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Buddy, David, Jeff, Dan and Woody

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier faced off in the 3rd matchup of their boxing careers. The previous meetings had them tied one win each. In what was an amazing fight, Ali won by technical knockout in the 15th round. The bout is ranked in the sport as one of the best in the sports history.

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Philippine Bible Society Staff

WDA sent a team of five men to the Philippines this April, and it was a “Thrilla” as well. For over the last nine months WDA has been establishing a relationship with a ministry partner, James Tioco (pron ch-eo-ko), who leads a ministry called Sowers of the Word (S.O.W). James had contacted WDA after reading many of our books and looking at our website. He believed that WDA had the comprehensive approach that would serve the church in the Philippines. Our Exec VP and C.O.O., David Partfitt, began a dialogue over the phone and by Skype which allowed us to learn about them and them about us. It was clear that James wanted to see WDA help him roll out a discipleship ministry. So this brought us nine months later to our trip to Manila.

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James Tioco: Sowers of the Word

David Parfitt, Dan Horne (WDA Board Chairman), Woody Johnson (WDA Board Member), Jeff Pritchett (Chick-fil-A), and I (WDA Church Staff, Atlanta Arts Coordinator, Publishing Leader) began to develop a series of presentations for church and ministry leaders, denomination leaders and ministry partners. We flew to Manila April 27-May 7, and over a week introduce the ministry of WDA to a limited number of people who we hoped would pray, lead and/or volunteer to be WDA trainer of churches. From the beginning, we realized that James could have gathered hundreds of leaders to a one day “training” but we wanted to be strategic in our launch. Limiting the numbers would allow James and Sowers to have a manageable number of people to train.

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Monday Group of 80

On Monday and Tuesday we did full-day “orientation” meetings in which we discussed the need for discipleship, the priority of the local church as the vehicle for disciple building, the process, biblical foundation, and our Biblical Framework and the Five Initiatives of Disciple Building, R-CAPS®. Each day closed with a challenge for them to pray, lead a new or existing group using our approach, and/or also be willing to become a WDA Trainer to train churches and ministries to use our approach in their context.

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Wednesday Vision Lunch

Wednesday we met with potential ministry partners who would commit to pray and fund the ministry of WDA Philippines (Sowers). Our team also spent Wednesday morning meeting with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) who will be our in-country publishing partner. They will be printing and translating our materials for use beginning in Manila, then to other areas as God provides people and opportunity.

Our last day was a full day with the Sower’s ministry, discussing next steps, strategy and reporting on the results of the earlier meetings. We left the meeting with lots of energy and ideas for how we could move forward.

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Thursday Planning with Sowers

We were a bit overwhelmed by the many churches and pastors who already were committing to train other trainers. Many were already making plans to begin new groups or multiply existing groups and use our WDA approach and materials. They desired training as soon as possible and wanted to know what materials were ready now! We had financial backers who wanted to know more details and what would be needed to fund this initiative. James said that his phone was full of text messages each night following the meetings as people were responding very positively towards our orientations and vision.

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Tuesday Orientation

It is by the grace of God that our work in Manila is happening now. Even a few years ago WDA would not have had the ability to move forward with this type of initiative in the way we are able to do today. Over the last two years we have redesigned and printed books for our country and have the ability to take the exact same English materials and have the Philippine Bible Society adapt our format to one which is more suitable in size and affordability for the church there. After being on the ground and talking to leaders, hearing from James and his team, we are positioned to provide materials and training to over 700 people in just this first stage.

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Dan teaching on the Great Commission and Importance of the Church

We begin by providing leadership training and materials using WDA’s Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework and A Small Groups Manual. PBS will also print all of our Cornerstone (Phase 1 and 2) materials. Leaders will be using Pocket Principles® and Guided Discussions, and the students will get a version that has just the Pocket Principles®. The partners at PBS were very helpful as was the Sowers team in helping us decide how to configure our materials specifically for them.

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Jeff teaching on the process of growth

The churches want to launch their new groups as soon as possible, so we have a goal of 30 days to get new materials in their hands. Our publishing team and the PBS will be working hard in the next few weeks to get books reconfigured and to their printing press. We will also spend these weeks providing short video training segments that Sowers will use to begin to follow up from our orientation and prepare leaders to launch discipleship groups using Getting Started.  Over the next 12-18 months, they will complete all of Cornerstone. WDA will continue to work with Sowers to provide training from the U.S. while planning for second trip to roll our Life Coaching Ministry and additional training.

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David tying up all the various points

There is the potential for us to see thousands of people building disciples in a relational approach which is able to be adapted for their churches. We have seen a hunger for discipleship as person after person who connected with our presentations also saw the need and understood how our approach to disciple building was progressive, biblical and flexible. We worked very hard to show that one size did not fit all, and that WDA could help them design and build specifically for their country and culture. One leader over hundreds of churches said to us, “You know you have started a fire here.”

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Buddy teaching R-CAPS and 5 Phases

We are overwhelmed by God’s providential work in bringing our team to the Philippines, creating a desire for Biblical discipleship, providing people and organizations in-country that are primed to move forward and provide the people and resources for this to go forward.

As of this date we have 81 prayer partners, 71 leaders of new Cornerstone groups, 59 new Cornerstone trainers, 125 new small groups beginning. 35 Youth Pastors trained by a participant using R-CAPS®. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Board, approved our approach and ordered 50 copies of Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework Book.

We are humbled that God would use the five of us men to promote His work. This was not about us as individuals, but it was clear that God wanted to encourage these leaders that they and their church members can have a significant ministry to many people as they continue with us to fulfill Jesus’ commission to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching to do all that He commanded.

Our team, while still feeling the Jet Lag, returned with great joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of a launch of Disciple Building ministry with a great partner in Manila.

This certainly was a “Thrilla.” There will be much more work but also much more fruit from our trip.

 

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Woody sharing the testimony of a lay leader disciple builder

 

 

  • Pray for James Tioco and Sowers of the Word and for us.
  • Pray for the hundreds of pastors who this very moment are beginning to share what they learned in our orientation.
  • Pray for the publication of materials, training of leaders and wisdom for next steps.

Thanks for those who pray for our ministry. God is at work all over the world bringing people to himself and raising up men and women in the church who are committed to helping others grow to Christ-like Maturity.

Praise be to God!

maturity matters category image

“Most current approaches for helping Christians grow to maturity aren’t working. Many church leaders realize something is wrong but don’t know how to correct the problem. A shift may have started, but old traditions persist. Alister McGrath recognizes that we need a better strategy.

Evangelicals have done a superb job of evangelizing people, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but they are failing to provide believers with approaches to living that keep them going and growing in spiritual relationship with Him… Many start the life of faith with great enthusiasm, only to discover themselves in difficulty shortly afterward. Their high hopes and good intentions seem to fade away. People need support to keep them going when enthusiasm fades. [14]

I’m convinced that most church leaders are sincere, zealous followers of Christ, committed to helping people grow in Him. They’ve given their lives to Christ and His agenda. The problem doesn’t lie with their passion for God. Instead, it comes from their failure to have a strategic plan that produces maturity and has a practical use in their church.

We need a new approach, a new perspective. Any new approach requires a new way of thinking. And that’s a challenge in itself. It also requires biblical balance because the growth process involves both mystery and method. God’s in charge, but He expects us to do our part.” [From Maturity Matters]

Note:

14. Alister McGrath, Spirituality in An Age of Change: Re-discovering the Spirit of the Reformers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p.9.

Discipleship Culture

Discipleship CultureWhy Discipleship?

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

To be a Christian is to be a “disciple” – someone who is learning the way of Christ and following the way of Christ – as Jesus says, learning to obey all that he has commanded.  The Apostle Paul even called it “learning Christ” (Ephesians 4:20), being transformed into his image.  The goal of discipleship is Christlikeness.

But how does that happen?  How do you grow as a disciple and grow up into Christ and become transformed into his image?

 

Ephesians 4:11-16 gives a picture of how discipleship happens…

“[God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

These verses give you a picture of the process of growing up into Christ.  They show two main elements of discipleship…

First, the Apostle Paul mentions the formal offices in the church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  (Some of these offices, we believe, were foundational and have passed away.)  These formal church leaders have a primary responsibility for discipleship.  Put another way, part of discipleship happens through the official ministry of the church.  Theologians use the phrase – “the public and ordinary means of grace” – which are the preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and prayer.  These are formal, public and corporate means of discipleship.

In other words, coming to church is discipleship.  Discipleship is what happens in Sunday School, in the worship service, in prayer meeting, at the Lord’s Supper.  These are the corporate means of grace.

But Ephesians 4 also shows us a second element to discipleship, which is a “culture of discipleship” – the mutual discipleship of the Body, where all the saints are equipped for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all grow up into maturity in Christ, every part doing its share.

The key point is: Everyone is a disciple and everyone is a discipler.  Everyone receives and gives discipleship.  Everyone has a responsibility and a role to play.  There is no place in church for consumers.  We were all appointed to be producers, to bear fruit.  In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”  In the Christian life, we all receive ministry, but we all also are to minister.  We are disciples but we also disciple one another.

 

2 Timothy 2:2 says,

What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Titus 2:3 says,

Older women likewise are to be reverence in behavior, not slanderers, or slaves to much wine.  They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…”

1 Thessalonians 1:8 says,

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”

The people that Paul discipled were now discipling others.

Everyone is a disciple and everyone is a discipler.  Is that how you think of your Christian life?  Is that how you think when you come to church?  When you have children, you may think that way – that you have responsibility to disciple your own children.  But what about with other people at church – even people your own age, even your own pastors?  Do you any responsibility to disciple them?

 

What Is “A Culture of Discipleship”?

Biblically, discipleship is not a program, but is a culture.  Some churches have developed discipleship programs, which are kind of like classes that people complete.  These may have some value, but Biblically, discipleship is not a quantifiable skill-set, with set goals that can be achieved.  It cannot ultimately be a program, but is a culture.  Discipleship is what should happen in the ordinary ebb and flow of life.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  Discipleship should be part of your daily life!

According to the New Testament, discipleship happens not just through instruction, but through relationships and imitation.

In 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, the Apostle Paul writes, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

He repeats himself in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

In Philippians 4:9, he says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This kind of discipleship can only happen through the sharing of lives.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, the Apostle says, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.”

The dictionary defines a culture as “The shared values, goals and practices that characterize a group.”  So what is a “culture of discipleship”?  It is a group of people habitually demonstrating through their values and daily practices mutual love for one another and mutual encouragement to be like Christ.

On an individual level, it is being someone constantly looking to others for help in being like Christ  and looking to help others be like Christ.

When my wife and I were young Christians, we were very affected by relationships we had with other Christians, particularly older Christians.  By God’s grace, we were very much the initiative takers in pursuing those relationships.  We were constantly inviting ourselves over to people’s houses, offering to babysit their kids, watching their marriages, watching how they raised their kids, watching how they lived their lives.  We were ruthless in asking people questions:  “We’re struggling with this… How do we get through this? … Why did you do that? … How do you do that? …”  We were hungry to learn how to live practically in godly ways.  We benefited from inserting ourselves into people’s lives and proactively and persistently pursuing people – looking for help in being like Christ.  We knew we needed help.  Fortunately, there were older Christians who made themselves available to us, who were completely open towards us.  They were people putting themselves in our path to let us in.  We were constantly seeking them out, but they were constantly putting themselves in our path.

That’s what a culture of discipleship means – a group of people who are ruthlessly and seriously looking to others for help in being like Christ and looking to help others be like Christ.  

It is younger Christians pursuing older Christians, pursuing relationships, asking questions.  It is older Christians opening up their lives, putting yourselves in the paths of the younger.  It is also Christians of the same age and station of life mutually pursuing and encouraging one another.

One very important rule when it comes to discipleship is: The initiative for discipleship depends on you.  You have to be hungry and thirsty for discipleship.  You have to seek it out.  If you wait for someone else to initiate towards you – offer to disciple you, or ask you to disciple them – this culture will never develop.  It happens as you live this way yourself and open up your life to others.  Sometimes you might pursue others for help or seek to help others, and it may not be reciprocated or appreciated, for various reasons.  But beginning with you, so much depends on you having your heart open.  The Apostle Paul said, “Our heart is wide open…widen your hearts also” (2 Cor.7:11-13).

How ‘Discipleship’?

So what does initiative in discipleship look like?  What practical steps can you take to engage in discipleship?

First, it is important to emphasize the place of prayer for discipleship.  Do you regularly pray for other Christians in your church or your small group?  When you don’t pray for other Christians, you’re not thoughtful about them.  But when you pray, your mind and your heart are stirred to care for your brothers and sisters in Christ.  You’re thoughtful about ways they are struggling, thoughtful about their needs, and about how you might be an encouragement to them.  Your prayers for them are pleasing to God and near to his heart.  And he stirs your heart to be more purposeful in caring for one another.

Second, be thinking about ways you can use your natural gifts in discipleship What are you good at?  What are you interested in?  Could others be blessed by your sharing of these gifts with others?  A musician in our church mentioned specifically choosing hymns to play during the offertory that would encourage people she knew in the church who were struggling.  Instead of just picking a song by default, she was being thoughtful to use her gifts to encourage and disciple others. Are you a writer?  Are you a handyman?  Are you a baker?  Are you artistic?  Are there ways you can use these gifts to bless others?  Are there ways you could include others while you do these things?

Third, you cannot overstate the importance of hospitality for discipleship Particularly in our culture, which keeps people so far apart, inviting people into your home, allowing them in to observe your life and family, is incredibly powerful.  This was an important part of the early church (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32; see also 1 Peter 4:7-11).

 

The Fall issue of the 9Marks Journal on discipleship listed the following practical steps for discipleship:

In practice, how can I disciple other Christians?  

  1. Join a church.
  2. Arrive early at church gatherings and stay late.
  3. Practice hospitality with members of your church.
  4. Ask God for strategic friendships.
  5. If possible, include a line-item in your family or pastoral budget for weekly time with fellow Christians. Discuss this matter with your spouse. If possible, provide such a budget line for your spouse as well.
  6. Schedule regular breakfasts, lunches, or some other culturally-acceptable social engagement with teachable individuals (of the same sex). Depending on the person, you may decide to meet once, indefinitely, or for a set number of times (say, five). If you and the individual share a pastime, look for ways to share that pastime together.
  7. Ask them about themselves. Ask them about their parents, spouse, children, testimony, job, walk with Christ, and so on. In asking questions, however, do so in a manner that’s appropriate for your cultural context (don’t scare them!).
  8. Share about yourself.
  9. Look for ways to have spiritual conversations. Maybe decide to read the Bible or some other Christian literature together.
  10. Consider their physical or material needs. Would they benefit from your help?
  11. Pray with them.
  12. Depending on your home situation, invite the person to drop by your house or spend time with your family. Let them watch you live life.
  13. Look for ways to pray for the person throughout the week by yourself and/or with your spouse.

Appendix – Suggested Resources

Gospel-Centered Discipleship.  By Jonathan Dodson, Crossway/GoodNews Publishers.

Growing One Another: Discipleship In the Church (9Marks Healthy Church Study Guides).  By Bobby Jamieson, Crossway/Good News Publishers.

Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands.  By Paul David Tripp, P&R Publishing.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.  By Eugene Peterson, Intervarsity Press.

What Is A Healthy Church Member.  By Thabiti Anyabwile, Crossway Books.
Matt Foreman– Matt Foreman, studied at Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pastor of Faith Church in Media PA where he serves with his wife Mary Scott and a bunch of adorable red headed kids! Matt and Mary Scott are both Furman WDA alumni. Go Paladins! Read more of Matt’s blogs at http://blog.faithchurchpa.org/

Arusha Tanzania

At 2:00 on Saturday I’ll be on a plane, headed for Detroit and my final destination of Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.  Pastor Nnko, our Associate staff in Tanzania for almost twenty years, was a prolific church planter before he died in 2012.  Nnko began almost 25 churches and each one is pastored by one of his disciples.  He named the churches all ‘Grace Evangelical Church’ because he thought that was a cool name!

Dickson Lazier is one of his disciples.  Dickson pastors the church in Arusha, which was built by a group of men from our church here in Fayetteville.  I’ll be teaching three seminars for Nnko’s disciples since they are like sheep without a shepherd since he died.  I hope to re-focus their vision on helping their people to grow in Christ-like character.

Please be praying for Dickson and Pastor Charles Sengasu as they coordinate the seminars and for health and strength for me.

Thanks, Ken

Dickson's Church
Dickson’s Church
Arusha Tanzania
Arusha Tanzania