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Discipleship, evangelism conference coming this fall

By Martha Holmen

Christians interested in discipleship and evangelism will have an opportunity to connect and learn together this fall. Discipulus’18, a new national conference, will be held Oct. 18-19 at St. Paul, Bloor Street in Toronto.

Discipulus’18 grew out of the Vital Church Planting Conference, an annual gathering that focused on planting new Christian communities and fresh expressions of church. “There’s been a growing recognition that we may have put the cart before the horse, in that we’ve been talking about mission without focusing on the hard work of renewal,” says the Rev. Canon Judy Paulsen, chair of the Discipulus’18 planning team. “That renewal is linked to evangelism, but first to discipleship and getting Christians excited and passionate to share what they’ve come to know about the faith.”

The Rev. Dr. Joan DeVries, keynote speaker at Discipulus’18.

Discipulus’18 will focus on how churches can make disciples in their own communities who will be energized to share their faith with others. “We want to draw a stronger link between evangelism and formation,” says Canon Paulsen. “Both in equipping and resourcing, we’re hoping to encourage churches, whether large or small, to really take disciple-making seriously as an important foundation of renewal.”

This year’s keynote speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Joan DeVries, a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church with practical experience as a liturgist, writer and teacher. “An important focus in her life, in her study and in her doctoral work is the connection between the Christian community and formation, and how formation happens in outreach, small groups, worship, church structure and leadership,” says Canon Paulsen.

Canon Paulsen says she also considers it a strength to have a keynote speaker from outside the Anglican tradition. “She is keenly aware of the context that is a challenge to all denominations now,” she says. “I think she will bring a unique perspective to us that also addresses the cross-denominational pull of this conference.”

In addition to three keynote talks, Discipulus’18 will offer two sets of workshops on making disciples in churches. On Thursday, the sessions will consider how discipleship can be at the centre of all church activity, from budgets and governance structures to worship and social activities. On Friday, workshops will focus on specific programs and resources for discipleship, led by people who have used them in their own communities. Workshop leaders will be announced in the coming weeks.

While this is the first year for Discipulus, its organizers believe there is an audience across Canada eager to explore discipleship. “We’re hoping this conference will attract anyone who’s interested in the renewal of the church in Canada, and hopeful about that,” says Canon Paulsen. “Ultimately the renewal of the church is at its heart, for the sake of the world.”

Registration for Discipulus’18 is open, with an early bird price of $200 per person until July 31. After that, the cost goes up to $250. Theological students and postulants can attend for $200. To learn more and register, visit