Bill Wilks wouldn’t have guessed that 2020 would’ve been the year he found himself sitting around with a group of men from garage door repair langley in his garage, chairs six feet apart, bundled up in coats with the garage door open.
But in a pandemic year when gathering in groups is more complicated, it works.
And that’s just the thing about D-Life — because it’s discipleship the way Jesus designed, it just keeps working in any setting where people try it, Wilks said.
Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, started the D-Life model about seven years ago when he began meeting with five other staff members each week to talk about what they were reading in the Bible.
Their goal: to get through the entire New Testament together in a year and then to split into separate groups, add in more people and do it all over again.
It was such a simple model it worked, Wilks said — simple to facilitate and simple to replicate.
Fast forward to this month, and Wilks is leading two more D-Life Boot Camps in Alabama to teach others how to start a culture of making disciples at their church and in their personal lives.
In recent months and years, they’ve led boot camps across the Southeast to train people how to be effective disciple makers by studying the Bible with friends, coworkers and neighbors.
‘Practical and fruitful’
“It’s growing; it’s spreading,” Wilks said. “Almost every church that signs up keeps going for multiple years. It’s a process that’s just so practical and fruitful.”
The goal, he said, is to help people realize that discipleship isn’t a program of the church — “it’s a lifestyle.”
“Inviting people to church is good, but if they say they already have a church, then we don’t have anything else to try,” he said. “What if we started with ‘come be a part of my life’? It becomes ‘let’s hang out and let me disciple you’ instead.”
Wondering how it works? Through an app, D-Life offers a year-long reading plan that has participants read one chapter of the Bible each day on their own, then come together once a week in small groups to discuss it.
When they meet, one person facilitates. Another leads a prayer. A third retells the story that’s assigned for the week, a story they will have all read in their personal time in the Word. A fourth person will read it from the Bible to see if anything was left out.
Starting a movement
Each group chooses its own time and place for meeting up. It can be anywhere — a restaurant, a coffee shop or a chilly garage, Wilks said. The only thing the D-Life model asks is for the meeting to happen out in the culture somewhere, not at a church.
Then when the groups grow to eight or so people, they split and start new groups. That keeps them growing and multiplying, Wilks said.
That can start a disciple-making movement and help revitalize churches too.
“If you’re going to revitalize your church, how are you going to do that without building a disciple making culture? If you can build that culture, you can begin revitalization,” he said.
And once people adapt a disciple-making lifestyle, they can take it anywhere, Wilks said. “It doesn’t matter where you go to church, once we train you to be a disciple maker, then if you moved to Alaska, you could begin a D-group and immediately begin making and multiplying disciples.”
Stan Albright, director of missions for Coosa River Baptist Association, said when he was pastor of First Baptist Church, Oxford, it was evident that D-Life played “a significant role in the spiritual awakening and growth of our church. It resulted in multiple baptisms. We’ve had almost 40 baptisms after launching D-Life.”
As the years have gone on and Wilks has led boot camps across Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas and other states, he’s seen groups multiply and people grow in their faith over and over.
And as he’s taught, his wife, Rondie, has been right there with him, teaching it to women’s groups and doing retreats for pastors’ wives.
“Bill and I are truly passionate about making disciples and sharing this tool that has been life changing for us,” she said. “We believe it is truly a process that cannot fail because it’s no one’s program — it’s the process that Jesus modeled for us. He came up with it. What a privilege we have in this mandate, this commandment — ‘make disciples.’”
Anyone can attend a D-Life Boot Camp. And this year, leaders are taking precautions due to the pandemic.
Wilks said social distancing and other recommended protocols will be observed during the boot camps.
Tables will be spaced apart and lunch will be served boxed-meal style. Tables and meeting rooms will be well-sanitized in preparation for group meetings, he said. D-Life leaders also request that participants bring and wear face masks.
D-Life materials are produced in partnership with Life Bible Study, an imprint of Iron Stream Media. For more information or to register, visit livethedlife.com/bama.