When I walked through the front door of Harvest Baptist Church in Iola, KS twenty years ago, I was a 20-year-old punk kid with absolutely zero direction in life, a very limited college education, a disdain for “churchianity”, an affinity for charismatic doctrine, and an immense infatuation for a girl. I remember the people were friendly, and the music was really bad. I remember where I sat, and that there were more empty seats than filled ones. I remember the pastor’s funky mullet. I remember the message was in Acts 16. I remember eating a bologna sandwich that afternoon. I remember everything about that day, because that was the day my life changed. That was the day that I heard God speak to me. He spoke directly to me through the preaching of his word. I was rocked to the core. I knew that I needed whatever that church had figured out - even if it meant enduring the organ music.
My purpose on the planet became clear. Without discipleship, I would not be following the Lord today.
It wasn’t long until I could pinpoint that Jesus, the Bible, and one-on-one discipleship were the central issues at HBC. The pastor began to spend time with me, and then began to disciple me using sixteen lessons/booklets from the Kansas City Baptist Temple. My life began to change again. My relationship with Jesus was real. My motives toward my girlfriend and future wife, Kara, began to change. My purpose on the planet became clear. Without discipleship, I would not be following the Lord today.
I am passionate about one-on-one discipleship because it pointed me to follow Jesus and not my pastor. I am passionate about discipleship because I had some deep-rooted beliefs that were challenged and corrected through the word of God. I am passionate about discipleship because it directed me to see the freedom in submitting to the authority of scripture… not just believing what the bible said, but also submitting to its truths. I am passionate about discipleship because I have seen many lives changed because of it.
Unfortunately, we have seen the process of discipleship become stagnant at times within HBC. I know we aren’t the only church that struggles with the same issue. We were producing believers that were magnifying leadership over discipleship. They were focused on promoting a spiritual impression instead of engaging in the mission. They were emphasizing information over transformation and reproduction. In essence, we had believers going through the lessons and remaining immature in their relationships with God.
Over the years, HBC has used four separate discipleship materials. It wasn’t that we were looking for the “magic” materials, it was just that we were wanting to use the materials that would be the best fit for our church. We went from booklets, to workbooks, back to booklets, and then to spiral bound materials. Changing materials can be pretty costly when people are being re-equipped with the new stuff, and the dropout rate was not helping in our materials costs either. At the same time, we were beginning to see that we were needing a little more out of the lessons that we were using. And so we began to search for ways to remedy the limitations we were experiencing with the materials we were using.
After much prayer and deliberation, we decided to create our own set of lessons in-house. Our simple goals were to eliminate the costly and inefficient booklet/workbook format, and add in some things that we thought the current lessons were lacking. Simple… yeah right! Not long after beginning the rewrite process, it became evident that we were biting off a lot more than we could chew. We needed help. I called up Pastor Sam Miles and met with him at the conference room at Midtown Baptist Temple and asked for help. I didn’t even know what questions to ask.
Soon after, Brian Clark, Troy Stogsdill, Kenny Morgan, Sam Miles, myself, and others were in the same room discussing a joint effort in creating a set of editable discipleship lessons that could be used in all of our churches and future church plants around the world. Pretty exciting and pretty overwhelming. Kenny, Troy, Brian, and myself formed a team to focus on re-writing and editing the lessons.
The last thing we wanted to do was reinvent the wheel and start from scratch.
The last thing we wanted to do was reinvent the wheel and start from scratch. We had some pretty amazing materials available to us, so we started there. Greg Axe, Brian Hedges, Alan Shelby, Mark Brown, Mark Trotter, and Jeff Bartell were all gracious enough to contribute and send us their lessons.
Our team began to meet together through phone calls, email, Skype, Google Hangouts, and face-to-face meetings. I used the materials available to us as a guide, and begin re-writing a set of Living Faith Fellowship discipleship lessons. As the lessons were produced, they were sent to the rest of the team for their input on content, accuracy, and doctrine. Along the way we discussed and implemented the changes we thought were necessary, such as adding discussion questions throughout each lesson and adding a Personal Bible Study section to help the disciple learn how to further study each topic. Two lessons were added. One on the family, and one on how to take the next step in reproducing more disciples. The goals were reevaluated and changed to see every disciple established in the Worship of God, the word of God, the Local Church, and the Ministry. Brian Clark provided us with a list of values to help guide us in our efforts, which are as follows:
1. Focus on making doctrine the priority.
“And the things…” – 2Timothy 2:2
The relationship between the disciple and the discipler will determine whether discipleship will take place or not; however, the ultimate goal of discipleship is to equip faithful believers with sound Biblical doctrine. Bible doctrine will always be centered around following Jesus.
2. Focus on maintaining a teacher and student relationship.
“…that thou hast heard of me…” – 2 Timothy 2:2
There must be a disciple for it to be discipleship. This will normally happen one-on-one; however, it is possible to accomplish discipleship with two or three people, as long as there is only one teacher, and the rest are students. Discipleship is not simply a Bible study, or two individuals spending time together. It is focused on teachers pouring their lives and the word of God into their students.
3. Focus on having accountability.
“…among many witnesses…” – 2Timothy 2:2
Discipleship requires a close relationship between the disciple and the discipler. However, discipleship should not be carried out in isolation. There must be accountability from others who are able to witness the process and identify the goals being accomplished.
4. Focus on teaching in a way that is repeatable.
“…the same commit thou…” – 2Timothy 2:2
Present Biblical truth in a way that is simple to understand and in a way that will be easy for your disciple to reproduce and present to their disciples.
5. Focus on discipling faithful believers.
“…to faithful men…” – 2Tim 2:2
Discipleship is built upon one disciple of Jesus entering into a relationship with another believer who has been found to be faithful. There must be some time to establish faithfulness, and discipleship cannot be fully applied to a new believer.
6. Focus on making disciples that are able to make more disciples.
“…who shall be able to teach others also.” – 2Timothy 2:2
The reason we commit ‘these things’ unto faithful believers, is so that they can teach others to do the same. Your main goal is to make a disciple that will make more disciples.
We were able to make a completed, working copy available of the new Living Faith Fellowship discipleship lessons to other pastors at this year’s Discipleship Conference. We received a lot of feedback, and then we began the process of fixing the many grammatical mistakes. At this present time we are still going through the lessons to address any needed content changes and fix any formatting issues that have shown up. As churches begin using the new lessons, we will address the minor changes that will need to be made and make the updated version available as soon as possible. It is exciting to know that these lessons will be available electronically and in hard copy for people to use as best suits them.
We are praying that these new lessons will be a blessing to local churches around the world. Please join us in praying that the final corrections will be made in a timely manner. Pray that the focus of the lessons will remain solely as a tool to see men and women follow Jesus through the light of God’s word. Pray for opportunities for others to use these lessons in their own native heart language. Pray for other local churches around the United States and the world to fulfill the Great Commission in making disciples that make disciples. Pray that you will be passionate about what God is passionate about.