Baptist leaders make growing disciples a priority.
“The most basic thing I do is to simply be a disciple myself,” said Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville. “That means many things but includes modeling worship, repentance, accountability and outreach.”
Leaders at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina want to “Reveal” how to make disciples with an event Feb. 29. “Reveal: Share Your Life. Speak the gospel” is a one-day conference aimed at teaching church leaders and laypeople how to make disciples in a variety of ministry settings. The event (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) is at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro.
The only cost is for a $7 meal; people do need to register. They based the theme on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Conference leaders include Frank; Chuck Lawless, author and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta; Jerry McCorkle, executive director of Spread Truth Ministries based in Bloomington, Ill.; and Lori Frank, women’s ministry leader and wife of Biltmore’s pastor.
Breakout sessions are being offered to address various ministry applications with disciple-making.
Chuck Lawless, author and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. He is also a global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lawless has also served as a pastor at two churches in Ohio. A noted conference leader and speaker, Lawless has written several books including Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor and Nobodies for Jesus. He has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring.
Q: Much has been written about spiritual warfare in recent years. How would you define spiritual warfare?
A: At its foundation, spiritual warfare is the invisible battle in the spiritual realm, but often fleshed out in our lives. At the same time, though, the Bible does not position us on the defensive; we are God’s church called to take the gospel of light into the darkness. Thus, offensive spiritual warfare is “loving Christ and living and speaking for Him in such a way that God is glorified and an already-defeated Satan is threatened.”
Q: Why is it important to understand and address spiritual warfare as it relates to evangelism and discipleship?
A: Both tasks cannot be disconnected from spiritual warfare. On one hand, we are seeking to reach people caught in the devil’s kingdom. On the other hand, we are discipling and equipping believers so they can win the war. The enemy seeks to keep lost people in darkness, and he then wants to destroy the witness of anyone redeemed from that darkness. If we do not do evangelism and discipleship well, we open the door for the enemy to temporarily win.
Q: What biblical and practical steps can we take to prepare ourselves for the spiritual battles we face each day?
A: First, we must recognize that God is sovereign over all matters, including our spiritual battles. The devil cannot go where God will not allow him to go. Second, we need to fight this battle together. God did not intend for us to be lone warriors. Third, we must wear the full armor of God. That task is not about some mystical way of simply “praying on” the armor; it’s about walking in truth and righteousness as we trust God and proclaim His Word. Wearing the armor is about daily living in obedience.
Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville
Bruce Frank is the lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville. He was born in Atlanta, but grew up in Oklahoma and Texas. Frank became a follower of Christ at age 17 and was discipled through Campus Crusade for Christ during college. During that time, Frank felt a call to the ministry and enrolled in Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He served in churches in Texas until his call to Biltmore in 2008. Frank and his wife, Lori, have two adult sons, Tyler and Conner.
Q: As a pastor, how do you model disciple-making to your congregation?
A: The most basic thing I do is to simply be a disciple myself. That means many things but includes modeling worship, repentance, accountability and outreach. I also lead a small men’s group each year that usually consists of fairly new Christians (with a couple of them often not yet being believers). Finally, I continually connect all that we do as a church to our disciple-making process/purpose. Our vision/purpose/process statement is, “We exist to glorify God by making disciples who reach up (worship), reach in (community), and reach out (service).
Q: What does disciple-making look like among your church staff and leadership?
A: All of our pastors either lead or are in a disciple-making small group. They are continually recruiting and training what we refer to as “Great Commission” leaders. We have additionally started a disciple/leadership process for men only called “David’s Men.” This is a more intense discipleship process that all pastors, deacons and connect group teachers will be expected to go through.
Q: How does one balance showing grace and sharing truth in a disciple-making relationship?
A: I think most of us lean naturally one way or the other. I’m naturally more of a truth guy. However, as I’ve matured in my walk with the Lord, He has developed more of a balance. Continually preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us to be more balanced. I think it was Tim Keller who I first heard describe the gospel in that “we were so bad that Christ had to die for us, yet so loved that Christ chose to die for us.” Letting that saturate your soul gives you the boldness to be strong in truth, but the humility to show much grace. As has been said before, “all truth and no grace is harsh brutality, all grace and no truth is mere sentimentality, grace and truth is the gospel.”
Lori Frank, women’s ministry leader and wife of Biltmore’s pastor
Lori Frank serves the people of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, where her husband, Bruce, is the lead pastor. She loves teaching women’s Bible studies and has a deep passion to love and encourage other pastors’ wives. Lori is also a registered nurse and worked in labor and delivery for 17 years. Lori and Bruce have been married for 26 years and have two adult sons, Tyler and Conner.
Q: As a wife, mom, registered nurse and a pastor’s wife, what does disciple-making look like through the rhythms of your everyday life?
A: At this point in my life, being retired and having an empty nest, I am free to really devote time daily to investing in others. This takes many forms. I try to leverage every aspect of my time. Whether meeting with an individual, posting content on my blog (lorifrank.org) or social media (twitter.com/lorifrank1), or speaking with groups, my intent is to edify and challenge others by bringing the gospel to bear on everyday life. I currently disciple a small group of young ladies who are recent high school grads who feel a call to leadership and ministry. We meet up in our local Chick-fil-A to study and pray. I also write the adult Sunday School curriculum for our church.
It is sermon-based and takes the weekly message into greater detail and facilitates application and discussion. That investment reaches a large audience on all four campuses of our church.
I also teach our weekly women’s Bible study at the Arden campus. I blog about relevant topics with a biblical perspective. Even meeting with a woman from my subdivision for coffee can be an opportunity to inject the gospel and make much of the Good News. The key is to be intentional and be prepared through personal devotion and a tender heart to receive the prompting of the Holy Spirit within the course of the day. Everyone has different demands on their time through the seasons of life. For me, this is my prime time to invest greatly.
Q: With all of life’s busyness, how can we make sure that we remain intentional about sharing our lives with others and making disciples?
A: Personal holiness and spiritual communion with the Lord and His Word is job No. 1 for anyone who lives ministry. We have to build in margins for Sabbath, worship and spiritual formation in our own lives. From there, we must develop Christ’s love for others in our own hearts. When we do this, we see people who need development as future partners for the gospel – not ministry projects.
Good churches understand that disciple-making relationships flow from living in community with others. So, they make it easy for individuals and groups to get together conveniently. Taking advantage of connect groups, Bible studies, support groups and spiritual mentorships makes the process accessible to those who desire it. Taking that step as a leader means making yourself available to serve in your area of giftedness within the body, as well as through the entirety of your day.
Q: Sometimes people expect behavior change in others before there is genuine heart transformation. How can we help people understand that disciple-making can be a slow process?
A: One of the most painful aspects of a life of ministry is wanting growth for someone more than they want it for themselves. That being said, we need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we have the ability to produce spiritual fruit in the power of the flesh. Instead, we should focus on the promise that no word from God will ever return void. Remember that the transformation of hearts is God’s job, not the product of our talents or abilities.
We need to just remain faithful and obedient to stay on task. We need to be careful to keep doors open when people fail or fall behind. We need to get over our offenses when immature or lost people act immature or lost. We can then speak truth into their lives from a position of one sinner to another, but as one who is seeing the difference that the power of God can have in our lives.
As my husband has said, “We want to be safe, but not soft.” We want places that are safe for people to grow, but that are not soft on sin. When people are exposed to the vision of what victory and growth look like, they begin to see that the work and discipline of God are worth the death to self that is required. Our job is to continue to cast that vision, speak truth and show grace. There are no lost causes.
He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it, here or in the hereafter.