Takeaways from the "National Disciple Making Forum!"

The “National Disciple Making Forum” is a relatively new conference. I believe it is only a few years old and last week was its third year. I have made the trip to Franklin, TN the last two years to be a part of this conference hosted by Discipleship.org. Behind the scenes of this conference is an absolute passion and sense of urgency for making disciples who will make disciples that will start new churches. It is at the core DNA of all that Discipleship.org and the National Disciple Making Forum stand for.

Bobby Harrington from Harpeth Christian Church is the wizard behind the curtain. He is an amazing guy and anyone who has met him would tell you the same. With a strong vision for the future of the church, he leads with passion toward disciple making movements. He has been instrumental in the creation and development of Renew.org, a movement of people that are “Renewing the Teachings of Jesus to Fuel Disciple Making.”

If you do not believe in Christianity progressing to fit the culture and you are passionate about making disciples as the primary mission of the church and followers of Christ, this conference and movement are for you.

So from October 24-26, our team spent a couple days with passionate men and women at the leading edges of disciple making movements. We learned frameworks, principles and practical engagement with the culture. It was an amazing week and I’m excited to share with you a few of my takeaways.


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“The greatest ‘Thank You’ to god is pointing one of His lost children home.” -Jim Putman

It’s no secret that I have a lot of respect for Jim Putman. I appreciate his fire and passion for disciple-making. He leads a 6000 person church in Idaho but is more passionate about disciples made than having a big church. His story alone is fascinating.

We may talk a lot about how grateful we are about grace, forgiveness, mercy, etc, but it means very little if God’s children aren’t reaching other lost children. This was a powerful way to illustrate disciple making.

“The first 72 hours after baptism are crucial. Who is your best friend you’re going to tell today? Tell me what you’re going to say. I’ll text you in the morning to see how it went.” -Bill Smith

As I have learned more and more from Bill Smith, I find myself constantly challenged to take next steps. He is a straight shooter and pulls no punches, but that’s part of his charm. His challenge for me in this 72-hour window was on point. You must be able to define what you believe the irreducible minimums of discipleship are and immediately after someone is brought to Christ, get them moving in that direction. The sooner the better. If they sit in a pew for 60 years thinking salvation was a once in a moment thing, it will be incredibly difficult to get them moving again.

Get them moving in the first 72 hours. Who are they going to tell? Before you do, tell me what you’re going to say (Bill is big on training). Okay, I’ll text you in the morning to see how that conversation went (Bill is also big on accountability).

This sense of urgency is what has allowed Bill to be used by God in disciple making movements all over the world.

“Rule of thumb: if it doesn’t happen in two weeks, it won’t happen!” -Bill Smith

Again, the sense of urgency when it comes to disciple making. Give those you are discipling a deadline. No more than two weeks. If they aren’t going to do it in two weeks, they probably aren’t going to do it at all.

  • Who are you going to share your story with in two weeks?

  • Who do you need to start a conversation with?

  • What Scripture are you reading in the next two weeks?

  • What’s the name of one person you know who needs Jesus and when are you going to start a conversation with them?

“Prayer and fasting are the key ingredients to the movement of God.” -Shodankeh Johnson

One of the reasons I believe that disciple-making movements aren’t happening in the West is because we are self-sufficient. We have so much that we simply don’t have a desperate desire for God to show up. From technology to social media to lighting systems and haze, we have it all.

But when it comes to disciple making movements we in the West are the little brothers to the global South and China. We have so much to learn. Shodankeh Johnson is from Sierra Leone and says that the reason for movement in Sierra Leone is because of their commitment to prayer and fasting. God is moving not because of technology and strategy, but because of a complete dependance on the Spirit of God to move in people’s lives. Shodankeh is one of the most powerful men I have ever heard speak.

“Do not begin disciple making midstream, start at the headwaters.” -Jim Thomas

Let me clarify. The Bonhoeffer Project was sharing in a session called, “The Gospel You Believe Determines the Disciple You Make.” The concept was that many churches begin the disciple making process midstream. We hear “make disciples” and our first step is a new strategy or to ask, “Who’s model is working in the US?” Then we jump in midstream and toss people into a new strategy or process.

Instead, we should begin at headwaters. Don’t form your disciple making strategy from work being done by others. Begin with Scripture. Start at the beginning. Your church staff or leadership team (whoever is leading this charge) should spend time in Scripture discussing disciple making and what that means. Get clarity first on Scripture then build your strategy, model, definition, process, etc.

“There is no boldness without obedience.” -Stan Rodda

To be clear, I was not speaking at this conference. That’s not really my thing. I say this because as I read through the book of Acts recently, I began highlighting all the times the Apostles spoke or prayed for boldness. I began praying that same thing. “God, give me boldness.”

But the reality is that I can pray that all day long and never be bold. I can pray and ask for boldness every single day for 80 years of my life and never once act in boldness. That’s because there is no boldness without obedience. No boldness for Christ without obedience to Christ. No boldness for the Gospel without obedience to the Gospel message. It simply won’t happen.

Eventually I have to open my mouth and talk to someone. Eventually I have to start a conversation with someone. Eventually I have to actually be bold. So while I think it’s great to pray for boldness, the overarching lesson learned from this week at the Forum was simply, “Obedience!” Begin with a predisposition to obey.

No boldness from Jesus if He isn’t obedient to the Father.

No boldness from the Apostles in the New Testament if they aren’t obedient to Jesus.

No boldness from Bill Smith toward movement if he isn’t obedient to Jesus.

No boldness from Shodankeh to start a 10,000+ person disciple-making movement primarily reaching Muslims in Sierra Leone if he isn’t obedient to Jesus.

No boldness from any of us if we aren’t obedient. Boldness is seen when we act in obedience.

These are a few of my takeaways from the “National Disciple Making Forum” in Franklin, TN. I would highly encourage you to consider this conference in your planning next year. If you can only make one or two, you should consider attending this one. Click here to look into tickets for 2019.