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DNA of Disciple Making

What does it mean to be a disciple-making church? Keith Foster has been engaging with the question and wants to expand the discussion during a conference coming up in June.

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In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave a clear command: “go and make disciples.” That means close followers of Jesus, who “obey everything” he taught.

I’m sure most Pastors would agree with the importance of this, yet so often we can find ourselves seeking to create converts who become followers of the church. Conversation can quickly turn to numbers that responded, visitors to our services (or even the number of our services) – with disciple-making either assumed as ‘what we do’ or at worst forgotten.

During our recent series in 2 Timothy here at Bethel Church, Coventry, we were challenged to be a people whom ‘receive, practise and share’. Not only are we blessed through the receipt of forgiveness and Christ’s daily truth and enabling, but this must also change our practise (what we do), ultimately leading to sharing this with others. That means we truly might become those that ‘multiply’ – make disciples, other close followers of Jesus.

As we spent time in this series, we have become increasingly aware that doing this takes intentionality: it is not something that we do naturally. Thus, Jesus must command us to do so.

Resources on Discipleship

To this end, I started to look at the vast array of resources and books with regards what it might look like to become a truly disciple-making church. I don’t mean to have ‘discipleship’ as part of the church programme but to develop a church that would have a DNA of discipleship.

I was privileged to come across the Bonhoeffer Project co-founded by Bill Hull and Brandon Cooke from the USA. I had read several of Bill’s books on discipleship including his latest Conversion & Discipleship – it challenged me to the core. As a Pastor, how was I intentionally developing a disciple-making church?

This question would not go away, so, in November 2017, I attended the Bonhoeffer conference in Nashville where I was able to hear Bill & Brandon, but also meet Pastors from across the US who were also on a journey of intentional disciple-making.

Following the conference, I was invited to take part in one of their cohorts, where pastors mentor pastors with a single goal – to encourage and hold each other accountable in developing a DNA of disciple-making within our churches. I am still on the journey with these Pastors and I love it.

Conference in Coventry

As Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 was to ‘the world’, I want to share my journey with fellow Pastors in the UK.

To this end I have invited Bill and Brandon to deliver a Bonhoeffer Conference here in Coventry and that is why I am writing this article. This June (25-26) sees Bill Hull and Brandon Cooke coming to the UK to deliver a two-day conference on what it means to make disciples and how we, as Pastors, might start to develop a DNA of disciple making within our churches.

It will be challenging: the first day will encourage to seek allegiant disciples of the King, not just those who profess faith. A phrase that has resonated with me during these months is: the gospel we preach determines the disciples we make – so true.

There will also be sessions on discipleship within our Western context and opportunity for Q&A from the floor. Time to network, both with Bill, Brandon and the other delegates will also be part of our programme.

Yet this is not a conference designed to cast us adrift at the end. Rather this is an invitation to ‘come and see’ with an ongoing opportunity for partnership with Bonhoeffer (UK) aimed at creating a movement of like-minded pastors and organisation leaders who desire to see authentic and transformative Christ-following disciples within the churches, organisations and communities they care for. In effect, developing a DNA of disciple making amongst those they minister to and with. I do hope that you can join me.

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Keith Foster

Keith has been the Pastor of Bethel Church Coventry since September 2009. He has a BA (Hons) in Theological Studies from London School of Theology and an MA in Missional Leadership. Keith has been married to Lesley for 34 years and they have two grown-up daughters who love and follow Jesus.