Discipleship: The Key To Endtimes Revival
By Dwight J. Davis And Nils A. Haldorsen
How many of us want the magnitude of revival that the Bible talks about in the last days? We all do because we love the Kingdom of God, we love people and we want to keep His commandments of winning our lost world. But this is a big task, and one that can become imbalanced. If you’re like most Churches, you easily pray people through to the Holy Ghost and baptize them in Jesus name, only to see them suffer the fate of 75% of the seed of the sower’s parable, falling away from the God who generously saved them. What can we do to keep more of those people in Church? What can we do to close the back door?
The authors, in search of answers to these questions, sought the counsel of two Pentecostal Pastors who have experienced tremendous growth in recent years. Rev. Ton Foster, Dallas First Church in Dallas, Texas went from 240 members seven years ago to over 700 members in the mother Church and 10 daughter works combining for 600 more members. Rev. Matt Maddix, My Life Center, St. Petersburg, Florida, took a Church running 200 plus and has doubled it in three years, setting attendance records along the way. These men of God graciously shared their insight and experiences with building discipleship programs with the authors so that the ministers of the Wisconsin District could be encouraged, motivated and empowered to gather and keep the Harvest.
This article will discuss the two main points for creating an effective discipleship program. The first point is the preparation that has to occur in the hearts, minds and bodies of the Church leadership and Church members. The second focus is on the critical components of any discipleship program. Embracing and implementing these principles will ensure that you will keep the harvest God has provided for you.
There are several things that need to happen for a Church to prepare itself for effective discipleship. The first is that a Pastor must realize the importance of discipleship and embrace the notion. Both Bro. Foster and Bro. Maddix pointed out that we must be interested in people and have a desire to build relationships with people. Moreover, Pastors have to instill this character trait into every member of their Church. The growth we want comes from unity in the entire body, not just a small percentage. Pastors have more influence over saints, by what they say and. more importantly, do, than sometimes they realize!
Its been said in many leadership books that everything rises and falls on leadership, and this is the case in discipleship. Pastor Maddix pointed out that our God is a God of Stewardship and if we demonstrate that we can take care of what God sends us, He will send us more. The second component is that there needs to be a systematic or orderly approach to discipleship, God is also a God of Order. Every Church is different; it has different leadership styles, resources (i.e., personnel, facilities, and finances), culture, and personalities, but there are basic principles that should be evident in every discipleship program, which we will discuss later in the article. Each Church is unique and special, so your discipleship program will also be unique. Haphazard discipling may yield some harvest, but nothing like what God has intended for us. Moreover, a lack of structure also leads to a lack of accountability. The third component is there needs to be leadership development training and opportunities. Discipleship programs will need leaders who can lead and administrate. Each Church needs to identify leadership qualities and then teach and train for those qualities. Find some leadership training materials that fit your personality and the Churches and then relay them to your chosen leaders.
Leadership training entails more than telling; as Pastors, we have to provide opportunities for your leaders to practice the leadership skills you are teaching them. Keep in mind that every person in your Church is human, and therefore likely to make mistakes; that is just part of the growth pattern. Every great leader you can think of execute a discipleship program that is uniquely designed to your Church and your community.
Bro. Foster and Bro. Maddix identified these critical components of an effective discipleship program. These activities are implemented simultaneously and immediately upon the new convert’s salvation experience.
First, we must get new converts plugged into Bible and Christian living studies; while similar these two types of studies are different. New Converts need to learn about living as a Christian, and we are not taking about holiness and modesty issues, at least not yet. Both Pastors stressed the importance of making Bible studies exciting and interesting so that people want to interact and ask questions and we have to afford them that opportunity.
The second component of a discipleship program is the social interaction aspect. God made humans to be social beings. People who come into Church need to have friends to stay. It’s been shown that a new person needs to make seven friends within first three months of going to Church to stay in that Church. Bro. Foster and Bro. Maddix have implemented a type of buddy system where each new convert is assigned to a faithful saint as soon as they are saved. This buddy is responsible for becoming their friend, maintaining some accountability, and just being there for the new convert. If our Church people aren’t interested in new converts, they will seek friendship elsewhere. And being friendly is more than just saying hi and smiling to them at Church; it is about becoming their friend, learning about them, inviting them for fellowship and making sure they develop strong relationships within the Church and with God.
Finally, all discipleship programs should seek to get every new convert involved in Church activities and ministries. Find something for them to do or be involved in within the Church. Doing this creates the socialization aspect mentioned above. Bro. Maddix said that people walk into the Church with a sign on them that says, ‘Use Me or Lose Me.’
New converts often have an energy and passion for evangelism and God that exceeds that of the long-term members, why should we stifle that. Both Pastors we spoke to lamented the fact that too many Churches require a new convert to attain certain appearance and attendance standards before they can do anything in the Church. The y are not suggesting giving sensitive leadership roles to new Christians, only that we should plug new converts in as quickly as we ca to get them involved and active with Church programs and people.
Matthew 28:19-20 gives us the two fundamental responsibilities of being a Christian, evangelism and discipleship. Discipleship is a task of diligence and determination. If you really want to see your Church grow, implementing a discipleship program with the direction of the Holy Ghost will help you get there. As Bro. Foster put it, it boils down to being interested in people and their growth in God. What you and your Church can do is limitless when you focus on making disciples out of every person who gets saved.
Article “Discipleship: The Key To Endtimes Revival” written by Dwight J. Davis and Nils A. Haldorsen is excerpted from The Whole Gospel To The Whole World.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”