Hero Makers Dream Big & Start Small | Dave Ferguson

Hero Makers Dream Big & Start Small

You never know when a hero making leader will walk through your door. And when they do – listen and learn.

I vividly remember the day I looked at my schedule and saw that I had an appointment with a guy named Sam Stephens.  Not knowing who he was, I asked my assistant Pat why I had this meeting and who this guy was.

“I thought you knew him,” she said. “All I know is that he is from India.” 

I went into the meeting not knowing anything about Sam, wondering if this would be a waste of my time. I greeted him, extended my hand, and asked him to tell me his story. Sam started back in the 1950s, with a story about his father.  Sam’s father had started a mission to plant churches in India and by 1992 they had experienced some growth. They now had 200 churches, and all could be traced to that first church planted by Sam’s dad. Wow, I thought. 200 churches! Sam had my attention now.  

Sam wasn’t comfortable talking about his own work—he’s very humble.  So I had to drag the details out of him.  He told me that in 1992 he had taken over the mission and he made a simple, but strategic shift in the way they did things.  He began to insist that every church planter not only plant a church but also have an apprentice church planter.  This was someone who would come alongside the planter and would learn from him, firsthand, how to plant a church so the reproduction would continue, year after year.  

Now I was really curious. “How is that going?”  I asked.

Without much expression, Sam replied, “Well, we now have…70,000 churches.” 

At that point, I was glad that I was sitting down. I was beginning to realize that this was an incredible story. I asked Sam, “How many people does that represent?”  And again, his reply took my breath away: “I think about 3.5 million,” he said. Then he added, “But we are praying for 100,000 churches and 5 million people!”  

At that, I began to wonder: how did this kind of exponential multiplication happen?

The simple shift Sam had made back in 1992 had transformed the results of their church-planting efforts.  Sam had discovered that there were people and leaders all over India who had gifts, and he found that if he could empower them, encourage them, and make them successful, then Jesus’ mission would be accomplished at a completely different level of productivity. Sam apprenticed leaders who in turn apprenticed other leaders who in turn did the same for many others. 

As I thought about this amazing encounter with Sam Stephens and being a hero maker, I had three leadership learnings:

Hero Makers multiply their leadership

Sam Stephens is a hero maker. Jesus was also a hero maker in his life and leadership. In John 14:12 Jesus promises his closest followers, “You will do greater things than me” and saw them as the heroes of this movement of redemption he was starting. Sam, too was not trying to make himself the hero in the story of his mission; he focused all his energy and efforts on making heroes of the other emerging leaders around him. 

Hero makers dream big

Sam has one of the biggest dreams for the cause of Christ that I know of! In the same way that Jesus challenged us to a very big dream in Acts 1:8, Sam dreamed of reaching 5 million people and starting 100,000 churches! It is dreaming big that catalyzes multiplication thinking in the mind of a hero maker.

Hero makers start small

While Sam has a big dream, his efforts were focused on multiplying one apprentice church planter at a time. In the same way that Jesus spent 73% of his time with a few disciples and only 27% with the masses; Sam made sure he invested his efforts on a small number of emerging leaders who would multiply his efforts.


This devotional originally appeared in Dave Ferguson's book, Hero Maker. Hero Make is available for purchase here.