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.
Brad Ball is the Senior Pastor at Bethsaida Baptist Church, a 130-year old multi-generational SBC church in Dublin, GA. He will have been pastoring there for five years in August. Bethsaida has really come to life in the last five years. Worship attendance has grown 60% and Life Groups have gone up 35 to 40%. They had no D-Groups when he got there, but those numbers have grown to 15 adult and student groups. They are working through F-260 Reading Plan and using the Foundations book in all of their Life Groups from children to adults. They are planning on beginning the New Testament reading plan in 2020. You can visit their website at bethsaidabaptistchurch.org
When my wife Janice and I came to Bethsaida Baptist in Dublin, Georgia in August of 2014, we knew that one of the first things we wanted to begin was a Disciplemaking ministry. I had written my doctoral dissertation on launching a discipleship model when I was pastoring my previous church, and I was familiar with Growing Up, so discipleship was dear to my heart.
At Bethsaida, we have around 23,000 people within a five-mile radius of our building. We are situated on a main highway at the edge of the city limits, so we are able to draw people from both the city of Dublin and the neighboring Laurens County. Of the people who live in Dublin, around 66% of them are entirely unchurched.
That, along with our pre-existing heart for discipleship, led Janice and me to each start D-Groups a few months after moving there—in January of 2015. As of today, those two groups have multiplied into fifteen. At first, we met with our groups for 15 to 18 months each, but now they generally range from 12 to 15 months. D-Groups have greatly impacted the lives of many of our members and brought about growth and change in our church.
The next year, in 2016, I was able to become part of the first Replicate Cohort with Robby and the Replicate team. It was a blessing to get to know and learn from Robby, Kandi, Tim, Gus and Chris.
The great benefit of being part of the Cohort was multi-faceted. I got to learn from practitioners who were doing discipleship in their present church. Plus, Robby and the Replicate team had just gotten to their current church, Long Hollow. So I was able to learn from them as we were both transitioning our churches into a Discipleship Pathway.
They helped us come up with a Discipleship Pathway for Bethsaida. This helped us create a map, not a menu, so that our church had clear direction. The Replicate team worked with me and helped me think through the entire process. We also created our own logos for the Pathway and made our church logo tie in with it. Now every week we remind our people the reason why we exist is to be “Passionate About Life Change.” Then we tell them that we believe life change takes place when people become involved in what we call the Bethsaida Pathway. We want people to “Love God, Find Community, Make Disciples, and Impact the World.”
The pathway is our mission and strategy put together. We want people to Love God through weekly worship and text-driven preaching. Then we want people to Find Community in weekly Life Groups, Make Disciples in year-long D-Groups, and Impact the world through evangelism, missions, community service, volunteering in the church and having gospel conversations. So, every week I am now able to reinforce the steps and the next steps that we want people to take at Bethsaida. In addition, we can share stories and testimonies of how God is working through our people on the pathway.
Another great benefit of being part of the Replicate Cohort was that I got to meet several other pastors, learn from them, and forge friendships. Additionally, one of the pastors in the group referred me to a Student Pastor who we called on staff and now he is discipling Students at our church.
I would highly recommend to you the Replicate staff and encourage you to be part of their Cohort and take your people through the blueprint. If you want to get serious about discipleship and making disciples in your church, then check out Replicate Ministries. Your church will be blessed for it and it will help the Kingdom grow as we all strive to “make disciples of all the nations.”