March 4-7, 2024, a record number of Wesleyans gathered at Exponential in Orlando, Florida, around the theme “One-Eighty: The Return to Disciple-Making.” Over the past several years, a Wesleyan presence has been growing at the conference; but this year reached a historic new high.

“We bought 500 tickets,” said Aimee Pratt, director of New Church Development for the Church Multiplication Collective. “But we ended up having 526 Wesleyans in attendance, and some others who wanted to join ended up having to volunteer in order to get a ticket.”

The Wesleyan pre-conference opened dialogue around disciple-making in our own denomination, with Director of Multiplication for the Church Multiplication Collective Reverend Jesse Pratt sharing about “turning up the heat on disciple-making.”

Jesse used the analogy of heat as a force for expansion, “When you turn up the heat in an environment, the molecules expand and more can be attached to them; if we want to see discipleship happen, we need to see how disciple-making can be the central point of our Next Gen ministries, our multiplication efforts and every component of the church.”

This pre-conference became a lab for various Wesleyan expressions of church to share their journey and approach to ministry across cultures, ages and contexts. And while the pre-conference highlighted many ministries who were doing good work, some of the best ministers were laypeople who (as they inhabit their “secular” vocation) find God calling them to invest some of their primary energies into disciple-making.

“It was healthy for me to know that we Wesleyans are still making discipleship a priority. My heart truly feels like God is saying ‘disciple,’” said Chris Hickok, associate pastor at Illuminate Church in Ionia, Michigan. “The pre-conference really affirmed to me that discipleship was still important in the eyes of the denomination and that fresh expressions of discipleship are supported.”

That disciple-making emphasis was evident in the pre-conference content and in practice. At the conclusion of the conference’s first day, a Wesleyan “multipliers’ party” was held that included a catered meal. During the meal, caterers were serving appetizers when Aimee noticed one church plant team (whose congregation was only a year old on March 26th) praying together. She recalled, “As the servers circulated, they [the plant team] started asking a server questions, and they ended up in a conversation about who Jesus was to them. She [the server] was moved and said she wanted to know Jesus. They [the plant team] just led this server to Jesus, and they’re wondering if we know a local pastor in Orlando who can help follow up in discipling her.”

The church plant team worked alongside the server, attempting to pair her with other mature disciples to journey with her in next steps of discipleship, and hoping she would take next actions to graft into a local congregation.

“By the end of the evening, that whole church group — that team — not only had gathered together and shared with her, but also had interacted with the rest of the catering team, who heard from the girl that these people had led her to Jesus,” recalled Jesse. “By the end of the night, they got the keys and permission to the outdoor baptistry at First Baptist where the conference was held — and they invited this young lady to come back.”

This kind of viral discipleship — born of intentional curiosity and contagious love — was a main takeaway for several conference attendees. As Aimee and Jesse reflect, they identified a few obstacles to contagious disciple-making that can prevent most churches from growing, including:

  1. Scorecard: We’re still working to move into a realm where our “scores,” celebrations and measurements, are less about how many come into the building and more about lives changed and how it impacts the lostness of our communities.
  2. Uncertainty / Overcommitment: People are so busy that in some cultures there is a sense of, “I don’t know how, and I’m not sure I can take on that responsibility.”
  3. Relocation of ministry: Many of us have been brought up to think we need to bring people to church to help them know Jesus. At our best, however, churches mobilize their congregation to be shepherds in their everyday lives.

“God is on the move. Having the opportunity to witness thousands of Christians, in one voice, echo the great commission and the need to intentionally make disciples, is something I won’t soon forget,” said Shaun Soliday, co-pastor at One City in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “My prayer now is that we will see the fruit of that commitment for generations to come.”

For those unable to attend in person, but still interested in leaning into the movement toward disciple-making, congregations and individuals can watch the Wesleyan pre-conference here.

Beyond that, Aimee encourages congregations to engage with the resources and relationships that already exist within our Wesleyan theological family — all of whom join together with one heart in this shared mission. “From Wesley Seminary, to Immigrant Connection, Next Gen ministries and Marketplace Multipliers, everyone was leaned in and willing to say, ‘we can help you explore what’s next,’” said Aimee. “If anybody is interested in learning more about how they can benefit from these resources, they can reach out to us.”

“It’s exciting to see how every level of The Wesleyan Church is aligned and supporting a disciple-making and church multiplying vision,” said Reverend Dr. Ed Love, executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship. “We realize we can’t have a church multiplication movement without a disciple-making movement. As we collectively lean into the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, I have no doubt we could find ourselves caught up in a movement that we’ve never experienced before!”

To learn more about Exponential conferences and becoming a disciple-maker, go to

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.