We just concluded our 2021 National Disciple Making Forum. This annual gathering is unique—more than twenty networks/organizations come together to focus on disciple making.
At the Forum, we do not focus on one group or one way of disciple making. As one person described it to me: “The national gathering is a collection of disciple making families.”
This collection of disciple making families makes the Forum a big, extended family gathering. And a diverse, extended family getting together creates a wonderful event.
This year was no exception, and it was special for five reasons.
1. Large Gathering Even With COVID-19 Concerns
We originally thought COVID would be over and we would grow beyond our 2019 in-person event of 1,700 leaders to 2,000 leaders in 2021.
And even though we had 5,000 at our online 2020 gathering, we believed we needed an in-person forum.
But then the Delta variant spread throughout the country. In spite of this, we made the difficult decision to hold the Forum, even though the attendance would be much lower.
We had hoped for 1,000 attendees. Then we increased expectations to 1,100, and then 1,200.
We are grateful to God because just short of 1,400 ended up attending the Forum in person!
2. Great Main Stage Presentations
We changed from having three main stage presentations to four this year. That still left time for four breakout sessions for each of the tracks.
This setup created a balanced format that really worked well.
That balance was also bolstered by the strong main stage presentations. A network leader from Indiana put it this way:
I have attended nearly every Disciple Makers Forum. This year was by far the best one I’ve experienced. The breakouts are always good, but what stood out this year was the strength of the main sessions. In years past, some of the main session speakers were really good and some were okay. This year, every main session speaker hit a home run.
We plan for this new format and level of presentations to continue into the future.
3. Life Changing for Many Leaders
Lives were changed. Many truly embraced the disciple makers lifestyle for the first time. The combination of inspiring main stage presentations and practical breakout tracks had a huge impact that helped many leaders make that commitment by the end of the Forum.
We needed inspiration. We needed to worship with 1,400 disciple making advocates. We needed to see and hear Robert Coleman give the invitation to become a disciple maker at 93 years of age.
We needed to hear speakers like Myron Pierce and Grant Skeldon tell us how the hope of Jesus changed their lives as they were discipled by those who loved them.
Yet we also needed practical disciple making tools. We needed to know the exact ways leaders are effectively making disciples today. We needed to know exactly how to make disciples in our context.
After the Forum, we received a high number of emails and phone calls telling us how the event was life changing.
We are grateful for that result.
4. New Emerging Leaders in Extended Family
As we champion Jesus-style disciple making, seeing how new leaders are developing nationally is exciting.
Let me mention just five new names (there are many more) who joined our extended discipleship.org community of disciple making leaders this fall:
Dan Lietz now leads the Bonhoeffer Project because Bill Hull retired from that role. Dan is a gifted senior pastor of a church in Southern California who is shifting his church’s focus to disciple making.
Curtis Sergeant is an expert practitioner of disciple making movement strategies. Few, if any, have more influence in international disciple making movements. He now lives in the USA, and he and his wife led a track at the Forum.
Jason Houser leads Seeds Family Worship. Jason’s family leads a ministry that he pioneers that is focused on family discipleship.
Myron Pierce is the picture of hope in disciple making. God called Myron in prison to begin disciple making and church planting. Myron gives us hope by casting the vision for a disciple making church movement in every inner city in the country.
Alisa Childers makes the case for intellectual seriousness in disciple making. At the forum, Alisa kept the audience riveted, and by her presentation it was easy to see how her podcast has become one of the most popular religious podcasts in the world.
5. We Honored Greg Ogden
Each year we seek to honor a person who has positively impacted the disciple making conversation in North America (and beyond). The award is named after Robert Coleman, who wrote the gold standard on Jesus-style disciple making: The Master Plan of Evangelism.
Here are the winners of the Robert Coleman Disciple Maker Award:
2016 – Robert Coleman
2017 – Bill Hull
2018 – Jim Putman
2019 – Dann Spader
2021 – Greg Ogden
We were very pleased to honor Greg Ogden this year. For many decades he has been a disciple making advocate, practitioner, seminar teacher, and pastor.
Through key books, such as Discipleship Essentials and Transforming Discipleship, he has influenced countless church leaders.
He is the founder and leader of Global Discipleship Initiative, and we were pleased to honor him.
My team at Discipleship.org and Harpeth Christian Church was honored to host the event. We believe disciple making is both the core mission of the church and the key to Christian faithfulness in this cultural moment.
Our main stage presentations are available for purchase right now as a digital access pass, and they will also be a part of the collective plus in 2022. (Click here.)
We plan to publish the breakout tracks as podcasts in 2022, and we will provide links in our weekly newsletters to keep you up to date.
We thank God for the privilege of serving him in these ways.