Alabama pastors share what’s worked for them in discipleship sessions

By Maggie Walsh
The Alabama Baptist

Love and the Great Commission go hand in hand. You cannot do one without the other.”

It’s hard to tell who said it first, but between Robert Coleman and Billie Hanks Jr., it was a refrain of the “Becoming a Disciple-Maker” workshop Nov. 12 at Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, according to organizer Joey Hanner.

Both men are lifetime disciple makers who have written popular books on the subject. Coleman is the author of “The Master Plan on Evangelism” and Hanks is the author of “A Call to Joy.”

Through the session, Hanner hoped his fellow church leaders would be encouraged to start the fire of intentional discipleship in their churches. Hanner, pastor of Union No. 3 Baptist Church near Gadsden, has a passion for discipleship that is felt throughout his rural congregation — in the past six years they’ve baptized 900 people, following that up with one-on-one discipleship.

“I just know that if our churches would get ahold of this then we could celebrate what the Lord is doing together and the increase and spiritual maturity that comes along with it,” Hanner said.

Hanks and Coleman both shared their personal experiences with discipleship, how it is a lifestyle of perseverance and investment.

When Coleman shared, “it was a monumental moment,” Hanner recalled. “Pastors just had tears in their eyes.”

Another Alabama pastor who has a passion for discipleship is Bill Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, who leads his church in a lifestyle disciple-making strategy called D-Life. He started D-Life three years ago and it’s already in 28 states, Wilks said, which shows that “the idea of living a life of discipleship has found a place in people’s hearts.”

“One of the main things that makes it successful is the simplicity of it,” he said. “It’s simple, but not shallow. … And it’s reproducible.”

Wilks, along with a few volunteers, led a D-Life demonstration Nov. 13 prior to the morning session of the 2017 Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference at Whitesburg Baptist. Together the five men modeled what a typical D-Life meeting would look like, with Wilks providing additional information and suggestions for adaptation along the way.

The demonstration was sponsored by Life Bible Study and The Alabama Baptist.

At the end of the demonstration Stan Albright, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oxford, shared his church’s experience with D-Life. First, Oxford, began D-Life groups two years ago. In the first year 18 people were baptized. This year 86 have been baptized.

“It just shows you the power that has taken place in this process. … My prayer is that you would go back and do something similar to this in your own congregation,” Albright said.

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