Random Notes on the way to The Exponential Conference
The Exponential Conference is the largest gathering of church planters there is. Best way I know how to describe it is 5000 people who think everyone will be baptized tomorrow. There is a lot of apostolic and evangelistic energy.
My first thought has been it was in Orlando 3 years ago, at the International Children's Ministry Conference, that my 20 chapters a day journey got kick started. I read the Bible in 18 days in January of 2020. The big push came in Orlando, in chunks of time around the Conference.
I knew 18 days was kind of ridiculous, so I read it again in February. That was probably not a sustainable pace, then I read how John Wesley's grandfather read 20 chapters a day, a two-month pace. Not for everyone, but doable.
The goal is to read. Not to study. Not to ponder. Read. Chances are, the Bible evades your comprehension bc you have not read it through at a pace that can help you comprehend it.
There is a place for study, a place to prayerfully meditate. And there is a place for reading it through to gain comprehension. Try reading it like you would a novel, a thriller. If you read that at your devotional pace, you'd never finish and you'd forget what happened in the first part.
The Exponential Conference has been key to my desire to see multiplication of disciples and churches. One of the early financial backers of the conference, Bob Buford, said, "my fruit grows on other people's trees," which is a great image of discipleship multiplication, investing in people so they can grow in their capacity to make disciples and plant churches.
It was at Exponential, probably 2013, where they emphasized "changing the scorecard," moving from counting just attendance and giving to counting professions of faith, people in discipleship groups, money going to missions, and
number churches planted.
III. The founder of the Exponential Conference, Dave Ferguson, has said there would be no Exponential Conference without Robert Coleman. Coleman was a professor at Asbury Seminary, starting in the early 50s. He was tasked with teaching an evangelism class. He decided that the class would read the Gospels and derive their evangelism theory from what Jesus taught and did. The result was a book, one of the most important Christian books, The Master Plan of Evangelism.
At a discipleship seminar, Francis Chan told an amazing story. He and the other presenters were at dinner. When they left, Dr. Coleman realized be forgot hia Bible. Chan remarked that, of course, Robert Coleman would have brought his Bible to dinner. Chan went back inside to get it. Selfishly because he wanted to get a peek. Inside, on the flyleaf, was name after name. Chan said some of the names you would know as prominent pastors or leaders of ministries. But there were hundreds of names. Chan asked him about the names. Those are people who over the course of 60 years of teaching were in small groups with him that would meet at 6 a.m. for Bible study. That is the interplay of discipleship with evangelism.
The autopsy on the United Methodist Church will probably never completely happen. How could an organization with hundreds of billions of dollars on its balance sheet, 30,000 churches, venerable colleges and hospitals...how could it so lose the trust of its people that it collapsed so spectacularly. People will point to doctrinal amnesia, weak leadership... among the many reasons, here is one we almost never mention:
For any regional/national denomination to maintain, it needs to annually plant 1% of its total number of churches. To grow, it must plant at least 3% of the total number of churches. I'd be interested to know when the last time that happened was. My bet: the 1920s.
So whatever comes next, wherever my church, Trinity Hill, lands, if it is not a group that plants 3% or more, it will simply be the newest failing denomination.
V. Some of you may have heard, Jessie's dad died yesterday afternoon. My flight to Orlando kept getting delayed, which I take as God's Providence, that I was able to drive Jessie home to Illinois so she would not have to be alone. Prayers are appreciated. Her dad knew the Lord.
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