Twenty-five years ago, a friend, Leroy Bartel, introduced me to a philosophy of ministry that the Assemblies of God would launch later, that would be called We Build People. Literally the more he talked about it my heart began to beat rapidly. We were sitting in my car in Forsyth, Georgia at a summer youth camp.
I had prayed and wondered how we could equip pastors, youth pastors, and churches to follow up with discipleship of students that came through our camp ministries. I had seen students that had never been disciples become equipped as our youth pastors taught them how do pray, study their Bibles, and share their faith stories as we prepared for short term missions trips. I had prayed with pastors who wanted to disciple students but lacked disciplers in their congregations. How many times had I shared the wisdom that President James Hennessy of Southeastern College had shared with me? “Dennis, if you are in a church that can’t afford a youth pastor, then it is your responsibility to pastor and disciples those students.”
As a young first time lead pastor, that was what I did. A young couple in our congregation came alongside of us, Mark and Carol, and soon they were leading stellar youth ministry in our small church. Another couple, just a little older than we were, came along side us and Dan and Judy began working with our boys and girls. What an impact they had. Soon God gave us another couple who began working with our older members and attenders, Becky’s parents, Carl and Frances. Then another couple joined us, Bob and Missy, and they began helping with recreational ministries and music. We were discipling students, new believers, and you know what, we were growing in faith ourselves.
Later our church fellowship gave Becky and I the opportunity to serve our congregations by leading and equipping for youth ministry. Even later they would give us another opportunity to network with pastors and leaders for leadership development and equipping ministries for the churches various levels of discipleship. Enter Leroy into my life. It was not an accident. He reached out and taught me how to help churches disciple those who came to faith in Christ.
Later I would attend a leadership meeting with similar leaders that he led where he introduced us to We Build People. I have never been the same. I loved Jesus, but I began to love him more. I loved the Church, but I began to love the local church even more. I grew to love the mission of the church even more. I understood the love, power, and potential of the church to change the world, to literally prevail against the gates of hell, if we would not give up our mandate to make disciples. If those disciples were released in their gifting and call from God to make other disciples then the world could truly be reached, served, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. The church could truly be great, because the church would serve.
The greatness of the church, is not impressive buildings, clever planning, political clout, or capital funding. It is when the Church truly serves in the name, love, and power of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s people growing in faith together at every stage of life.