COLLEYVILLE—Clarifying what a “disciple” is and teaching pastors how to make them is the focus of next month’s Ignite Conference, co-sponsored by First Baptist Church of Colleyville and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Pastors have been trained “to preach sermons and to run specific programs and then to do pastoral care,” First Baptist Colleyville Pastor Craig Etheredge told the TEXAN. “You can do all three of those and not be making disciples that know how to reproduce or multiply. Jesus did a lot more than preach to the crowd or do pastoral care, even though he did those things. He spent the majority of his time with a handful of men that he invested in and trained to reproduce.”
Ignite will teach pastors how to follow Jesus’ disciple-making pattern, Etheredge said. The Feb. 7-8 conference at the Dallas-Fort Worth area church will feature keynote addresses by writer and discipleship expert Bill Hull and church planting leader Neil Cole. Breakout sessions will address topics ranging from discipleship in the family to “the priesthood of every believer” and disciple-making strategies in the local church.
Learning how to make disciples was among the three greatest needs of Texas Southern Baptist pastors according to a recent SBTC survey, Etheredge said. “That’s really what led us to partner with the convention to work on this together. The Ignite Conference is unique in that it is a best-practices conference. In other words, it’s not just telling people that come how we do it in our church … We try to bring in guys that are experts in this from across the country,” he said.
This is the third annual Ignite Conference but the first time SBTC has partnered with First Colleyville to host it. After the first conference, which was aimed at the church’s own members, First Colleyville learned that others were interested and broadened its focus last year. This year, registration is discounted thanks to help from the SBTC.
Some pastors came to last year’s conference on the verge of quitting, Etheredge said, but they realized how they could “ignite a movement” of Christ followers that would continue after they were gone—the rationale behind the conference’s name.
Chris Shirley, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, said Ignite helped his congregation translate their vision for discipleship into a concrete plan.
“Our church recently engaged in an envisioning process. One of the outcomes of this process was a clear, biblical mission to make, mature and multiply followers of Jesus,” Shirley said in a statement on the Ignite website. “However, the question we immediately faced was. ‘How do we do that?’
“Then, we attended the Ignite Conference and were exposed to Jesus’ method of disciple-making. It became apparent to all of us that this is how we were to fulfill the mission God has given—not only our church, but every church. We are in the process of implementing one-on-one disciple-making in our church and we can’t wait to see how God will transform us.”
At First Baptist, a focus on discipleship has produced members who follow Christ and train others to do the same. Etheredge said he uses a four-step process of leading people to Jesus, connecting them to the church, helping them walk with God and teaching them to produce other disciples.
He cites a member named Zack as one of many who have transitioned from being lukewarm believers to red-hot disciples. A longtime Christian, Zack had never received in-depth training on how to walk with Jesus. Then he connected with the church and began to meet weekly with a staff member and several other men. Eventually he began training others to follow Jesus and is preparing to leave his secular job to do full-time disciple-making.
In addition to training its own members, First Baptist consults with sister churches regarding their discipleship processes and disciples believers overseas in Zambia, Cuba, Poland and Burkina Faso.
“When a pastor has a vision for discipleship in his church that directs his ministry and his own life, this is something to celebrate,” SBTC church ministries associate Lance Crowell told the TEXAN.
“Craig Etheredge has a heartbeat for making disciples that make disciples. He and his staff model it in his church weekly, and he helped the church catch a vision for reaching the lost and really discipling them to make disciples.”
Etheredge hopes Ignite will help other churches catch the vision too.
“The Ignite Conference is designed to raise the banner of disciple making in the local church,” he said. “Our vision is to multiply disciple-making churches across the state of Texas and hopefully beyond that.”
General registration is $89 after Jan. 15, student registration is $39 and groups of five or more are $49. Also, a pre-conference session is $20. To register, or for more information, visit timetoignite.org.