Hear from EFCA leaders across the movement about their own experiences, and their convictions about why disciplemaking matters.
Falling in Love With Jesus
Linda Gunderson, women’s network coordinator with ReachGlobal’s Member Care—coaching other staff women serving in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Disciplemaking is helping people fall in love with Jesus and look like Him in how they live. That is the hope and goal of my life: I want to follow hard after Jesus and bring as many folks with me as I can.
I was committed to doing that when I served in Rio De Janeiro for 20 years. Still, I went through burnout and wished I had someone to disciple and mentor me. Now, I focus on our new missionaries going out on the field, and connect each with a veteran missionary woman from inside ReachGlobal for support and encouragement. When I hear women say they would have given up on the mission field if it weren’t for their connection within the network, I’m thrilled.
Time-Consuming but Fruitful
Ed and Karen Daniels, members of Journey Church (EFCA) in Fort Worth, Texas, where he previously served as elder.
About eight years ago, Karen and I went through a one-to-one disciplemaking study with our former pastor and his wife. This not only deepened and strengthened our love for Christ, but part of the commitment we made when we started was that, no matter what, we would then take what we learned and share it with someone else. We were both a little nervous about this.
Since that initial series, though, we have continued to look for opportunities to share with others, both inside and outside the church. This was the real start of our deepening faith and love for Christ. Until that time, we were simply treading water, so to speak. Now, when our pastor knows of someone looking for this type of spiritual growth, he will refer them to us. We always learn something new from each person that strengthens our love of Christ.
We are not sure why more churches don’t do this. It is time-consuming and slow to show fruit because of the one-to-one aspect. But it grows quickly as others you disciple then disciple others. Spiritual multiplication.
Where We Start
Esther DeSantis, member at Salem EFC in Florissant, Missouri, where she volunteers in the nursery and is her church’s representative for a local ministry to children whose parents are incarcerated.
I think disciplemaking is simple but generally over-complicated by people. Jesus had men walk alongside Him and He walked alongside them. I think that is what we are to be doing: taking people in our stride and walking with them.
If we are living a truly Christ-centered life, we will naturally end up praying with people at the gas station or being sought by co-workers for prayer and guidance, or holding our neighbors while they weep over tragedy (or perceived tragedy) in their lives. That is where we start to make disciples. I was discipled most deeply by a woman named Karen—a cancer-ridden, stay-at-home mom whom I met when I came to her house to clean her bathroom, when I happened to be at the lowest point of my life.
The Church is not a building; it’s a body, and we can walk that body anywhere.
Unfortunately, I am not currently being intimately discipled, nor would I say I am discipling anyone. I may be a stay-at-home mom with a special-ed kid, an endless pile of laundry, too few hours of sleep every day, dinners late on the table almost every night, and so many other challenges and shortcomings, but I also am made in the image of God and have been called by His name and directed to obey His Word. That includes being a disciple and making disciples.
When we lose our God-attentiveness, we lose our capacity to truly make disciples.
Sometimes a Very Real Sacrifice
Amy Seiffert, member for 13 years at Brookside Church (EFCA) in Bowling Green, Ohio, where she serves on the women’s ministry team and occasionally teaches in the weekly service, and where her husband is an elder.
I am on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), and we talk a lot about making disciples—people so dear to us that we share our lives, our houses, our food, etc., as well as the gospel, with the goal of reproducing oneself in Christ.
My greatest struggle in disciplemaking was years ago, when a student lived with us before she was a believer. She needed a safe place from her family from various abuses, and she became a believer that summer.
We shared our lives, home, family, love, time and prayers. Even after moving out, she stayed in our community and made baby steps in her growth for the next three years. But then she walked away from the faith, even attempting suicide one evening. I have come to a place of trusting God with her and with that time we had with her, but it’s sad and hard.
I choose to believe that love is not wasted—that the faith, hope and love we show will somehow remain eternally, even when it doesn’t look like what we thought it would (1 Corinthians 13:13). That God is indeed working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and that He is king. A good, good king.
More Than a Parking Attendant
Fred Ouderkerken, member for 29 years at First EFC of Fullerton, California, where he serves on the elder board and as an adult fellowship teacher.
The catch is, we can be good disciplemakers or bad ones. For instance, the way I live is a reflection of what Christ means to me. As my kids watch my life, I am encouraging either true discipleship or not-so-true discipleship. We are making disciples either way.
Losing a good portion of my vision six months ago has re-affirmed my commitment to the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love people. Because I can’t drive or read well, I have become dependent on others, and God has blessed me with the ability to spend time with people I might not have had the opportunity to be with. Whenever I interact with others, I try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and figure out what He wants me to do or say. So my whole life is about disciplemaking.
We are the full-time missionaries, pastors, teachers, encouragers, etc., whether we are paid or not. The church needs to move toward Ephesians 4:12, training and equipping the saints (all of us) to do the work of the kingdom.
If we value the priesthood of all believers, then we treat God’s people as if they are exactly that. They are not just a parking attendant but a priest who happens to wear a bright orange vest.
It Can Happen Anywhere
Heidi Hassler, member of Heart Change Fellowship (EFCA), Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, where she is a life-group leader.
Discipling relationships can be had in almost any setting in a church. For example, a welcome team could have disciplemaking taking place among the members of the team, or between new people who come in. On our worship team, one of the members is actively looking to create discipling relationships between the older and younger members (we have a lot of students from Berklee College of Music).
I think more churches don’t do this because a lot of people don’t have a strong discipleship relationship in their own life to draw from. Maybe they also don’t realize how important it is to have someone invest in your life even if you are a grown adult and don’t have obvious “needs.”
My role models have been college mentors and also Jua and Regina, my pastor and his wife. Even with their busy schedules, they make time to meet with other people—both believers and those who aren’t believers—talk to them about life and faith, and invest in their lives.
Keith Davy, member of Crossway Community Church (EFCA) in Orlando, Florida, since 1998, where he’s chairman of the elder board.
Our church has embraced a visionary statement that weds the call of discipleship with the context of community: “Life is better together living as His.” Disciplemaking isn’t an individual ministry of the church; it is central to all that the church does. Still, our church has oscillated between seasons of more and less disciplemaking effectiveness.
The times of less effectiveness seemed tied to either distraction, busyness (with programs) or seasons of unhealthy emotional patterns. When we lose our God-attentiveness, our God-dependence and our God-responsiveness, we lose our capacity to truly make disciples.
Personally, there is always a host of “good things” competing for my attention, time and energy. Too often, I succumb to their allure. But my greatest joy is seeing individuals who are not yet a disciple (i.e. true follower of Jesus) come to Christ and begin to follow Christ.