Preparing People To Go: AFAM Congress on Discipleship

The making of this event started 40 years ago....

The AFAM Congress on Discipleship, having reached its tenth year, is clearly a work of God’s good hand. The 2012 AFAM Congress was by far more than just a conference. It was history. Topping out at 423 in attendance, registrar Mike Slone says that more than half of those attending the Congress were students. Some came from campuses that do not even have Navigator ministries.

“The making of this event started over 40 years ago.” says Rich Berry, Congress director. The Navigators ministry to African Americans officially began with the Berry’s ministry at Tuskegee University in Alabama in 1970. However, in the early1960s God used African-American Roy Briggs to minister to military personnel.

How does a ten-year-old multigenerational event create such a strong following among so many? And how did it get students to give up their spring break to attend? Workshop leader and businessman Robert Yeldell believes it’s in the simplicity of the message. “The Congress pushes a very simple message; become a disciple and then make a disciple. The Congress taught it, preached it and people throughout the hotel were seen sitting with others, coaching and sharing how it can happen in their own lives and ministries. It was amazing.”

The critical point of any ministry is its ability to grow and still maintain its “DNA.” Berry believes that the structure of the event helps maintain its DNA of developing high impact disciple-making leaders. There are actually several conferences within the Congress.

These “conferences” are four to five hour tracks, organized and facilitated by The Navigator field ministries staff. Each track leader is responsible for the recruitment, teaching and training of disciples. “The Congress doesn’t have a follow up committee, per se. Follow up is built into the tracks. All the Congress does is to create an opportunity for gathering.” says Berry.

Another big win of the Congress was reaching into the African-American church community. The Congress staff believes that the African-American Church is a key component to the long-range sustainability of the discipling movement spawned by this event. The church track had the second largest block of participants. The Congress had as main speakers, Okorie Kalu, Rev. Kevin James and Bishop C. Milton Grannum. The church presence was also felt with a busload attending from The New Covenant Church of Philadelphia, (speaker Bishop Grannum’s church), seminary students from Boston, and many laypersons from around the mid-Atlantic.

The Congress staff also believes that the best is yet to come. Navigator and Congress finance director Kirk Reynolds led a workshop on how to develop a mini-Congress in your hometown. Reynolds believes the Congress should be made available to everyone who wants to know and grow as Christ's disciples. Hence, there is a need for small events that are local, easy to manage, affordable, and close to the persons they are trying to reach. “We believe that the mini-Congresses will eventually be the biggest driver of this movement.” says Reynolds.

Thank you for praying. God assembled a stellar team of Congress staff and a financial commitment by the Navigators field leaders to make this year’s Congress an unprecedented event. The participants were multiracial, multigenerational, and mostly growing believers ablaze with enthusiasm. There is no doubt that this event was the product of many prayers and will make a permanent difference in reaching the world for Christ."

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