NorthPark’s D-Life helps create discipleship lifestyle through ‘simple, profound’ model

NorthPark’s D-Life helps create discipleship lifestyle through ‘simple, profound’ model

What do you think is keeping the people in your church from being disciples who make disciples? What’s keeping you from doing it?

Is it because you feel you’re not a Billy Graham or a Beth Moore?

Is it because you feel you just don’t know how?

Whatever the reason, Bill Wilks says you can do it — it’s simpler than you think.

He said he knows this because he’s seen nearly his entire church turn into active disciple makers in the past two years.

What’s their secret?

They’re reading the Bible every day and they’re meeting up every week to talk about what they’re reading.

That’s pretty much it, he said.

They call it D-Life.

“It’s not a program; it’s a lifestyle,” said Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville. “And it’s so simple it’s profound. The simplicity is what’s making it work. People are running with it.”

D-Life started at NorthPark two years ago when Wilks began meeting with five other staff members each week to talk about what they were reading in the Bible each day. 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.

Feeling confident

“It was birthed out of a desire to see more people really living out the Great Commission,” Wilks said. “For many people in our churches, the concept of discipleship is to become more educated. It’s more ‘when’s the next class I can go to?’ than it is ‘how can I be a disciple who makes disciples?’”

Most people in the pews are plenty educated, Wilks said, but few feel confident enough to teach someone else how to follow Christ.

But Jesus gave His followers a “really simple model,” Wilks said. “They had intimate fellowship, and He taught them in a very simple way and then sent them out to tell others.”

D-Life is based on that model, he said.

Through an app, D-Life offers a year-long reading plan that has participants reading one chapter of the Bible each day on their own, then coming 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.

Each group chooses its own time and place for meeting up.

“It can be anytime, anywhere, any day of the week, and it can be in restaurants, coffee shops, homes or parks,” Wilks said.

‘Out in culture’

The only stipulation? “We just like for them to be out in culture, not in the church.”

That setup makes a difference, Wilks said.

“The multiplication of it out in culture is just powerful,” he said. “For example, there’s a group of senior adult ladies who meet at Arby’s every week, and a woman approached them one week because she saw them reading their Bibles together. They eventually led her to Christ. A few months later, the same thing happened again to the same group of ladies.”

That’s one way the groups are multiplying, he said. And that’s the whole point.

“We are discipling each other to do evangelism, read, multiply,” Wilks said.

Meeting outside the church invites encounters with strangers, but it also provides a neutral place to which people can invite their friends.

Sometimes they come. Often they stay. They meet Jesus.

And the groups grow.

“When it gets to eight or so, it’s time for them to multiply and form two groups,” he said. “It keeps us growing by multiplication rather than addition. And it gives us a natural place to connect people who visit the church and want to learn about following Christ.”

The natural growth and movement of multiplication also keeps groups from getting stagnant, he said.

“I know I’m not the only pastor who has struggled for years trying to get Sunday School classes to multiply,” Wilks said. “They don’t want us to mess their class up. It’s like pulling teeth.”

With D-Life, NorthPark is seeing multiplication happen, though it’s not about numbers, Wilks is quick to add.

“The first priority is training people to make disciples, period,” he said. “If people leave the church and move somewhere else, they should be doing D-Life wherever they go, because it’s a lifestyle. It’s what we’re supposed to be about. And it’s a lifelong habit we’re trying to cultivate.”

‘Unbelievable’ results

The results have been “unbelievable,” he said.

“We’ve got more people reading their Bible than ever before,” Wilks said. “We’ve got groups sitting around discussing the Bible like never before.”

They’ve grown from that first D-Life group of staff members to 52 groups meeting weekly. The groups range from the senior adult ladies at Arby’s to a group of sixth grade girls that meet one morning a week at Chick-Fil-A — that group has already grown from four girls to nine this year.

Whole families are involved in some groups, joining other families and letting the children be the ones to retell the story. Other families are splitting up, with husbands, wives and teenage children all leading separate groups.

Each group grows together and then they go out and serve the community together.

Then they multiply and do it all over again.

The whole church has noticed the impact.

Ray Walker, a NorthPark member, says D-Life has been “transformational.”

“My group has been meeting for a little over a year now and the impact on the men’s lives has been incredible,” he said. “Men in my group are excited about reading the Bible, sharing the stories and leading our time of discussion. It’s been a great joy for me to see God work in the lives of these men and see how they have matured in Christ.”

It’s been a joy for Wilks to watch too — a joy he’s now passing on to other pastors.

Several churches across the Southeast, including First Baptist Church, Arley, and First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, have brought Wilks in to train them in how to do D-Life in their churches.

At First, Arley, it’s already going strong, according to Pastor Zach Reno.

“Our people are so excited about D-Life,” he said. “In my experience, it has been hard for many people within the church to engage in discipleship for many reasons, with the most common being that they have never seen it modeled or been given a model that works. The approach, process and overall simplicity in D-Life makes it possible for any Christian to become a disciple maker.”

Churches wanting to do D-Life can download training guides and reading plans and even personalize the D-Life app to their own church, Wilks said.

Wilks said he’s available to lead one-day boot-camp trainings at interested churches, or they can participate in quarterly trainings offered at NorthPark — or they can just download the materials from the D-Life website and start.

“I’d be happy to talk with anyone who is interested in doing this at their church,” he said. “It’s changed the conversation of our church. It’s just contagious. And we want to pass it on.”

For more information, visit or contact Wilks at 205-228-0030.