The Exponential conference has enjoyed a longstanding reputation as a premiere event for church planters. But for The Wesleyan Church (TWC), Exponential’s impact has offered resources, relationships and tools useful for every disciple-making endeavor.
“Exponential is often thought to be a church-planting event,” said Dr. Ed Love, TWC director of Church Multiplication. “But it’s also for just about anybody. It’s for the ordinary disciple maker, for the person who’s about to start something and it’s for sending leaders who want to mobilize people.”
Most church leaders hope their congregations are multiplying — stewarding the spiritual environment of the spaces in which they live, work and relate to others. For most congregations, then, the problem lies not with intention but with culture. As churches, prospective planters and leaders have participated in Exponential, Dr. Love has seen three main assets in Exponential’s approach to building a discipling culture in local churches.
- Making disciple makers: We celebrate every time a disciple makes another disciple. Part of that celebration includes a focus on resources, conversations and relationships that help our denomination and local congregations develop a system for identifying and reproducing disciple makers.
- Mobilizing the priesthood of all believers: Exponential has helped resource The Wesleyan Church’s clergy and laity as they work together to make disciples. Specifically, resources from Exponential have been helpful in training laity how to take the “spiritual temperature” of their workplaces, neighborhoods and social groups, helping them live into the gospel and share Christ as they do. Groups of committed laity have gathered all around TWC under the umbrella of Marketplace Multipliers, and Exponential has accelerated their work with resources, frameworks and how-to knowledge.
- Capacity-building: The work of making disciples who multiply can easily be pushed to the margins of a congregation’s to-do list, as both clergy and laity balance full schedules and diverse priorities. Exponential has been helpful for aiding leaders in building capacity so they can say “yes” to their most important work and multiply their leadership capacity through coaching and developing others.
But beyond the resources, Dr. Love is celebrating the stories of callings clarified and lives shifted at the conference.
“Some of those people are going to discover their calling and move into church staff or church planting; some won’t, and yet they’ll discover there’s a next level they need to go to … they need to restructure their business, start a new nonprofit or begin something that’s more evangelistic in nature,” reflected Dr. Love. “Exponential helps them realize they can use their skills to be a missionary in their context that they’re already in. They don’t have to leave and go overseas; they can fulfill a multiplication call right where they are. We see that happen time and time again.”
That same principle applies to small and mid-sized churches, many of which feel unsure how they can multiply. Rather than seeing multiplication as something to be done with the excess resources of a congregation, some small and mid-sized Wesleyan churches have prioritized multiplication first and have found growth in doing so.
One such pastor — Pastor Tim Jones of United Wesleyan Network (UWN) in South Carolina — has launched three new projects in the past two years and is helping UWN prepare to launch more. The sacrifice their church has made to serve their community more fully has not been easy.
“They’ve given very sacrificially financially, released people and they’ve done an incredible job building that relationship and sending people out,” recalled Dr. Love. That growth has created an energy around their congregation — an anticipation of “what’s next,” that stays in touch with the Holy Spirit’s prompt to continue pressing into wholeness for their community.
When considering how readers might pray, Dr. Love mentioned, “Pray for workers in the harvest, for people who say, ‘we need to go to them,’ instead of ‘they need to come to us.’”
For more information on how your congregation can join in the mobilizing work of making disciples who make disciples, click here.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the hospitality, college and young adult pastor at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana.