Thinking Exponentially Won't Put God in a Box

c-PastorsHeart-ThinkingExponentiallyDo we really believe all things are possible with God? 

A few years ago Rick Warren and I were talking about faith, and he told me that faith in ministry includes setting goals so incredibly bold that you’re bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. That conversation has radically transformed my faith—and my dependence—on God.

The truth is, Jesus continually pushes us to a place where we have to choose for or against Him. When we step forward in faith, will we choose to remain independent of Jesus or will we choose to be totally dependent on Him?

For instance, Jesus tells the rich young man to give away everything he has so he can follow Jesus as a disciple. The young man’s choice is not about the wealth. Rather, he must decide if Jesus is who He says He is and if Jesus will come through on His promises.

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Giving away his wealth is an irrevocable decision for the young man. If Jesus proves to be undependable, then the young man will find himself penniless and following a leader who doesn’t really know what He’s doing. If Jesus proves to be dependable, then the young man will no longer control great wealth, yet he will be dependent on a God who will supply his every need. Rick referred to this as exponential thinking.

Is your faith based on what you think is possible or on God, who says all things are possible? Rick explained that even our prayers are small-minded when we limit our requests to only those things we think are possible.

What would this mean in practical terms for your ministry? Perhaps consider adding a zero to every goal you set. Do you want to reach 100 for Christ in your community? Then set a goal to reach 1,000. Set a bold goal that is bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. It is in the realm of the impossible that faith works.

Rick told me, “Exponential thinking stretches us and forces us to see different ways to do what God wants us to do. Do you want to transform your community? Why stop there? Why not make it your goal to bring global glory to God!”

I was there when Rick started writing The Purpose-Driven Life. At first he wanted to help Saddleback members understand that God created them for a purpose and would reveal it to them. But soon Rick began talking about a campaign called 40 Days of Purpose and how it could be used to reach the unchurched in Orange County, Calif. I was certain it could be done.

But then Rick prayed about The Purpose Driven Life becoming an instrument of transformation across the nation, and the world. And then I was certain: Rick had eaten too many fish tacos. Keep in mind he was just a local church pastor at that time. Was he crazy?

During 40 Days of Purpose at Saddleback, we baptized 671 new believers, added almost 1,200 new members and increased average attendance by 2,000. We launched 2,400 small groups in Orange County that engaged 25,000 people in a study about God’s five purposes for them: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and missions.

When we offered 40 Days of Purpose to other congregations, more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states reported to us that thousands of people were coming to Christ and being baptized, welcomed into church membership and connected to small groups or Sunday schools. They were experiencing real worship and fellowship, being equipped for ministry, and going out for mission in the world. Congregations reported healings in relationships and new unity, vision and purpose among members.

You are not just a local church pastor. You are a minister called by God to bring glory to Him here on earth. Your qualification for doing this rests on one thing: your faith in Jesus. Exponential faith-thinking is not about making wild and random claims on God. It is about focusing on Jesus, doing what He tells you to do and trusting He will make the way no matter how impossible His direction seems.

I challenge you to think exponentially in faith when you consider your church and to think on a godly scale about how you and your staff could help usher revival and renewal into your community. As Rick would say, “See what God has to say about this—and then believe Him for big, big things.”

Jon Walker is managing editor of Rick Warren’s “Daily Hope Devotionals” ( and the author of Breakfast With Bonhoeffer and Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

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