Over the next several weeks we will hear from various pastors who have taken part or are currently in the Replicate Cohort. We will hear stories from these pastors about how a disciplemaking strategy started and took root in their churches. For more information about the Replicate Cohort click here. – Tim.
Jonathan LaFleur serves as lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church is in Terre Haute, IN. FSBC is part of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) and the West Central Baptist Association (WCBA). The motto at First Southern is, “We are One Family, In Christ, On Mission.” That mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ in all nations, starting in Terre Haute. See more about First Southern Baptist at http://www.fsouthern.org.
The Discipleship Journey of First Southern Baptist Church
First Southern Baptist Church in Terre Haute, IN, has a passion for discipleship unlike any church I’ve ever known. This was evident from my first interaction with some of its members. The church was conducting a pastor search and the search committee had narrowed their candidates down to just me. In March of 2017, the church flew my wife and me from Louisiana to Indiana to meet us in person. When we met with the committee, we prepared for more questions from the committee, but to our surprise, the chairman said, “We already know enough about you; what questions do you have for us?”
That statement was music to my ears, and my love for this church was beginning to blossom rapidly. I pulled out a list of questions and began firing away about many different topics. At one point in our discussion, I asked about deacons’ meetings and what they entailed. Two of the deacons were on the search committee, and one of them responded, “We do not have set meeting requirements for you, but we were hoping that, for your first year, you would meet with us once a week and disciple us.” No, I am not joking – that is what was said, by a deacon! My rapidly growing love for this church hit warp speed.
My first D-Group was now established, consisting of three deacons and me, meeting once a week for prayer, Bible study, accountability, Scripture memorization, and fellowship. The influencers are on board! This is a great start to a disciple-making movement! Discipleship here we come.
An issue that the deacons and I had discussed during one of our meetings was a need for a new members’ class in the church. My idea was to teach a seven-week course on what it means to be a church member, as the first step in our church’s discipleship pathway. Before offering it to prospective members, though, I thought it would be necessary first to teach the material to all of the current members so that we could all be in accord as to what church membership is. The church embraced it wholeheartedly, and for seven weeks, we met on Sunday night, walking through the Word together.
At the end of the seven-week Sunday evening study on church membership (which we called Rooted), one of the church members approached me and said, “I have enjoyed this so much! Is there any way we can do another series like this?” Another church member approached me and said, “You have such a love and knowledge for discipleship. Could you teach us how to be disciple-makers?” I realized at that moment that the people’s hunger for discipleship was outpacing my strategy, and I had to decide what I was going to do to keep this passion going.
In January of 2018, we launched a year-long course to train disciple makers called Disciple-Makers University (DMU). DMU was open to all adult men and women who wanted to be equipped to make disciples through by discipleship groups. For that whole year, we covered every aspect of leading a group in the hope that God would raise up leaders for the groups we wanted to launch in 2019. We prayed for three male leaders and three female leaders so that we could have six groups total. Instead, God raised up four male and five female leaders for a total of nine groups. God is faithful, and we are off to a great start of what we pray will be a disciple-making movement in our church and across our city!
Photo by Ben White