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.
Bobby Pletcher is the Minister of Education at FBC Chipley, a rural church in the Panhandle of Florida in a town of about 3,500.
In 2017, they completed their facility updates and returned to 2 morning worship services, one at 9:00 and one at 10:30 am.
They have a total of around 550 in attendance at the 2 services. Their 9:00 service is a blended service with hymns, worship songs, and choir. Their 10:30 service has a more modern style of worship. They also have Connect Groups that meet at both these hours as well.
On Sunday evenings, they have discipleship groups that meet with activities for kids.
See more about them at http://www.firstbaptistchipley.com/
The Discipleship Journey of FBC Chipley
In 2014 we (the staff) began to ask ourselves how we can do a better job of discipling our people. As I began to do some research, I came across a Discipleship Blueprint Conference at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN.
In early 2015 I took four lay people to the Blueprint Conference at Brainerd. What I didn’t realize was that it was actually my fellow staff members who needed to attend, because we all left blown away by what that we had heard. We were convinced that this was what we needed to do at FBC Chipley.
I came back and shared with the staff what we had learned, and for the next several months we read through Growing Up and discussed how we could put a plan in place. In late 2015, we decided that each staff person and the lay leaders who had gone to the Blueprint Conference would pray and ask 3-5 people to be in our D-Group. We held training in November of 2015 and started our D-Groups in January of 2016. We launched our disciple-making ministry with four staff members and three lay leaders: a total of seven leaders with 25 people in their groups.
We didn’t announce anything to the church. We started these groups, each of which met when it was convenient for them. Some met in the early morning and others met in the evening; none met on Sunday.
In November of 2016 we held a new training for people already in a D-Group and were interested in leading a group the following year. By 2017, we had grown to 23 leaders with 89 members in their groups.
During our first year, the word was getting around about D-Groups because those who were in them were growing and were excited about what was going on in their lives. Other people began to notice. Once, I had a Connect Group leader say that he could tell who in his Connect Group was in a D-Group by observing the obvious spiritual growth taking place. He also noticed that several were now leaving class a few minutes early because they had volunteered to serve in some type of ministry.
As D-Groups grew in size and in spiritual depth, some began asking questions about why they were not asked to be in a group and when they might be able to get connected with one. We had to tell them to be patient, to remain faithful to being regular in their attendance to worship and their Connect Group, and to read the church-wide Bible reading plan (F260).
In 2017, I joined the Replicate Cohort and was blessed to be under the teaching and training of Robby, Tim, Gus, and Chris. The teaching and discussion we experienced in the 4 meetings held at Long Hollow Baptist Church in 2017-2018 were invaluable to my personal understanding of discipleship.
In 2018, our replication didn’t produce the results we hoped for, as only 32 decided to lead a D- Group, but still it grew. By this point, we had grown to 32 leaders with 93 members—for a total of 125 involved in a D-Group.
For 2019 we felt led to change our Sunday evening schedule to give discipleship a stronger emphasis. We had a traditional model of Discipleship Training at 5:00 pm and our evening worship at 6:00 pm. Discipleship Training used to consist of:
- One adult ongoing class (they did a survey of the Old Testament and New Testament, cults, other denominations, and the Baptist Faith and Message).
- Seven groups of ladies doing Kay Arthur Precept Bible studies.
- Mission Friends, RA’s, GA’s
- Nothing for youth grades 7-12
Now from 5:00 – 5:30 pm, we have a Discipleship Assembly in the sanctuary for all youth and adults. Since our church-wide reading plan is the F260NT, everyone can come and benefit from this time. We sing 2 songs and then our pastor has about 20 minutes to:
- Share an overview of the past week’s readings.
- Answer any questions submitted from the readings.
- Preview the next week’s reading.
We then break out into our adult and student D-Groups from 5:30 – 7:00 pm. The children attend their mission classes from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.
Starting two years ago, we began talking about D-Groups from the pulpit. But this year, with the change in our Sunday evening schedule, we announced that anyone who wanted to be in a D-Group should sign up. It sounded good in principle because this way we wouldn’t leave anyone out who wanted to be involved and our pastor wanted all those who had been faithful to Sunday evening services to be in a D-Group. However, if someone signs up and no one feels led to have them in their group, it can become a problem. I like the method Jesus used: pray about who you should ask to be in your group and then go ask them.
This year we have started off with 38 D-Group leaders and 136 members for a total of 174. We will have 2 emphases this year: First, we will start having group members lead the D-Groups after the first 13 weeks. This will give all of our D-Group participants plenty of experience with what a D-Group looks like, and hopefully give them the confidence to lead a group next year. Second, we will hold leaders and members more accountable for evangelism.
Here is what our D-Group involvement has looked like over the course of our disciplemaking journey at Chipley:
We are thrilled to see the beginnings of discipleship’s spark in our church, and we are beyond excited to see what God has in store for us in the coming years as we are faithful to carry out His command to make disciples of all nations.