of course this touches my holy discontent, so I tend to see it readily. And I am grateful that for the continual hunger and amazing response from pastors who see the opportunity of clarity tools like the Kingdom Concept and Vision Frame. We ran out of Church Unique twice at the conference.