No one is more qualified to write a book on discipleship relationships than Tim LaFleur. Brother Tim—or Bro T, as the students he shepherded for so many years on the campus of Nicholls State University called him—epitomizes selfless service. My first introduction to Brother Tim was on March 16, 2004. I remember the date because the day before, I had met a girl named Kandi Ross for the first time, who would become my wife ten months later.
I had only been a believer for fifteen months when Tim invited me to speak for the Tuesday worship service at the BCM. My sermon that night, “A Recipe for Revival,” was an interview for a summer camp opportunity in Glorieta, New Mexico. For years, Tim and his wife, Chris, coordinated the discipleship program for the college students who staffed the camp, called High Point.
The following week, Tim offered me the opportunity to spend the summer with him at Glorieta, investing in 130 college students, preaching once a week, and being discipled by him. I was facing a dilemma. The week before, I had been given an opportunity to preach five times a week up the East Coast with a summer camp called CentriKid. For an aspiring preacher, the thought of preaching five times a week compared to ten times the entire summer was alluring.
A Decision That Changed My Life
Providentially, I grabbed lunch with my friend Byron Townsend after church the Sunday before I had to make a decision. Byron was a seminary student at New Orleans, a former student at Nicholls State, and a disciple of Tim’s. He said something to me that proved to be life changing afterward. “Robby,” Byron said, “I know you think preaching multiple times a week this summer will make you a better preacher, but spending a summer with Tim will make you a better disciple. I believe a summer with Tim will change your life!”
I marinated on that one statement for days. Later that week, I accepted the position to be the camp pastor of High Point in Glorieta, New Mexico. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Brother Tim and I hit it off immediately. We were like two college buddies reunited after years apart. Immediately, we began meeting once a week for intentional discipleship. Tim taught me how to baptize someone (my first baptism was in the creek at Glorieta). He taught me how to organize a Bible study, how to organize sermons, and how to grill steaks, cook hamburgers, and play cards (no gambling was involved). I learned how to love and serve Kandi, who would become my wife after the summer, by watching Tim care for his wife, Chris. But Tim’s investment was more than a weekly gathering.
People ask me often, “What was it like to spend a summer with Tim?” The late-night theological discussions over eschatology, identity in Christ, or assurance of salvation were memorable. But you know what was the most impactful? Watching him minister to others. His life-on-life approach taught me more than any theological lesson he shared. A discipleship principle I gleaned from Tim is that you can’t expect from others what you aren’t emulating yourself. Tim could speak with certainty on prayer because he and I were up at 6:00 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday morning praying with students. Tim could give insights about the importance of having a daily quiet time with the Lord because he met with God every day in the Word. He could encourage others to labor in memorizing Scripture because he put in the time and effort to hide God’s Word in his heart. (I believe he has most, if not all, the New Testament committed to memory.)
The Importance of Community
What Brother Tim taught me more than anything else is that relationships are not just important for the Christian life, but essential. Lone Ranger Christianity is an alien concept in the Bible. We cannot grow in isolation from others. Community is often synonymous with the word “fellowship,” or koinonia in the Greek language. It is formed when men and women unite around a common interest, in this case, the gospel.
Author D. A. Carson wrote, “[The church] is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together…because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ…They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’s sake.”
Remember, Jesus is not an isolated rabbi separated from history. The gospel of our Lord is interconnected with a chosen people, Israel. God promised to impact the world through a nation, a community. Additionally, Jesus started a disciplemaking movement through a community of twelve men. Christian relationships are distinctively different because Jesus has made us different.
Why do I bring this up? Disciplemaking happens through intentional, intimate relationships with other people. The commands of Christ are carried out with other believers. The Bible is replete with passages urging us to join in fellowship, and we are commanded to live out the “one anothers” with those around us. Here are a few of those commands:
- Love one another (John 13:34).
- Be in agreement with one another (Rom. 12:16).
- Accept one another (Rom. 15:7).
- Instruct one another (Rom. 15:14).
- Greet one another (Rom. 16:16).
- Serve one another (Gal. 5:13).
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32).
- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).
- Admonish one another with all wisdom (Col. 3:16).
- Encourage one another, and build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11).
- Be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9).
- Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another (James 5:16).
It’s impossible to implement these words in isolation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best: “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.” We are sharpened by other believers and strengthened in community. Some of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned have been from other people.
In The Heart of a Disciplemaker, Tim weaves scriptural principles with personal disciplemaking stories to teach life-changing truths. This book speaks to the heart of every disciple who desires to make disciples. You will find Tim’s conversational writing style to be both accessible and inspiring at the same time. Don’t just read this book. Pass it on to those you’re investing in.
The Heart of a Disciplemaker
The church has done a good job teaching people how to share their faith but it hasn’t done well at teaching them to share their lives.
There is no question Jesus commanded those who follow Him to make disciples. But what does that look like in everyday life? While most believers are clear that the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 calls us to make disciples, many simply don’t know how. Investing in the lives of others who will in turn invest themselves in others is not difficult, but it does require intentionality. Building authentic relationships that leave a legacy of Christ long past our lives should be the goal of every believer. To accomplish this we must answer the following questions:
• What do gospel-centered relationships look like?
• What character qualities must we develop to deepen our walk with Christ and with others?
• How can we develop a heart for making disciples?
In, The Heart of a Disciplemaker, Tim LaFleur provides practical answers to these questions and more. Drawing from the Scripture, and his own life as a disciplemaker, Tim clarifies what a life lived for the glory of God looks like. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, every disciple of Jesus can develop character qualities that will encourage others to follow Christ through meaningful, dynamic, gospel-centered relationships. Relationships that leave a legacy, not for our name, but for the One whose name is above all names: Jesus Christ.