“You can do it.” The moment I heard those simple words—“You can do it”—it was like someone had reached inside my soul and flipped on a switch. What had seemed impossible just moments before was now suddenly possible! Before you finish reading this chapter, I want you to have that same experience. I believe that sometime during the next several pages, God will reach inside your soul and convince you that what might seem impossible is possible, what you think is improbable can happen, and what you may have thought was just a pipe dream may very well be a God thing. But before we get to all that, let me back up a bit and tell you a bit of my story.×
OUR DREAM ON A NAPKIN
As a college student, I had way too much time on my hands. Together with my friends, I would spend hours inventing games and pulling pranks on underclassmen, just to pass the time. “Lang Hall Fall Wall Ball” was a game we invented that combined handball and dodgeball and was played in the hallway of Lang Hall. Though it does absolutely nothing for your GPA, a small rubber ball and a dormitory hallway can provide hours of entertainment and competition. When we weren’t playing games in the hallway, we’d think of creative ways to fool unsuspecting freshmen. One of my favorite pranks in those years was sneaking into rooms and setting clocks five hours ahead, getting our helpless freshmen roommates to believe it was 6:00 a.m. when it was really 1:00 a.m. We’d laugh our heads off watching them shower, dress, and head out the door to the cafeteria, only to find it closed. But those years weren’t just a time for playing games and wasting time. We also did our share of dreaming in college. Not just daydreaming through our classes but also really dreaming big about how God might want to use us.
A few years after graduating, I was sitting in Potter’s Place, this little dive of a Mexican restaurant in downtown Naperville, thinking back on those college years. Together with my college roommate, Scott Alexander, my brother, Jon, and his friend, Darren Sloniger, we had just started Community Christian Church. The four of us had shared a common dream—reaching out to the Chicagoland area. We knew that it would take a very “complicated” strategy for us to actually reach all eight million people in the greater metro area of Chicago. So to get started, we had taken a map of Chicago and pinned it to a bulletin board on our dorm room wall. Then we divided Chicago among the four of us in the room and devised an innovative and “sophisticated” strategy for taking the entire city and the suburbs for Jesus. Each of us agreed to take a fourth of the metro area and accepted the mission of reaching a mere two million people. At the time, it was a grand idea and we were completely naive, but we actually believed it was possible.
As I sat in the Mexican restaurant that day remembering the God-sized dreams that had led us to plant our church, it got me dreaming again. So I pulled out a napkin and sketched out a completely new plan. I drew Lake Michigan, filled out the boundaries of the city of Chicago, and then began to draw circles, each representing different churches—possible sites of Community that would be scattered all over the Chicago area. I was beginning to get a sense of a fresh vision, looking beyond my dream of four individuals dividing up a city to a dream of one church with many locations reaching various parts of the Chicagoland area. I thought about what I had drawn, then folded up the napkin and slipped it inside my journal.
That napkin stayed in my journal for the next four years. To be honest, I never showed the napkin to anyone and basically kept it to myself. Then one morning I was having breakfast with my friend Larry.× Larry was a very successful entrepreneur. He drove a light blue Mercedes and was always dressed to the nines. In some ways, the trappings of wealth and the several businesses he had started impressed me. Larry was also finding his way back to God, and he had expressed some interest in how we did church. Even though he was still growing as a Christian, he was able to see some parallels between his entrepreneurial endeavors and how we had started our church from scratch. About halfway through my scrambled eggs and bacon, Larry asked me a very direct question. “So Dave, what is the dream?” He paused for a moment, and then he added a real zinger that I wasn’t expecting. “If you could do anything, what would you do?”
There was silence on my end. I began thinking to myself, “Do I really tell him my dream? What if he thinks I’m crazy?” Even though it may seem innocent, a question about someone’s life dream is really very personal. I knew that if I were to answer the question honestly and tell him the truth about my dream, it would be out there and I’d feel like I had to own it. I’d be forced to pursue it. So I didn’t respond right away. I was afraid.
But Larry was persistent, and after a few seconds he asked me again, “Dave, what is the dream?”
And in that moment, for the first time in four years, I pulled out the napkin from my journal. I unfolded it on the table between us and said, “Larry, if I could do anything, this is what I would do.” Larry looked at the napkin for a moment, looked up at me, and then said something that was simple yet life-changing.
“Dave, you can do that. Yeah, I can see you doing that.”
Each of us has that moment in our life when we can look back and see that from that point forward, everything changed. And if I were to point to a single moment when everything changed for me, it would be that moment sitting at breakfast with Larry. With those simple words, everything went from off to on. What had just moments before seemed impossible was, for some strange and unexpected reason, now possible in my mind. I left our breakfast meeting that morning truly believing that the dream God had given to me would somehow come to life. . .
Long before we launched a celebration service, each one of us started a small group. We had only one problem. We had no people in our church. To solve this dilemma, we decided we’d each start a group and then show up at each other’s group meetings so we could create a perception that there were at least a few people interested in this new church
Since that time, those small groups of eight to twelve people have reproduced countless times. Today we are a church with more than seven thousand attenders and a network of more than thirty thousand people celebrating every week with several thousand reproducing small groups.
–Exponential: How to Accomplish the Jesus Mission by Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson