Making Discipleship a Way of Life, Not a Program

Craig Mintz experienced first-hand what an intensive discipleship experience can do in a person's life while at the University of North Carolina. So, he took what he learned on the college campus and put it into practice at First Baptist Church, Sevierville, Tennessee.

"What's missing so many times is the relational part of Christianity," said Mintz, the pastor of discipleship and singles at the church. "Growing in your faith alongside a friend who is doing the same thing really makes a difference."

That's the genesis of Disciple3, a movement — not a program — that Mintz has seen more than 270 people walk through in the past three years. Its genius is in its simplicity.

A Disciple3 participant asks two people of the same gender to meet together for an hour each week for six months. The group commits to reading through one chapter of the Bible each day. The first five months cover Luke through Romans and Proverbs. The sixth month is spent in a book of the Bible of the trio's choosing. Everyone in the group is encouraged to write down what they learn through the readings.

Each time they meet, the group discusses a short list of questions, prays for each other, and hangs out together.

The questions are basic

  1. What is one thing you learned from reading God's Word this week that can make a real difference in your life?
  2. How has your life this week demonstrated that Christ lives in you?
  3. Is there any temptation or sin you've battled this week that you'd like us to pray about?
  4. Is there a lost person in your sphere of influence we can pray for this week? How can you be salt and light to that person?

"I didn't want it to be sin management," said Mintz, who was an International Mission Board missionary in Western Europe and a newspaper reporter before coming to FBC Sevierville. "We just wanted to give people a way to grow in their faith with some of the basics that Jesus taught."

After the group completes six months or so together, each of the three is asked to start a new group where they walk through a similar plan. The discipleship plan starts anew every six months.

The biggest obstacle to making Disciple3 work is time. "It's just hard for people to carve out an hour every week," Mintz said. "You put it off for a week, then it becomes two, and then a group falls apart. You have to work hard to set a time everyone can live with up front and make sure you stick to it."

The most enthusiastic group to get involved with Disciple3 has been 20-somethings. It satisfies a need that's not easily met for them in larger discipleship groups and Sunday morning Bible study fellowships. "So many of them have never had this kind of relationship with another believer," Mintz said. "I never had this until I went to college. I didn't know what it meant to be discipled. I think they're finding it's a great experience to draw near to other Christians, and they want to share it with others."

Classes and Bible studies aren't enough. Community by itself isn't either. It's the pairing of community, depth, connection, and responsibility that helps young adults move from new followers of Christ into vibrant growing disciples who can reach out to others and make a difference in the world through the power of Jesus.

Jim Johnston is executive pastor of The Bridge Fellowship in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and previously served at LifeWay Christian Resources in the areas of Student Ministry and Digital Publishing.

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