As a church, we have had the joy and pleasure of starting this year off with a big focus on discipleship. Pastor Wayne preached a 7 week series on discipleship, and I (Danielle Hamlet) was in charge of leading and orchestrating a 6 week Bible Study on Discipleship for our Wednesday nights. In the meantime, we have also begun the process of creating a disciple Focus Team, as well as connecting individuals together to begin the discipleship journey.
It is important to note, that most of my job is behind the scenes. We are not interested in creating a new program with big announcements, but rather shape the entire DNA of our church body. My focus is to teach, inspire, and empower people to go out and make disciples though the power and grace of God.
Below I have the current reports on what I have been working on this year:
Caitlyn first connected with our church through a family that housed Caitlyn, her boyfriend and 3 young kids. I got to know her through a small Bible study we did for a few months, which we stopped meeting after we both had our babies. She eventually faded out of contact and stopped attending the church.
When she began coming back to The PIER, she was pregnant with her 4th child and her long term boyfriend recently left her for her best friend. In time, she began to reach out to me via messenger, and opened up about her depression and desire to become a follower of Christ. Eventually I had the opportunity to pray with her and lead her to the Lord, and the following week she was baptized.
At The PIER we believe that accepting Christ is a monumental first step, but learning how to live for Christ is an ongoing journey. I saw the opportunity and need to disciple her, and soon after her baptism we began meeting bi-weekly, working through the curriculum “Called to Obedience”. Very quickly we talked about the call to forgive, and began the process of forgiving many who’ve hurt her and put her in such a bad position. Not long after she became a believer her ex-boyfriend tried to get back into her life multiple times, and I was there to encourage her and cheer her on to handle this as a Godly woman, and every time he ran away; eventually showing his true character.
I’ve watched Caitlyn live under the reality of prayers not answered the way she asked, thus learned how to trust God’s plan above her own. She manages to survive as a single mother of 4 children, 4 years and younger – and always giving the glory to God. As we fast approach her 1 year anniversary as a believer, she currently struggles with missing her initial fire for God and trying to maintain a consistent prayer life and devotional time with God. Therefore, we are learning how to follow God through the hard seasons and what it means to be faithful to a God who is always there. Caitlyn is also transitioning out of the current home she is living in (dynamics are not healthy nor good for her and her children) and applying to move into a family shelter downtown. This process scares her, as she will become literally homeless, but she is confident this is what God is calling her to do and willing to go through this journey.
I share this story, because in many ways I believe she is a testament of the power of discipleship. It is not because of me that she has grown as a believer, it is the work of God in her life, but it is through our relationship I receive the opportunity to show her God’s love and truth. We need more people intimately loving each other enough to get messy in discipleship. I would be lying if I did not confess that walking alongside Caitlyn hasn’t overwhelmed me. Countless times I have been asked questions or thrown situations that I did not know how to handle until God answered me in prayer. But Caitlyn still walks with our church today, shows up faithfully alone with her 4 kids, and confidently calls the church her family. I continue to meet with her and plant a vision of multiplication in her life, as I explain her testimony and position as a single mother gives her the ability to reach women I could never reach on my own.
It was the church watching this discipleship unfold that began the conversation for a Disciple Developer at The PIER, and it is an honor to not only walk alongside Caitlyn, but to be an active part of living out the commandment to make disciples who make disciples, all through the power of Christ!
Follow Me Bible Study
We used the Bible study Follow Me by David Platt to facilitate our study into discipleship. I put together all the homework packets using scripture from the studies with an emphasis on prayer.
The Wednesday night groups did enjoy the change of routine, and found the messages very compelling and convicting. Many reported the lessons and homework were very hard, but in a good way. This really forced people to examine their lives as Christians, asking themselves if they are living out the call to make disciples, or just found themselves coasting within their comfort levels?
The result was a shift in focus, hard conversations were had and I can see that God used this study to prepare the ground for discipleship. Many are hungry for a new way of living out their faith and desire to pour into others in a new way.
Revamp of Wednesday Night Bible Studies.
We also used the Follow Me Bible study as a time to recharge and redesign our Wednesday Night Bible studies. In the past we had small groups, men with men and woman with woman, with a general framework on how to read God’s word and questions to ask when they met. We had no designated leaders. It became apparent some things needed to be adjusted, thus we made the following changes to foster more discipleship in our small groups:
- Leader Led: we had everyone assign a leader for their group and a helper. The leader oversaw the keeping of records and making sure everyone was on track. We had everyone select a helper, so when the group became big enough they will split the group, and the helper would be the leader of the new group.
- Study Handouts: we maintained the SOAK method of reading God’s word (Scripture reading, Observations, Applications, Kneeling in prayer) but made it more direct and as a weekly hand out for their studies.
- Verse Memorization: In my studies of discipleship, one of the things we tend to focus on the least is verse memorization. Thus, every month everyone selects their verse to memorize, and in the first of the month they show that they’ve accomplished this task.
I continue to monitor and support these small groups as they continue to grow.
Discipleship Focus Team:
I am prayerfully working with Pastor Wayne in asking God to reveal to us those to invite to join a Focus Team this fall. We have written down a list of names and making plans to meet with them and talk about this opportunity.
This Focus Team will ideally be about 4 men and 4 women, those who are mature believers and ready to learn how to disciple others. In the fall we will begin to meet and I will begin the process of equipping them to lead a small group. In 2019 they will lead small groups through a 9 month intensive discipleship journey. We are using Radical Mentoring and Titus 2 as a basis for this approach.
CTO (Call to Obedience) Studies:
While studies have shown that small group discipleship is very effective, we will also be using one-on-one discipleship with those who are interested. The curriculum we use is “Call to Obedience” – which is a yearlong study of what it means to be an all-in, obedient follower of Christ. I am currently discipling a new believer in our church through this study, and we have a few others engaging with this study as well.
My job is to give the leaders support and guide them through the process. I meet with the leader for about 30-40 minutes a week before the meet with their disciple, coaching them through the curriculum and goals for the upcoming study.
Current Goals and Focus:
- Putting together a Focus Team so we will be ready to meet in the fall.
- Developing supportive materials alongside CTO for the leaders so they have all they need to disciple well.
- Check in with the Wednesday Night Bible studies and see how the now format is flowing.
- Connect with those I know are meeting with new believers and see if they would benefit from further support and assistance with their discipleship.
- Prayerfully discern the quality and type of curriculum and tools I will give to the Focus Team so they can successfully disciple the following year.
PIER Disciple Developer