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Cover 41


January 2012

Dare to Disciple


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Free Will Baptist

Close the Back Door

Close the Back Door

by Steve Lytle

The longer I am in ministry, the more convinced I am as to the importance of discipleship. When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28, He told His followers to "teach" (KJV) or to "make disciples" (NKJV, NIV). This includes the entire spectrum of Christian ministry and the advancement of the Kingdom: going into all the world, to every creature, among all nations; baptizing; and teaching those who choose to follow Christ to do all the original followers were commanded to do. Thus, a perpetual cycle of teaching all the nations as believers to go, baptize, and "teach to observe" is created.

The verb translated teach or make disciples literally means to "instruct or disciple." In the original Greek, it is the imperative, with the other verbs being participial: “going, baptizing, and teaching them to observe all things." David Mays (The Mission Leadership Team) makes a good case that what Jesus is calling for here—indeed, what He is commanding—is that His followers disciple all the nations as our highest priority, with our most intense focus, in every generation.

If we do not make disciples, we truncate the Great Commission. Merely "winning souls," although the essential initial step, is not what Jesus is teaching in this passage. Three phrases, or concepts, have been spinning around in my mind for some time in regard to the subject of discipleship.

Close the back door. By discipling the nations we avoid the all-too-common occurrence of seeing people come through the front door (respond to altar calls, go through baptism, make a public profession of faith), and very quickly exit through the back door (discontinue fellowship with the church, remain immature and non-productive, or fall through the cracks). It is far too easy to cop-out, saying they were not truly saved, though of course that is possible and certainly happens in some cases. But that is the entire point. Thorough discipleship not only helps people find Christ, gain assurance of salvation, and chart a course for growth but also helps prevent their desertion from the fellowship of the visible church. It is encouraging to see that emphasis growing in the countries where International Missions is working. Huge results may not be readily visible, but committed followers are emerging. Where committed, strong, well-discipled believers are present, the foundation is laid for genuine numerical growth as well.

In our own ministry, I have observed the difference when I intentionally invest time, effort, and content into the lives of those who respond to an invitation to follow Christ. Those I just assumed would follow through often didn't.

A mile wide, an inch deep. We must never equate numerical, statistical growth with spiritual growth. Rwanda, considered to be 80% Christian in the early 1990s, provides a shocking example. With a strong "Christian" presence—even many evangelical believers who faithfully went to church every week—an unspeakable genocide took place with a million people brutally murdered. Incredible amounts of preaching, literature distribution, and funding have taken place in parts of the world where great poverty and social need exist. While the public response seems to be great in crusades, the presence of the church remains superficial at best.

Evangelism without planting churches. Missionary to Bulgaria Tim Awtrey's passion when preparing to go out under IM was to see strong churches started; not just to do evangelism. Tim spent several years in Bulgaria evangelizing with a para-church organization and saw a number of young people come to Christ. Unfortunately, when the students returned to their hometowns they had no churches to attend, and the few that were found, could not, or would not assimilate new believers, especially of a different generation. The missing element? Church planting through serious discipleship.

In Panama, we are endeavoring to be serious with the focus of our seminary preparation. Second Timothy 2:2, Matthew 28:19-20, and Ephesians 4 are key passages for us. Our goal at the FWB Seminary in Chame is to make disciples who can and will also make disciples. Our students are involved in ministry, on campus, and especially on weekends when they serve in Free Will Baptist churches. They visit, preach, assist with music, teach Sunday School, perform youth ministry, preach on street corners, and frequently share the gospel, seeking to lead people to Christ. At the same time, we emphasize the importance of building relationships, extensive Bible study, discipling marriages and families, and going much deeper than a superficial Christianity.

As an example, Cirilo Mendoza is learning that it isn't enough just to get someone to pray the sinner's prayer when they respond to the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws. While not discarding proven evangelistic tools, Cirilo spends time in counseling coupled with serious Bible study and prayer with people he is seeking to lead to Christ. Making disciples takes time.

Efrain Gonzalez is learning that weekly meetings to study the Scriptures, with both seekers as well as new converts, is essential to both their growth and their grounding in the faith. He was doing this in his hometown of Las Tablas, but came to the seminary in Chame to receive further training. He asked to start a neighborhood evangelistic Bible study near the school. What an exciting concept!

It isn't enough just to win souls, or to get a decision. We shouldn't foster the idea that "you're as sure of Heaven as if you were already there." We are striving after Christ followers, growing, committed disciples of Jesus.

"Teaching all the nations" is God's plan. By striving to make disciples, to disciple all the nations, we have believers who worship, serve, introduce people to the Savior (evangelism), fellowship, and grow in discipleship. Discipleship is both a part of "the Purpose Driven Church," to quote Rick Warren, as well as the means to that end.


About the Writer: Steve Lytle and his wife Judy have been Free Will Baptist missionaries since 1977. They are currently Stateside after serving a two-year assignment in Panama. Read more...



Sharpening the Axe

Sharpening the Ax

By Osvaldo Ortego

The sharper your axe, the more effective it is for chopping down a tree. Young men and women in the ministry are also more effective if they are taught to “sharpen their axe.” Axe sharpening occurs as a result of uniting one’s gifts and talents with theoretical and practical preparations offered by Free Will Baptist seminaries.

A seminary education expands our vision of the scope of responsibility of every believer, giving us a clearer and more precise understanding of how to serve our Creator here on this earth. It shows us what tools we have naturally, and adequately equips and prepares us for the future. As a result, when we enter our field of service, we are more confident, courageous, and joyful. We can accomplish the job more effectively, thanks to the preparation and effort put forth in these seminaries.

Being in the ministry, I am able to reflect back and see that by traveling this path of seminary preparation, I am more capable to sharpen my axe for a more effective cut. I am certain I am now more qualified and effective than I was before. Every new day into my journey, I feel more confident and secure in what I am doing and see the changes, results, and blessings that the preparation has provided.

In Panama, the best way to use the tools provided by God is to enter the tool shed of preparation called Free Will Baptist Seminary Panama.


About the Writer: Osvaldo Ortego is a Free Will Baptist pastor/missionary in Panama. Learn more at


©2012 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists