5 Reflections on the National Disciple Making Forum
Wow! Our second annual National Disciple Making Forum just ended. I am thrilled and grateful to God for the results. We saw lives changed, as over 1,400 pastors and leaders joined us. Seventeen different networks/organizations led specialized tracks on Jesus’ style disciple making.
Our post-forum survey of attendees showed that 90 percent of respondents gave the gathering an overall good or excellent rating; over 93 percent said that the tracks were good or excellent, and 93 percent plan to attend again. We are encouraged by this very positive feedback.
Here are my top five personal reflections.
1. Pastors and Leaders are Hungry to Learn about Making Disciples
Last year we were told that if we had 500 at our first gathering, it would be a success. We had about 650. This year we were told that 800 would be a success. We had just over 1,400. Pastors and leaders were jazzed to be there. Countless numbers of people described it as the “gathering of their tribe.” The excitement was palpable.
2. There are Various Effective Ways to Make Disciples
Our 17 networks/organizations each had distinctive teachings. From the emphasis on relationships taught by the Relational Discipleship Network to the transformation through the Holy Spirit shown by Lionshare to the importance of good strategy taught by LifeWay (just to name a few), the gathering was a smorgasbord of effective teaching for church leaders. It was amazing to see how each track efficiently emphasized different aspects of Jesus’ style disciple-making.
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3. Disciple Making is a Solution to a Vast Array of Challenges
Our track leaders talked about many diverse issues. You could find sessions on addiction, same-sex attraction, student ministry, men’s issues, women’s issues, etc. God has made us as people who need the help of other people to deal with our problems. Jesus and the early church show us that we overcome our challenges when more mature believers love us and show us the way.
4. We Cannot Emphasize Loving People Enough
Jesus-like love is not only emphasized in the Bible; it is at the heart of biblical disciple making. From the main stage session on reaching millennials by Thom Rainer to a theology session with New Testament scholar Matthew Bates, the importance of loving people kept ringing out. As psychiatrist Marcus DeCarvalho put it (he led the track on addictions): “I have never seen anyone overcome a serious addiction without the help of someone else who has overcome an addiction.”
5. We Witnessed Unity and a Lack of Egos
Before the first main session, all 17 network leaders gathered for a private meeting to introduce themselves and pray for the Forum together. It was fantastic to see that everyone had agreed upon our ten affirmation about Jesus style disciple making and how it created such unity. We could say with confidence that we were all aligned and on the same page. Furthermore, everyone prayed for the success of everyone else. We witnessed a lack of egos and great hearts for the things of God the whole time we were together.
It was a beautiful time. God was glorified, leaders were encouraged, and lives changed. I am already looking forward to the Forum on October 25-26, 2018 when I trust that God is going to do it again for our 3rd annual gathering!