The subject of discipleship took center stage on the first day of the Exponential West conference hosted at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., where 2,000 church planting leaders onsite were treated on Tuesday to the first 10 of 27 speakers planned for the 3-day event.
Saddleback's own Pastor Rick Warren led a mid-day session on the topic of making disciples, along with pastors Robert Coleman and Ray Chang. Other speakers on Tuesday included Jim Putman, Derwin Gray, Obed Martinez, Shawn Mitchell, Alan Hirsch, Debra Hirsch, and Larry Osborne.
Warren said that although not always practiced among Christian leaders, being a servant such as the example Jesus Christ set is the key to making good disciples. He pointed out that the term "servant leader" is an unnecessary one.
"Why do you have to be a servant leader? Just be a servant," Warren said. "Jesus said, 'I came to serve and to give my life as ransom to many.'"
He added, "The more I serve the more influential leader I become. I don't try to be a leader. I try to be a servant. By the way, you cannot learn leadership in a class. There's only one way to learn leadership – let people lead. That means they are really going to screw up. But that's how you learned," Warren said, referring to the audience of pastors and ministry leaders. "You didn't learn leadership in a book. You learn leadership by actually leading and you let people make mistakes."
Warren is scheduled to lead morning Bible studies to be webcast from the conference on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:15 am PT. The studies can be viewed for free on the conference website at http://live.exponential.org/. More live-streaming video of the conference will be available as well.
The conference includes a growing movement of Christian leaders committed to accelerating the multiplication of healthy, reproducing churches. Exponential leaders say they are fueled by a goal to see as many church leaders, small groups, church planting launch teams, individuals and even full churches participating in the discipleship conversation as possible.
The webcast is the second one Exponential is hosting this year in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources. In April at Exponential in Orlando, more than 40,000 leaders from 93 countries tuned into the free webcast featuring 25 leaders, including Francis Chan, Wayne Cordeiro, Craig Groeschel and 22 others. Anyone registering for the free webcast was asked to indicate how many people would be watching.
Prior to Exponential West, the organization's director Todd Wilson and president Dave Ferguson were encouraged by the numbers of entire teams that had already signed up to participate in the webcast. The total number of viewers for Tuesday had not been tabulated as of press time.
"This topic is an important one for all of the church; Jesus gave the Great Commission to everyone," Ferguson says. "These early registration numbers indicate that churches see this webcast as an important equipping tool to challenge and inspire everyone in the church."