New Connections and a Bright Future for WDA Africa
Nairobi 2017 finished Friday with the commissioning of 5 new staff, including new country directors for Congo and Ethiopia. Yesterday, those who are still here drove through Nairobi National Park featuring giraffes, one flustered ostrich, and a big lion fresh off her kill.
The conference I think far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Our 13 African associates connected exceptionally well with each other and our 13 American staff and volunteers, promising to pray for each other and to work together whenever possible. I was thrilled to see them think more strategically about WDA and begin to see it as a truly continental movement.
A few fun highlights from the week!
I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!*I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!
We had a very honoring “roast” for Ken, who started the international ministry 20+ years ago. We shared funny Ken stories and had a time to pray for him as he begins to step back and I take on more leadership. He was also very affirming of me to the guys in my new role.
Having Dan Horne, the chairman of the board there was a godsend, especially as our teams broke into country groups and developed strategic plans for nationalizing their ministries. He brought a lot of good business sense as well as a deep pastoral heart for the men.
It was so fun to have my dad Paul Harkness with me getting to know the guys, sharing a short devotional Friday morning, and then traveling with our group to the safari on Saturday. Of course everyone loved him and it was gratifying to come back with him to Kenya, the first place in Africa I visited with him back when I was in high school!
Restoring Your Heart leader, Nancy Higgins put a fire in everyone’s belly for bringing emotional restoration to their countries. Tanzania, Congo, and Ethiopia are ready to roll as soon as possible! Kenya is planning go through the work books as a team immediately.
I heard literally dozens of testimonies about how God had changed the lives of our staff and the people they minister to through WDA and how this week represented a new page in the history of WDA for them. They are going back home with new materials, a fresh passion, and a clearer vision for how to develop disciple-making movements in their communities and nations.
There are SO many other fun and significant highlights. But the bottom line is this: We connected with God and with each other this week. That was my biggest goal and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Now its off to Zambia! More on that to come!
After 43 years, our mission is STILL the SAME: To serve the church, worldwide, by developing Christlike character in people and equipping them to disciple others according to the pattern Jesus used to train his disciples.
This past year we lived this mission like never before! I continue to be awestruck as I witness the many ways God is working with and through WDA. Around the world there is a thirst for discipleship; disciple building is in great demand. I am grateful for the many people who are joining with us to provide a progressive and intentional discipleship plan that truly delivers believers who become mature in Christ!
2016 marked a year of tremendous growth, both in the U.S. and the world over. Our teams provided discipleship training to 27 international sites, training over 2,500 leaders who in turn trained and discipled over 170,000 people!
Domestically, we continue to build new partnerships with churches and ministry leaders. We are working with and through the local church to deliver Restoring Your Heart, Cornerstone, Life Coaching and Leadership Development ministries. These ministries are finding their way to Christian schools, men’s and women’s recovery centers, Sunday school classes, discipleship groups and community groups.
Our publishing arm has delivered dozens of new titles and many in multiple languages. We even established a partnership with the Philippine Bible Society for them to design and publish materials for the Philippines! We are also working with translators in Romania, Africa, India, Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines.
There is much to be thankful for and all of us at WDA know that without you, our faithful and dedicated supporters, we would not be able to make the impact that we do. May God bless you greatly for your love, care, prayers and financial support!
It is our desire that the following pages serve to provide evidence of the many good works in which you play a vital role! Please take a few minutes to enjoy and reflect on what God is doing. Already this year, WDA teams have ministered to Ethiopia, Malawi, and the Philippines. I am very excited to see what God will do in the rest of 2017.
Until next time…
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. (II Peter 3:18)
Together in His service,
Executive Vice President/Chief Operations Officer Worldwide Discipleship Association, Inc.
Read more about this year in the ministry of WDA in the 2016 Annual Report available as a Free Download.
When I look at the different people around my church, and talk to them about what they know about God or listen to discussions during our Sunday School classes, I realize that many people have an incomplete understanding of even the the basics of the Christian faith. I think the our Christian education is like swiss cheese. There are holes in what we know, or in how we have applied what we know, or even more so we don’t know enough it seems or lack the training necessary to help others learn.
WDA has spent years considering how we need to help people grow to maturity. I would love to say that the process of discipling someone is a clean step by step process where we learn one thing and go on to the next. The difficulty is that we tend to leap around without a clear idea of what we need to know and what we need to teach. WDA has a progressive plan for helping people grow. We begin with the basics and using tools such as the R-CAPS grid, we make a plan that allow people to grow in phases.
The challenge for any disciple building process is that people don’t always begin with one person at the beginning stages of faith in Christ and continue with them to maturity. The disciples were with Jesus as he discipled them over a period of three years. Not only were they with him, they left their jobs and followed him for the majority of that time. This is not only impractical it’s seems impossible in our modern context.
My experience as a discipleship pastor has shown me that building disciples takes more time than I ever expected. Some contexts provide a more robust opportunity such as the college campus, however the week by week discipleship in the church means that we have to commit to stay with one another long enough to grow. Having a plan enables your ministry to know not only where you are going but you can build out that plan, considering the time and commitment necessary to see people grow to maturity in your context.
With WDA’s R-CAPS Grid you can learn to see that discipleship is more than content alone, but is structured around relationships, focuses on application, involves praying with and for one another and builds situations where people can learn with others and do ministry.
WDA is working in a variety of ministry settings, with our 28/20 project, our Restorative Ministries, our International Leadership Training and Next Generation Ministry. One thing that we have learned. Discipleship requires a plan and takes time.
Take some time to learn more about our philosophy of ministry by reading Disciple Building a Biblical Framework. Contact WDA to learn more about how you can develop a plan for your church and ministry which can help fill in the holes and develop leaders for years to come.
April 1, 2014 • Mt. Carmel Presbyterian Church • 2048 Carmel Road, Charlotte, NC
Bill Watkins and I have been friends for forty years. We met while he was on staff with Campus Crusade and then worked together with Worldwide Discipleship Association. I was Best Man at his wedding.
We had a lot in common. (Except he had an IQ of about 10,000, and I didn’t.) We both collected stamps, baseball cards, and books. We also rooted for the same SEC teams, except when they played each other. And we read (and re-read) the same English authors: Sayers, Tolkien, Stott, and Lewis (to mention a few).
There’s another thing that Bill and I have in common: We both love, and are loved by, wonderful women who will receive a star in heaven’s crown for hazardous duty on earth.
Bill never held public office, or ran a company, or made a lot of money, or did many of the things that many people think evidence greatness. But he was an exceptionally great person: a loyal brother, a good son, a faithful friend.
He never wrote that book we all kept urging him to write. But (as you may already realize) he did something far more significant: HE WROTE LETTERS, hundreds and hundreds of them. And those letters, written by a man who loved God supremely, changed many lives. Mine was one that was changed.
I suspect that many of his friends have a“Letters from Bill” file. I want to remember him, and glorify God, by reading just a few snippets of his correspondence, samples of his trade and indicators of his heart. Once he sent a letter just because he loved the stamp.
A stamp which looks this good deserves to be mailed, and on an envelope worth carrying it. (Now I have an empty page to fill up to justify the postage!) I think we Christians ought to forget about trying to build an American culture that is seasoned with Christianity. It’s too late for that. We need to a build a distinctively Christian culture, proper to a holy nation and a royal priesthood, and let it shine against the darkening common culture, while we still have the freedom to be openly creative.
One of the last times I saw Bill, we went book-hunting together. It was one of our favorite pastimes with one difference: I collected books, but Bill actually READ them.
Friday was a depressing day, so I went book-browsing. (An alcoholic should not go into a bar.) I bought a 1913 edition of Hilaire Belloc’s: “The Servile State”. It was worth buying for the binding, but the contents are excellent too!
A good browser never stops with just the item he came in for. He looks around to see if there are any chance opportunities. Two books were lying on a bench, either put there by a clerk for later re-shelving, or left there by a customer. One of the books had an appetizing look to it. Sniffing it, I began to drool over its savory aroma. But a scavenger must be careful. The customer who left it might be back to claim his own. Just to make sure, I circled around, and the book was still lying there! I went back and looked it over again. Still cautious – a hyena is always nervous about a lion returning to claim his kill – but I left with the prize in hand!
In addition to his love of books, Bill loved discipleship. (I was not surprised to hear that he was launching a new men’s group at church this month.)
May our ministry produce knights and kings – men who know how to wield power and rule wisely. In paradise we were meant to be innocent kings, wielding authority and power incorruptibly. Now power corrupts. Can there be such a thing as an innocent king? Can a man conquer his enemies, subdue rebels, dispense justice, levy taxes, and command loyalty without so using force that he loses his purity? Do innocence and power go together? Of course they do in Jesus! He is the only innocent King – and we renounced His kingship and assassinated Him. Jesus is our stories-come-true. Innocence does sit on the Throne!
And sometimes it wasn’t what he wrote but what he quoted that made an impact. In ministry I was often embroiled in petty religious infighting. In response, Bill cited C.S. Lewis:
“Men who have gods, worship those gods; it is the spectators who describe this as religion! The moment a man seriously accepts a deity his interest in religion is at an end. He’s got something else to think about!”
It may be old news, but I hear you and WDA have been through another period of stress. When big celestial bodies change orbits, they emit a burst of gravity waves and space-time perturbations. You must have a Guardian Angel keeping you from colliding, crashing, or breaking apart into meteorites and moon dust. Astronomy and planets are not ready for ‘Comet Dukes’ just yet. WDA will not disintegrate until The Sovereign Lord speaks the word. God continues to polish your hide to a glowing sheen. He must have a special purpose for you. The way the times are going, righteousness and godliness will be rarer than ever. Keep sowing the seeds-of-revival, they’ll sprout someday!
Oddly enough, Bill and I rarely lived in the same city at the same time, but he loved to come for visits and we loved having him in our home. He told me once that “Ebenhearth”, our home in Fayetteville, reminded him of Tolkien’s Rivendell, calling it, “The Second to Last Homely House West of the Mountains”. After one visit he wrote Linda:
Households full of grace and wisdom seem to be disappearing. Without Ebenhearth Bob would have a lower platform, far less credibility, and a great deal less joy. The “Lady of Ebenhearth” adds something irreplaceable to his work.
In flipping through “That Hideous Strength”, I saw a line which brought Ebenhearth to mind. Merlin has made his way out of the ground and to the Manor of St. Anne’s-on-the-Hill and reflects to Ransom: “In all the house there are warmth and softness and silence that might put a man in mind of paradise terrestrial.”
I just reread the Descent of the Gods upon St. Anne’s in “That Hideous Strength”. I like the idea that Jupiter follows Saturn: jovial majesty follows numbing antiquity. In the end we will be able to laugh, for it is as becoming to royalty as to children. There’s laughter in heaven, contrary to the notions of secular spoilsports. It’s the atheist who’s a killjoy.
Bill had a special connection with Elena our daughter with Down Syndrome. I’d mentioned a baseball game where Elena executed a swinging-bunt and then ran to hug the pitcher.
What a dilemma Elena presented to the scorekeepers! Was the hugging-bunt a hit? fielders choice? error? That was a brilliant tactic – but she wasn’t thinking about tactics was she? She has a wonderful mind and it would be fascinating to know how she thought of baseball. Of course you hug the pitcher before you take your base!
Bill was brilliant, but he was also wise and a child-at-heart. Once, after trading theological reading material he reminded me: What you read to Elena is too important to give up for textbooks!
Knowing we read The Chronicles of Narnia to our children, Bill wrote:
In the magic before the dawn of time, the Father gave the Son incantations to sing to break the spell of sin and death over us. I hope the enchantments are bringing deeper holiness and life to you. Once a King and Queen in Narnia, always a King and Queen!
Now I know why I love this job and why WDA staff are kinda’ weird: we’re teaching students to NOT fit into this world, to LAUGH at Caesar’s demands even as we give him what is his. God is making us into a race of kings and queens, and how CAN the world make sense of us?
But being made holy is not easy. Bill understood this. At times, he struggled with crippling clinical depression.
The ache is deep, but the depression is gradually lifting – the fog has burned off – thinning from a gray pea soup to a light veil. It feels like I’m coming out of a wilderness, heading for usefulness. Carrying the burden has been good training. I just hope I’ve learned the lessons well enough to graduate!
Unsettled times are an assignment from the Lord – by His grace, He does NOT let us get too comfortable in the desert between Eden and Heaven, does not let us mistake oases for the Promised Land. Fat, lazy pilgrims will have trouble making it home.
Sometimes endurance is hell-shattering victory. What can Satan say or do to a man who persists in clinging to Peter’s confession: “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.” Those who endure get to learn how to sing at midnight in prison. Is there a surer sign of heaven for the jailer to see?
When the veil did lift, Bill saw this world (and the next) with startling clarity:
Saturday night strolling on the midway, biting cotton candy, holding your sweetheart’s hand, watching the kids getting spun dizzy on the whirly rides. It really doesn’t get any better than that does it? (It sure beats what’s advertised by the world.) The secret is, and the good news is, that as good as such things are, it really does get a lot better!
Jesus said it’s what’s on the INSIDE that determines greatness. Matters of the heart determine the real outcomes of life.
He said there’s no greater love, but that someone would be willing to lay down their life for others. That was the pattern of Bill’s life. He gave his life away for the people he loved. Many fill their lives by pursuing fame, or riches. But Bill chose love.
His ‘investment portfolio’ was his family and friends. And we’re all the richer for it.
I’m absolutely confident, that if Bill were here today, he would be encouraging US, enriching US, making US better people just by being with us and blessing US.
Bill had a chronic case of Homesickness. But it wasn’t Louisville he longed for: it was Heaven and the world to come. More specifically, it was God Himself that he wanted to see.
Sometimes this homesickness got on my nerves. I would be talking about ‘important stuff’ like “March Madness” brackets or The World Series, and he wouldn’t be paying attention. And it wasn’t just the ADD, (though there WAS that). He’d have this faraway look in these incredibly sad eyes but accompanied by this little grin that made me think I just missed a punch-line. (Sometimes I think he heard angels.) He realized there was much more to come.
After a grueling day of ministry we stopped to regroup and I launched into a bout of self-pity, lamenting about how little we got paid for the emotional buffeting we endured. He politely indulged me, then quoted Jim Elliot: “A man is no fool to give up what he can’t keep, to gain what he can never lose.”
Bill laid aside everything else to follow Christ, because he knew that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would lead him home. He understood clearly that religion couldn’t save him, and that sometimes even training for ordination actually hindered what mattered most.
My seminary classes have not once taught me to adore the greatness of God’s loving heart, but His glory shines through the footnotes. The majesty of God cannot be eclipsed by anything man-made, and the Bible still lives after two centuries of dissection. And God’s salvation extends even to the proud intellectual.
There are two kinds of “Good-Byes”
‘Final goodbye’ (Don’t expect to ever see someone again.)
On learning of the approaching death of a mutual friend Bill wrote:
Today’s news about Don was grim. The Lord knows what He’s doing, but calling Don Home now will leave us with a mighty big hole in our ranks. God did not mean for us to have to say “good-bye” did He?
Bill’s death has left “a mighty big hole in our ranks”. But even in our sadness, we can be glad for Bill, because he’s glad to be with the Lord. He’s found his way back home!
It gives me great joy, old friend, to know that you are now experiencing the fullness of His joy! This is not a final goodbye, just ‘see you later’.
My daughter defines “friendship” as a relationship where “you can just be yourself”. We all need relationships with people who love us and accept us completely, a place where we feel safe and secure. Every relationship is unique, but healthy relationships have this in common: they are based on trust, loyalty, and commitment. They are places where “we can just be ourselves”.
An environment of honesty, good will, and unconditional love reassures us that we are relationally protected. When we are with people who love us in this way we are able to be transparent, which serves to deepen the relationship. We all need relationships with safe people who love us if we are to thrive and grow. This is also true in our relationship with God. If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence. Conversely, if we feel condemned by God, we will not have a healthy relationship with Him. Being secure in our relationship with God requires two commitments. The first involves His eternal commitment to us, the second involves our commitment to stay in the relationship with Him.
God is committed to keeping us as His children.
Jesus spoke of His love for His followers by comparing Himself to a shepherd who walks in front of his flock, guarding them, leading them to good places, and reassuring them with his voice. “I give them eternal life,” He said, “and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
This remarkable assertion is founded on God’s unswerving commitment to those whom He loves. Because of His unending love and unstoppable power, He is willing and able to guard us. (II Timothy 1:12) Even our own sins and lack of faith will not lessen His commitment to those who are committed to Him. Timothy writes that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Timothy 2:11-13) His love for us is not grounded upon our performance, it is grounded upon His perfect love and character.
If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence.
Make no mistake, God is holy and hates sin. But we still sin, even though we don’t want to. When we do, we need to remember that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We have Someone who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-2:2) Because Jesus Himself suffered temptations and yet did not sin, He is able to be the sacrifice for our sins and also to help us when we are tempted. Through Christ, God remains steadfast in His love to us.
We are committed to continue as His children.
Someone said that home is where they have to take you in when you knock on the door. Unfortunately, not all homes are so welcoming. But God always welcomes His children. And He wants us to be assured of our place in His family. Because we are His children, members of His family, we have a role also; our responsibility is to remain in His family.
John wrote his letter, the book of I John, so that people would know whether or not they were Christians. Central to his message was the confidence that Christians can have in their relationship with God. He writes: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
John says, “I write these things” so you can have this assurance; so you can know for sure you are a believer. What are “these things” that he writes? He is referring to three evidences laid out in his letter that show a person that he has become a believer. These evidences are our love (4:7), our obedience (2:3-6) and our faith in Christ (4:15, 5:1a). It is not that we will demonstrate perfect love, obedience and faith but that we will experience each of these in ways we cannot explain apart from the fact that Christ is changing us on the inside. In these ways, the true believer remains faithful to the end, “continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)
At times we all face doubts, accusations, and even suffering. When this happens, it is essential to remember that we are God’s children, committed to follow Him. The fact that we are God’s children does not mean we never sin or disobey God. Nor does it mean our salvation is dependent on our obedience. It does mean that we continually participate with God in our sanctification, working with Him by faith to grow in Christlikeness. As true believers we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because we love Him and trust Him, pressing on to fully gain the salvation that is already ours through Him. (Philippians 2:12) To those who recognize both the divine and the human aspects of following the Living God, this approach is both mysterious and practical at the same time!
The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
Put another way, God has given us everything we need to live a godly, holy life and be sure of our salvation. But we must make every effort to grow in righteousness, remembering that we have been cleansed from past sins and called to live as children of God. This way we confirm that God has brought us securely into His family.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:3-11
There is a basis for us to be secure in our relationship with God and be certain of our salvation. The basis of this security is God’s eternal love coupled with His ability to keep us to the end. This is confirmed in our lives when we have a trusting dependence on Him and a maturing character.
We can be secure in our relationship with God.
A healthy relationship is based on trust, loyalty, and commitment.
God is committed to keep us as His children.
We can know we are God’s children and be committed to Him.
God has equipped us to live godly, holy lives assured of our salvation.
If you were God, what are some of the changes you would make in your own human character?
What are some of the signs in your life that God has begun that process of change?
Read and meditate on the book of I John.
Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store