How do you spell commitment to Christ? With a capital “D” for Discipleship, says second-year RTS student Bob Wojohn. With unusual leadership and zeal, this young man has dedicated his life to helping others become better followers of Jesus Christ. And, so far, he’s having tremendous success.

To disciple others well requires not only God-given gifts, but also excellent teachers. And Bob has had both. Before coming to RTS in 1987, he was on staff for ten years with Worldwide Discipleship Association, a ministry begun in 1974 by Carl Wilson, formerly Director of the High School Ministry for Campus Crusade. WDA’s purpose is to train people for an effective discipleship ministry in the local church. It was in this organization that Bob sharpened his own discipleship skills.

DISCIPLING OTHERS: A CALLING

Wojohn has lost no time in utilizing those skills while at seminary. This year Bob is administrating and coordinating the outreach of an interdenominational singles group called “After Five” in Jackson. Every Monday night singles from 25-35 years of age gather at a local apartment complex to hear a variety of interesting speakers. Once a month the group focuses on outreach and is geared for non-Christians. The other three meetings are geared for Christians. Bob is excited about “After Five” because of its uniqueness; most singles groups exist for fellowship, not outreach.

“I like the strategy of developing ministries outside the local church with freedom to do new creative things, yet with the purpose of assimilating people into the church,” says Bob.

He is also enjoying his second year of teaching the College and Career Sunday School class at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson. Begun with only four or five students last year, the group has increased to over 25. Since most are Christians, Bob is trying to encourage them to grow in Christ and aspire to positions of leadership in the church. He wants them to look closely at their spiritual gifts and use their talents to the fullest.

Bob has big plans for the group. Right now he is using the Sunday School hour to teach and build a spirit of community in the group. But his long-term goal is to see each of them involved in serious outreach and discipleship.

“I have a strong burden for missions — both training and sending missionaries — so I’m encouraging them to go on short- term projects,” confides Bob. ” One of our college girls went to Portugal this past summer with Servants in Mission Abroad (SIMA). Our group also supports two people in full-time mission work.

Dr. Knox Chamblin, professor of New Testament at RTS and a member of Trinity, has high praise for Bob’s work. “Bob is very gifted in the area of discipleship. He has built up our College and Career Sunday School class in a phenomenal way. I think his success is a combination of his teaching skills and his concern for people. His teaching in Sunday School relates directly to what he does when he meets with people one on one. What impresses me is that he is not interested in learning for learning’s sake, but in building truth into his own life and the lives of those he is discipling.”

Part of Bob’s success could be that he plans his strategy carefully as he teaches. “Whenever I teach, I try to emphasize the importance of the application of Scriptures. Applying Scripture practically usually means having a ministry to someone else, whether helping the poor, or visiting the elderly and sick, or discipling others.” To illustrate this, Bob disciples three young men in a Bible study, hoping to train them to disciple others.

THE TRAINING OF A DISCIPLE

For all the knowledge Bob now has about discipling, he had none of it when he entered college. Even though he was born into a Christian home in Mobile, Alabama, he did not come to know Christ until 1973 as a freshman at Auburn University. Like many other college students, Bob had a good understanding of the Bible but had never made a personal commitment to Christ.

After his conversion, Bob was discipled by several fellow students and, as a result, grew quickly as a Christian. More and more strongly he was convinced that God wanted him to be not a veterinarian, but in full-time Christian ministry. And it was his life-changing experience with discipleship that would shape that future ministry.

Shortly after college graduation, the Lord opened the door to a position with Worldwide Discipleship Association, and Bob went on staff in 1978. He was assigned to the University of Georgia, where he worked for five years. While there he met his wife, Christy.

Auburn University was his second assignment, where he founded a Worldwide Discipleship ministry and served as director for four years. Since many Auburn students come from Christian homes, much of the ministry was not evangelization, but rather helping young Christians make deeper commitments to Christ and become disciples.

The work at Auburn was fulfilling, but, for several reasons, God seemed to be turning Bob’s interest from a campus ministry to a church ministry. First, becoming a father caused his focus to change more to young marrieds and fostered a desire to minister to the whole family, not just one age group. In addition, he found himself wanting to be a senior pastor so he could develop a discipleship program in the local church.

“The training of church leadership is a real burden of mine,” reveals Bob. “I feel like many laymen are frustrated. They feel guilty because they are not more involved in ministering to the needs of others. Yet, they lack the skills which would prepare them to take such steps of faith.”

“People need to have a ministry where God has placed them,” he continues. “The church’s effectiveness hinges upon the development of the lay ministry. This is the only way people will come to Christ and the Great Commission will be fulfilled.”

MAKING MINISTRY TO OTHERS A PRIORITY

“I believe we are to the point in our culture,” observes Wojohn, ” where Christians must make time to serve Christ and His kingdom. We need to reach out with the gospel and make the equipping of church leadership our priority if we are going to reach our communities and our world for Christ. Discipling men and women to obey Christ is essential.”

But there can be obstacles. According to Wojohn, many Christians are not willing to give of themselves in order to help others grow in Christ.

“We need to enjoy life,” says Bob, ” yet we also need to be committed to God’s kingdom. Our biggest task is to sober Christians to their commitment to Christ and His kingdom, to encourage them not to go through life and reach retirement by ‘living the way I want to live.'”

Bob Wojohn has set himself a big task. But as a fellow student revealed, Bob is ready to pour himself into others’ lives, to help them understand the importance of a Christ-centered life. With such dedication, it is easy to believe that God will bless his efforts mightily.

IMPROVING DISCIPLESHIP TRAINING
IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

Although Bob admits he has much to learn about the ministry of the local church, from his ten years experience in discipling he points to some practical changes that could help the discipleship ministry in the local church.

1.┬áBe more committed to meeting needs than to structure and tradition. Be willing to change the church’s meeting times, the order of worship, the use of family night suppers and mid-week services to meet the needs of individual Christians and to train leadership.

The layman is under pressure with commitments to work and family. It’s very difficult for him to find additional time for training or seminars when he already attends three or more church meetings weekly. If necessary, change the structure or time to accommodate such laymen who want assistance. The Sunday School hour could be used as a training period for possible discipleship group leaders.

2. Sunday evenings are one of the great potential areas of ministry. Yet, the small attendance so typical on most Sunday evenings should tell us that we are not meeting the needs of the people as well as we could. A once-a-month celebration of worship, prayer, praise, and fellowship, accompanied by two or three Sunday evenings spent in small discipleship groups might be more effective. Discipleship group leaders could then meet with the people they are discipling during the week. This could help build a small group strategy for the local church, something that is sorely needed, without burdening the laity unduly by requiring more and more of their time.

3.Intimacy, love for one another, and the ability to bear one another’s burdens are developed effectively in small groups. Many relationships in the church, as well as society, are shallow; we are superficial in the way we communicate, in expressing our needs, and in praying with one another. Small groups afford a greater opportunity to encourage wise and obedient Christian living and to build meaningful relationships.

“I realize,” says Wojohn, “that this is easier to do in a small church; but large churches like Briarwood in Birmingham have been effective in developing small group Bible studies. To develop this kind of strategy is really my burden in ministry, my calling.”

4. Developing a lay ministry will encourage a greater degree of Scripture application, more accountability of Christians to one another, and more responsibility taken by laymen in the teaching of Scripture and in ministering according to their spiritual gifts. This approach will allow us to move away from a spectator mentality to an involvement mentality, so that individual Christians acknowledge their responsibility to help others grow, instead of leaving it up to the pastor and staff.