When Dhati Lewis felt called to the ministry, he didn’t sense a call just to preach the gospel. He sensed a call to make disciples.
“Disciple-making is not a ministry of the local church,” said Lewis, who serves as lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga. “It is the ministry of the local church.”
Lewis shared how he lives out that calling to a group of 350 pastors and church leaders on Monday, Feb. 29 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., as part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2016 disciple-making conference.
The theme of the conference was “Reveal: Share your life. Speak the gospel.” The theme is based on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 in which the Apostle Paul wrote, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
Lewis photo by K. Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder editor; Lawless photo by K Brown, BSC
Dhati Lewis, left, and Chuck Lawless were among the key speakers for “Reveal,” a disciple-making one-day event Feb. 29. The training was held at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro and was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Lewis was one of several speakers at the event who shared biblical and practical ways to build genuine relationships that point others to Christ and help them grow in their faith.
Speaking from Matthew 9:35-38, Lewis challenged attendees to recommit themselves to reaching their neighbors for Christ.
“(Jesus) says the harvest is plentiful,” Lewis said. “The problem is that the laborers are few. The problem is that too many of us as believers have reduced Christianity to conferences, concerts and church services. Now all the laborers are clustered together.”
Lewis added that too many believers have become “addicted to our comfort,” and reaching our neighbors will require us to get outside of those comfort zones.
“We need to really think through, ‘How do we reach our neighbors?’” Lewis explained. “I think the first thing God is saying (in this passage) is that we need to pray that God would force us out.”
Lewis said reaching our neighbors means we must take time to get to know them and get involved in their lives. Lewis called this “the ministry of presence,” adding that we must rediscover the principle of life-on-life discipleship.
“We have reduced life-on-life disciple-making to a once a week meeting at Starbucks where I’m going to ask you about your life,” Lewis said.
Lewis is so committed to life-on-life disciple-making that he and his wife, Angie, invite six to eight single adults to live with them in their home for several months. Lewis and his family model for those individuals how to study and apply the Bible as they live life together.
The principle of life-on-life disciple-making is foundational to Blueprint Church. So much so that half of Blueprint’s members have someone living in their homes that they are discipling, Lewis said.
“Living in close proximity forces you to deal with the truths of scripture in real life,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ message resonated with Jeff Holder, pastor of Society Baptist Church in Statesville.
As Holder heard Lewis describe how he disciples individuals who live in his home, Holder said he was reminded of an individual in his community who is doing the same for someone else. Holder said he plans to talk to wife about inviting a young man from his church to live with them for a period of time.
“Discipleship does involve this idea of ministry presence and life-on-life presence,” Holder said.
Chuck Lawless, professor and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, opened the day by speaking on disciple-making and spiritual warfare. He reminded attendees that it is God who fights our battles for us.
“God leads us into impossible battles so He might be our warrior and the nations might know His name,” Lawless said as he walked through several passages of scripture to illustrate that truth and how it relates to disciple-making.
In examining the life of David, Lawless noted that the shepherd boy trusted in the Lord’s strength and power to deliver him against the giant Goliath. When he later became king, David would frequently depend upon his own abilities, Lawless said.
David’s example has direct application in disciple-making. “If we’re not careful, we will train people out of dependence upon God,” Lawless said.
In disciple-making relationships, Lawless challenged the audience to ask themselves this question: “Are you David the king or David the shepherd boy? Where are you really?
“The best disciple-makers are shepherd boys and shepherd girls who teach others to be the same.”
Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church near Asheville, concluded the day with a special word for pastors. Frank encouraged pastors to model the type of disciple-making that they want to see from their congregation.
“If you’re a pastor, you’ve got to put huge importance on the quality of model that you are,” Frank said. Frank reiterated the conference’s theme about the importance of building relationships that can serve as platforms to share the gospel and make disciples. While acknowledging that it’s easy to be critical of lost people and their lifestyles, Frank encouraged attendees to intentionally pray for and seek out friendships with the lost.
“They are not the enemy,” Frank said. “They are the mission field.”