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Multiply conference challenges attendees

Inaugural U.S. conference a success; 2018 event to be held in Phoenix

By Scott Thomas

Prayer workshop
Esther Leonard leads a workshop on prayer.

Attendees of the Multiply conference, held Feb. 22-23, 2017, in Fresno, California, dubbed the event a success, many saying, “Multiply is the best thing I have attended in a long time.”

The goal of Multiply was to embolden church leaders to follow the Spirit’s leading to multiply disciples through the church—locally, nationally and globally.

 “I have never experienced anything like this in my life—not even close,” says Dustin Rupke, a lay leader from North Oak Community Church in Hays, Kansas.

Multiply was sponsored by MB Mission, the North American mission agency, and C2C Network, a church planting network recently authorized to partner in Mennonite Brethren church planting in the U.S.

Mountain View Community Church (MVCC), Fresno, hosted the event and volunteered their staff to serve with hospitality, worship and production, registration and set up and clean up. They participated in the event but readily sacrificed so that other participants could fully benefit from the experience.


Attendees encouraged to ask, What if?

Conference leaders asked the 200 pastors and church leaders in attendance to consider the question, “What if?”

  • What if we believed that Jesus was sending us to make disciples of all nations?
  • What if we took a risk to plant or financially support a church plant?
  • What if we added another service?
  • What if we started a second site?
  • What if we restarted our church with a gospel emphasis?
  • What if we intentionally invested in local, national and global mission?

“It was great to hear about pastors taking risks in spite of their fear of failure,” says Rick Henderson, campus pastor at South Mountain Community Church (SMCC) near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Daniel Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Aqua Viva, Omaha, Nebraska, says he is now considering offering two services on Sunday—one in English and another in Spanish. He is wondering, “What if we could reach more people with the gospel?”


Workshops, sessions well-received

Every plenary and workshop was received with overwhelming enthusiasm.  Rick Eshbaugh, Central District Conference (CDC) minister says, “Hungry leaders interacted with the speakers who shared stories, encouragement and expertise. This gave participants something more than how-to steps of action. This gave them hope.” Eshbaugh was personally encouraged to “change vision from leading to empowering the next generation.”

Tim Sullivan, Southern District Conference (SDC) minister, says, “For me, the greatest value was seeing God at work in this USMB family to multiply churches and to see women and men who are willing to put their ministries on the line for the sake of God’s kingdom.”

Anticipating next year’s event, Sullivan says, “I wish every Southern District church could send their pastor(s) and a couple of lay leaders to experience this life-giving and mission-changing event.”

Multiply leaders reiterate clearly that this was not a seminar but rather a two-day church service. It included lively worship, a lot of prayer and multiple altar calls. “This is one of the few conferences that focused on the soul of a leader,” says Mark Thompson of MB Mission.

Josh Shaw, church plant pastor of Lighthouse Church, a USMB church plant in Denver, says the event was life-giving and encouraging. “I don’t feel beat up. I feel built up,” he says.

 “I responded by presenting myself to the Lord to live more dependently upon prayer,” saya Jim Blagg, a leader at the church plant in Pueblo, Colorado.

Jeff Vanderstelt

Multiply offered 16 different workshops in four tracks. Jeff Vanderstelt, pastor, author and executive director of the nonprofit, led a four-part workshop on “Multiplying Disciples through Missional Communities” that was packed in every session. Church planter Mario Trujillo of City Church, Pueblo, Colorado, says, “I have read Jeff’s books, but hearing his heart and how he had to fight to develop missional communities in his church was a transformative experience for me.”


Focus on prayer

Prayer was a clear emphasis at Multiply. One attendee said that he had never prayed that much at a conference. Fred and Esther Leonard, pastoral couple at MVCC, led a four-part prayer workshop, and every plenary offered private prayer at the conclusion of the talks.

One attendee was there specifically to pray. Greg and Tammy Junghans, C2C church planters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, received a free gift to attend the Multiply conference held Feb. 8-9 in Vancouver, B.C. While in Vancouver, Tammy had a dream of interceding onsite for the Multiply conference in Fresno. A donor heard about her dream and sent her to intercede for two days onsite at the conference.

Tammy says it was an incredible experience that challenged and stretched her in ways she didn’t expect. “The more I interceded for the speakers and the participants, the more I needed others to pray for me and hold my arms up for this strenuous task,” she says.

C2C also invited participants to join in praying at 10:02 a.m. every day in the spirit of Jesus’ command in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”


Plans underway for next Multiply

According to Scott Thomas, C2C national director for the U.S., the Multiply conference was important for the USMB national family because it rallied church leaders around common verbiage of gospel, mission and Spirit empowerment. The conference also intentionally presented C2C as a catalyst to come alongside pastors, aspiring leaders and districts to multiply disciples in their respective cities and communities. C2C is helping to oversee the 14 USMB church planting projects; eight pastor-representatives from these 14 church plants participated at this year’s conference.

Participants applauded the announcement of next year’s Multiply conference, to be held Feb. 21-22, 2018, at Copper Hills Church, Phoenix, Arizona.

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