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Discipleship: More Than information


A home missionary pastor examines the importance of creating the right atmosphere for discipleship.


Discipleship: More Than Information

by D. Keith Bartlett


Certainly, sharing truth from God’s Word is necessary to help new believers get off to a good start in their new life in Christ. Their continued discipleship will depend greatly on a steady diet of God’s Word. At Sloan Canyon Church, we immediately place them in a class for new believers where we use Robert Morgan’s book, Simple: The Christian Life Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated. After completing the course, we incorporate them into a Bible study group and strive to provide them with solid expository preaching in corporate worship services.

But discipleship doesn’t stop there! It requires not only information but also atmosphere. Our church family shines in this area. Our congregation is chatty and loves hugs. We have to turn off the lights and start locking doors to encourage them to go home. Even then, they may stand on the front porch talking. It is not unusual to have a crowd still enjoying fellowship an hour or so after the service has ended.

Each Sunday morning, we have a time for greeting one another, which is almost a disruption because it takes several minutes to get everyone to return to their seats. But, after experiencing this time of fellowship, it is obvious our congregation genuinely loves one another in a Christ-honoring way. I often am tired after a service, but I take great joy in finding a place to rest where I can watch our congregation like a proud parent, praising the Lord that they really do love one another. 

You may think, “That’s nice, but what does talking and hugging have to do with discipleship?” It has everything to do with discipleship. A loving, nurturing, accepting, and encouraging atmosphere is vital to discipleship. Not only are people more likely to come to Christ in a loving church atmosphere, they also are more likely to attend that church and grow in Christ. A nurturing and encouraging atmosphere where people are loved, accepted, and inspired is the most appealing aspect of our church. New believers desire to grow in Christ, and they want to help others grow as well. This makes the church an exciting place!  

When the Apostle Paul was concerned about the Christians in Colosse turning away from their faith in Christ, he shared the burden of his heart for their fellowship. It was his desire that, “Their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love…” (Colossians 2:2a). Paul hoped the close-knit relationship would lead them to attain the “riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2b, 3). Paul knew that the right atmosphere is a key source of strength for those who are growing in their Christian walk.

There are many great sources for discipleship material, but your church must supply the atmosphere.


About the Writer: D. Keith Bartlett is pastor of Sloan Canyon FWB Church in Castaic, CA. Learn more about the work of Free Will Baptist Home Missions at


©2011 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists