By Chris Moon
A new gathering of disciple-makers within the Restoration Movement—and beyond it—will meet Nov. 6 in Nashville.
The Renew Gathering is expected to draw about 600 people. It is aimed at helping participants grasp solid disciple-making theology.
The conference will serve as a precursor to the annual National Disciple Making Forum, which also will meet in Nashville and is set for Nov. 7, 8.
“At Renew, you get the theology. At the National Disciple Making Forum, you get the methodology,” said Bobby Harrington, who is organizing both conferences and leads their accompanying websites, Renew.org and Discipleship.org.
Harrington is founding pastor of Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin, Tenn. Over the years, he said he has developed a passion for discipleship, something he sees as key to the success of the church.
That passion in 2016 led to the formation of Discipleship.org. Harrington said the website “champions the discipleship method of Jesus” and has been supported by discipleship leaders like Robert Coleman and Jim Putman.
Harrington claims the site now is the largest gathering of disciple-making networks in North American history. It partners with about 30 disciple-making organizations both inside and outside the Restoration Movement and is visited by 24,000 people every week. Its podcasts are downloaded 5,000 times weekly, and it has sold 100,000 books through Zondervan and HIM Publications.
But in the course of running Discipleship.org, Harrington said he and others have come to the conviction that good discipleship must be based on solid theology. And that is the purpose of Renew.org, which was launched in early 2019. The first Renew Gathering was held a year ago with 280 participants.
Disciple-making, Harrington said, must emerge from the theology that sees discipleship as essential to the Christian faith. And that theology must include a place for the work of the Holy Spirit in disciple-making.
“The empty place we’re trying to fill is rock-solid theology that focuses on disciple-making,” Harrington told Christian Standard. “There’s been a breakdown in the connection between Christian churches and the schools (the Bible colleges and seminaries).”
Harrington has spent years training church planters with Stadia Church Planting. In the process, he saw a deep need for more focus on discipleship within the church planting world.
Renew.org has been endorsed by some major figures in the Restoration Movement. Former Southeast Christian Church senior minister Bob Russell, Christ Church of the Valley teaching pastor Mark Moore, and Ozark Christian College president Matt Proctor are on that list.
“We want to take the best of the Restoration Movement theological heritage to a wider audience,” Harrington said.
Harrington cautions that he does not want people to think Renew.org champions “old Restoration Movement legalism.” Nor, he said, is he talking about a “progressive leadership culture focus.”
“We think both of those are not getting to the importance of theology and disciple-making,” he said.
The idea of the 2019 Renew Gathering is to steep participants in the theology of disciple-making before moving forward to discipleship methodology at the National Disciple Making Forum.
In addition to Moore, Proctor, and Putman, speakers at the Renew Gathering will include Dave Clayton, founding pastor of Ethos Church in Nashville; Shodankeh Johnson, leader of the disciple-making movement in Africa; and Joanne Kraft, author and leader of DiscipleshipforWomen.com.
The conference’s theme is “Gospel Allegiance,” which is based on a book of the same name by Matthew Bates, a professor at Quincy (Ill.) University. The core Scripture for the conference is Romans 1:16, 17.
“Gospel allegiance is in contradistinction to the allegiance to the values of our culture,” Harrington said.
The Renew Gathering and the National Disciple Making Forum are sandwiched between the Spire Network’s first conference, held last week in Orlando, and the 2019 International Conference on Missions, set for Nov. 14-17 in Kansas City.
Harrington said the Renew Gathering does not view itself in competition with either of those events. The new Spire Network—a leadership development platform that has replaced the North American Christian Convention—is geared toward developing church leaders and stimulating church growth, among other things. Like Renew.org, it also has a strong online component (at Spire.network).
But Renew.org is aimed specifically at training up disciple-makers.
“We actually think we can help and partner because we’re slightly different than Spire,” Harrington said. “We’re not in competition. We’re trying to do different things.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.
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Renew.org will sponsor a free webinar featuring Mark Moore from 2 to 3 p.m. CT on Oct. 24. The topic is “Clear Theology for Everyday People.” Learn more at Renew’s Facebook page.