Instead of focusing on external elements, Western churches must shift from “more effort” to “more Jesus” to truly bring the fullness of God’s power to a dying world, Keri Ladouceur, a pastor at Vineyard Christian Church, advises.
During the opening session of the Exponential Conference held in Washington, D.C., Ladouceur delivered a message titled “Made for More.” The theme of her message focused on Ephesians 1, which reads, in part: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Ladouceur contended that Western churches are “obsessed” with the idea of “more.”
“More better, more bigger, more faster,” she said.
Some pursuits of “more” are good, she clarified, adding: “This desire, this search, this longing for more, comes straight from our Creator. ... Many of us know, deep down, that we were made for more.”
But God’s desire for the Church, she said, is “undoubtedly bigger than the visions any of us could dare to dream.” The pastor said there’s a “foundational shift” churches need to take hold of — or risk “not being in the game” within a few decades amid a nationwide decline in church attendance.
To grasp the power the Apostle Paul identifies in Ephesians, she said, church leaders need to move from “more effort” to “more Jesus.”
“That power that undermined the power of darkness ... is available to us,” she said. “The power that God used to place Jesus Christ at His right hand in the heavenly realms is available to us today ... it is power through Christ to overcome anything.”
Ladouceur encouraged listeners to live as if they actually believed they could grasp this power.
“When we truly believe what we profess, we are set to act as if it were true,” she emphasized. “The power is at work in ways we can’t fully comprehend or see ... whose power are you operating in?”
“When we build our churches in light of accomplishing our vision. If this is about, ‘all of you exist to do my thing,’ that’s not mobilization; that’s objectification. When we build our churches in a way that says, we want to go out and do Christ’s things, that’s mobilization.”
Far too many church leaders fall into the trap of operating by the “physical world,” Ladouceur said.
"We must begin to recognize some of the haphazard rhythm of our ministries; the hallow goals that can stand at the center," she contended. “We have the invitation to orient around a different center. The only thing that we can choose is more power ... when I move from more effort to more Jesus, they can’t get enough of what He does.”
The idea of finding one’s “identity in Christ” is often touted in the church, she said, but it’s “incomplete.”
“We take on our identity in Christ, and then He uses us to make Him known,” she explained. “He gives us a new identity and then our identity becomes the very way we make Him known. The good qualities of Him He chooses to express through me and through you.”
Christians are called to “fill everything everywhere” with the fullness of Jesus through His power and not our effort, Ladouceur stressed.
“We have to take hold of the shift that it asks from us to move from more effort to Jesus,” she said. “That is the Jesus-shaped church.”
Bringing the fullness of Christ to the world takes the entire Body of Christ, the pastor declared: “If we engaged every Christ-follower in our church to move from more effort to more Jesus, can you just imagine what Jesus would do?”
The opening session of the Exponential Conference also featured Brett Andrews, founding pastor of New Life Christian Church in Virginia.
During his message, Andrews contended that the reason there aren’t “disciple multiplying movements” in the U.S. is because the Western Church “is fascinated with the complicated.”
“The very things we embrace as common sense for church planting may be the very thing hindering Jesus from doing more in our churches,” he explained. “The key to multiplication is not another superstar, but that regular people can have the Gospel and share it with others.”
“Is your confidence in strategies and tools or in the fact that Jesus is your Good Shepherd and you are hearing and obeying Him daily?” he asked.
The focus of this year’s two-day conference was "Mobilizing God's People God's Way." Held Sept. 9-10, the event unpacked six paradigm shifts based on the book of Ephesians that have the potential to start a multiplication wave within churches today. The event featured 11 main speakers in five main sessions in addition to a live webcast, available for free to anyone who registered.
The conference was opened by Dave Ferguson, pastor of Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois, who explained that Exponential is “a community with a cause, a clear cause,” explaining it wants to “change the spiritual landscape of the United States.”
The conference, he said, is focused on “moving the needle of church multiplication in the U.S. from less than 4% to a tipping point of 10%.”
Thanks to the work of Exponential, over 10,000 more churches are now planting churches across the U.S., he revealed, adding: “God’s doing great things.”