By Jennifer Johnson
You may know Exponential as the premier conference for church planting, but you may not know that a similar event exists for leaders focused on discipleship—and that some of the same people are behind both.
Todd Wilson, founder and director of Exponential, and Bobby Harrington, lead pastor at Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin, TN, launched the National Disciple Making Forum in 2014 at Saddleback Church in Southern California as a way for disciple-making leaders around the country to learn, pray, worship, and grow together.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take this on, honestly,” Harrington says. “But when Todd committed to help me, I said OK. We felt the time was right and we envisioned the event as more of a forum than a conference—we thought people would be more interested in a conversation than in just listening to speakers.”
Today, many of the key leaders, pastors, and authors who are thinking and writing about discipleship are part of the annual gathering. Last October’s event in Nashville, TN, included Jim Putman, Robby Gallaty, Randy Pope, Bill Hull, Robert Coleman, Dann Spader, and others. Wilson and Harrington also provide the discipleship tracks and discipleship pre-conference at the Exponential East and West conferences.
“We’re also creating books and other resources, because we see this as a movement, and movements need definitions, resources, and frameworks,” Harrington says. In addition to his books, DiscipleShift (written with Jim Putman), Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus (written with Jason Houser and Chad Harrington), The Disciple-Maker’s Handbook (written with Josh Patrick), and Discipleship that Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow (written with Alex Absalom), the Discipleship.org website also includes books from others as well as a blog, a podcast, and digital access to sessions from previous forums.
Harrington and his team are releasing an online assessment tool through Discipleship.org so people can determine where they are currently as a disciple maker and discover areas of potential growth.
“Although we intentionally involve many leaders from a variety of denominational backgrounds, the National Disciple Making Forum—like Exponential—is rooted in the Restoration Movement,” Harrington says. “After all, our movement at its best is a call to follow the lordship of Jesus according to Scripture, and that’s what being a disciple who makes disciples is all about.”