Six years ago, Bill Wilks was frustrated.
As lead pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama, he watched believers completing one Bible study after another in the discipleship program, but saw few develop into true disciple makers. It seemed like nothing in the church was truly multiplying.
“We were great at teaching the Bible, but weak on making disciples who make disciples,” Wilks admitted.
He began to take a “deep dive” into the four Gospels, studying Jesus’ relationship to His 12 disciples. The study led Wilks to a realization — disciple making is not a program; it is a lifestyle.
This simple yet profound truth changed Wilks’ ministry, he said, and became the foundation for D-Life — a lifestyle approach to disciple making.
D-Life equips believers by following Jesus’ six practices of discipleship: fellowship, teaching, prayer, ministry, multiplication and accountability. The ultimate goal, Wilks said, is to see a global, grassroots, disciple-making movement.
He started leading D-Life D-Groups, asking the NorthPark staff to join in by leading three to five men, following Jesus’ model. Each week Wilks wrote study guides for the groups, centered on reading the Bible, discussing Bible passages, and doing ministry and evangelism outside the church walls.
“D-Life is a lifestyle of disciple making that people can live anytime and anywhere,” Said Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church in Trussville. “I often say, ‘You don’t need permission to do the Great Commission.’”
Wilks eventually wrote four years of study guides that have been published and made available through D-Life Online and D-Life Old Testament and New Testament Journals.
“We have been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples, and so our life, our lifestyle, should be about making disciples,” said Tim Smith, director of missions for Floyd County Baptist Association in Georgia. “Living the D-Life is giving the people a tool to help them to make disciples.”
Smith has witnessed the impact D-Life can make in the lives of believers. As former Georgia Baptist Mission Board Sunday School and discipleship director, he began using the approach in his own discipleship efforts and then shared it with churches throughout Georgia.
Smith now partners with Wilks to lead D-Life Boot Camps in Alabama, as well as boot camps and Legacy and Leadership for Georgia pastors.
D-Life Boot Camps offer training for the disciple-making lifestyle. Participants learn a simple, biblical and reproducible process to help them make disciples who make disciples for the rest of their lives.
During the four-hour camps, believers receive intensive training, learning how to implement the process Jesus used to make disciples. The two-fold goal is every participant will leave believing they can live the disciple-making lifestyle and everyone will be equipped for disciple making.
“In a D-Life Boot Camp, we don’t just talk about disciple making, but will equip you to be a disciple-maker for the rest of your life,” Wilks said, noting his wife, Rondie, and others assist in leading training opportunities.
The team also leads D-Life Women’s Retreats, one-day D-Life Women’s Conferences and student boot camps.
Legacy and Leadership
D-Life offers a 12-week Legacy and Leadership track for discipling pastors or pastors’ wives. Many association leaders use Legacy and Leadership to present discipleship, Wilks said.
Thousands of churches and ministries across the U.S. and in eight countries are using D-Life to equip believers for the disciple-making lifestyle, and Wilks noted D-Life Online is offered in Spanish and Haitian Creole, with a Hindi translation in the works.
Wilks added that an eight-week “Positive Choices” track is used by crisis pregnancy centers to disciple women who come to the clinics.
Coming to Christ
“I’ve had people that didn’t know the Lord get saved in the D-life group,” Smith said. One unmarried couple made salvation decisions while participating in the process, and Smith baptized them and later performed their wedding ceremony.
Wilks’ newest book, “The Greater Work — Disciple Making. Anytime. Anywhere.” will be available in February. It outlines the D-Life story and what God is doing in people’s lives through the effort.
“I’ve never been more excited about what God is doing in our church at NorthPark,” Wilks said. “We are seeing people lead D-Groups who have never led anything like this before. Those participating in our D-Groups are growing spiritually … and we are doing more ministry and evangelism in our community than we’ve ever done before.
“The three-fold purpose of every D-Life D-Group is: 1. to grow in spiritual maturity, 2. to serve in missional ministry and 3. to reproduce disciple makers. Through D-Life, this is what we are seeing at NorthPark and all across the country.”
On Saturday, Jan. 22, NorthPark will host the Alabama Statewide D-Life Boot Camp from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register, click here.