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Real Disciple-Making

By Dan Vis
October 11, 2021
Comments: 78

For this week's memo, I've pulled out a bit of my own personal story, of how I got started with memorization, and the impact it has had on my life. It's the perfect article given that we'll be opening enrollment in our Breakout Memory Challenge in a few days. Get ready!

Making disciples involves more than just doing evangelism. Real disciple-making is connecting people to the real disciple-maker: Jesus Christ. At least, that's how I've come to view it after nearly 30 years of full-time ministry.

Jesus made this point exactly in his parting instructions to the church: "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" by 1) "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and then 2) "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-2019 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen., NKJV). It is both calling people to follow Christ, and then helping them grow in their walk with Him, together, that makes up the Great Commission.

“Real disciple-making is connecting people to the real disciple-maker: Jesus Christ.”

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I became a Christian as a young college student, just a couple months into my twenties, after reading a copy of the Desire of Ages that I had stumbled on to in a used book store. Through a series of additional providential steps, the Lord soon brought me into his endtime church, and I was baptized. That was part one of the Great Commission.

Fortunately, I had some friends around able to help me with part two. A handful of guys from the university I attended, took me under their wing and began to teach me the basics of the Christian walk: how to pray, study the Bible, deal with temptation, manage my time, share my testimony, and more.

Perhaps most important--they taught me the one thing Jesus said we should teach every new believer: how to "observe" the things Christ commanded. By introducing me to the basic nuts and bolts of Bible memorization, they gave me a skill that completely transformed my life.

“In discovering the basic nuts and bolts of Bible memorization, I gained a skill that completely transformed my life.”

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You see, the word "observe" in the Great Commission comes from a Greek word meaning to guard or keep. It's used in Matthew 27:54Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. to describe how the centurion was assigned to "watch" Jesus on the cross. And in Acts 16:23And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:, it's used to describe how the jailor was charged with "keeping" Paul and Silas locked up in prison. And in Jude 1:6And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day., it's used to describe how the fallen angels are being "reserved" in chains until their judgment.

Together, these verses suggest "observing" means to lock up God's Word so securely, it can never be taken from you. To me, that sounds like memorization!

Through memorization, I could fix my eyes on Jesus anywhere--by simply meditating on verses I knew. Through memorization I was able to lock up the Bible in my mind, and prevent it from slipping away. Through memorization, I was able to reserve the Scriptures, so they would be available for any trial I faced. Basically, memorizing connected me to the One who gave us the Word.

It wasn't easy, at first. I didn't have a great memory, and I had little exposure to the Bible growing up--so it was all brand new to me. But I was determined, and persevered in investing whatever time it took to get my verses learned each week. I learned to memorize word-perfect, the secret to long term retention, how to remember references, and more. Little by little, my store of verses began to grow.

At one point, something clicked. I had probably accumulated 50 or 60 verses, when I started noticing them popping up in sermons. Or I'd be studying a passage in my devotions, and some verse I had memorized would come to mind, shedding light on what I was reading. Or I'd be praying about something, and I'd suddenly think of a promise directly related to that request. And old temptations began losing their hold in my life, as I discovered how powerful quoting Scripture can be. When asked a question, it seemed I always happened to have just the verse I needed to explain my faith. It was as if Jesus were right there at my side, day by day.

In fact, the more it happened, the more exciting it got. At the time, I had a job that enabled me to memorize while at work--and I took advantage of it. Soon I had moved from 2-3 verses a week to 2-3 verses a day. Memorization was getting easier, and I couldn't seem to get enough. The Bible became "the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.).

And it soon began to open doors. Though young, and quite new to the church, I was soon asked to teach the lesson study in my church. And then to do prayer meeting. Soon I was preaching sermons.

Looking back now, I'm amazed at the doors God opened. With no formal training, I was soon invited to teach Bible at a local academy. Then a second academy. Then a small college. I went on to serve as an administrator in two evangelistic training centers. And ultimately, was asked to pastor a church in the Chicago suburbs--where I was ordained to the Gospel ministry. I've preached in hundreds of churches in more than a dozen countries. The last two decades have just been a blur of amazing adventures.

I'm fully convinced these doors opened, because years earlier, a handful of college friends took some interest in me, and taught me how to memorize Scripture. How to "observe" the teachings of the Bible.

These doors opened for me, because those friends were true disciple-makers, connecting me to the real disciple-maker. Jesus Christ. And following Him is never anything less than an amazing adventure!


How important is it to combine evangelism with follow-up and training? How important is it to make sure our training connects people to Jesus, the real disciple-maker? How important is memorization in the life of a believer? Share a thought or two in the comments below...

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Posted by Dan Vis on 09/25/22
I really love your testimony Rebecca, about the power of memorization. That's actually the first verse we assign in our Survival Kit course--which is our basic introduction to memorization for small groups. Hiding God's Word in our heart is truly transformative!

And yes, we will definitely be talking more about how to help others grow in Revival School--though the first part of the class is more about how to make sure we are growing in all the key areas of our life.

Posted by Rebecca on 09/24/22
I’m grateful to you and your ministry for turning me on to memorization. I decided to make the effort with just one text. Jeremiah 31:3The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. as I memorized the text, breaking it down word by word, I fell in love, in more love with God! It was with ‘loving kindness’ that He drew me to him. Your right, texts now leap off the pages of the Bible as ones I know and live and a pile of texts on cards for future memorization. God has used this tool to change me. Follow up training is vital. I hope to learn more about how to disciple others.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/22
Beautiful testimony Julio! There's definitely real power in the Word if we can just get seriously connected to it...

Great reasons for making sure our follow-up programs are strong Barbara! Also, I like your point that all our efforts should be to point people back to Jesus, the true disciple-maker. And yes, memorization helps equip us to help others. Good post!
Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 09/24/22
How important is follow up? When we call others to Christ many don’t have any idea of what to do or how to do it. Following up encourages them to stay on task, gives them a feeling of community. Paul did this by going back and visiting the churches or writing letters to them. All our training needs to lead them to Jesus, the source of all true discipline. He has given us all the but and bolts of how to win others and how to implement them. Memorizing scriptures has given me the tools to help others when they are faced with great trials, hardship, pain, and temptations. It is a great encouragement to me.
I really like Jeremiah 15:16Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts..

Jeremiah 15:16
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
Posted by Julio Useche on 09/24/22
Bible memorization has been a huge blessing in my life. Exactly as you described it, after starting to memorize scripture I also began reciting memorized verses in prayer, in answer to questions and in bible study. They've been a guard to me in temptation and a tremendous stress reliever! They've been a practical guide in daily decisions, and business decisions. They've been a comfort, and strength to my soul! God's word truly is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pat!
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/23/22
Nice prayer Teverly! Learning to see God in those around us. That potential! It's powerful isn't it?

I once heard someone say fellowship was two fellows in the same ship. The way you wrote about being in this "disciple-ship" kind made me think of that. We are in this all together!
Posted by Tev Gray on 09/23/22
An amazing testimony of how God can work in and through us and the people He sends in our lives.

My prayer is that I'll always see God in those around me and have that love in action, to want salvation for them and to be diligent at it. In this disciple-ship, I am claiming God's promise in Proverbs 13:4The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. that the soul of the diligent will be made fat.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/23/22
Yes Louise! I'm so thankful for those young men--all fellow college students. My first time to really be around a group of Christian peers. I've lost track of them, but am SO grateful for their influence in my life!

As for that Greek word, TEREO, track that down through the New Testament. It shows up in other very surprising places! :)
Posted by Louise P on 09/23/22
What a wonderful testimony to God’s goodness! Also noteworthy is friends who connected with you and helped strengthen your connection with Jesus!
Lovely enrichment of ‘observe’ in Matthew 28:20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. - thank you for further insight into the Word!
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/21/22
That's a powerful testimony of your friend's ministry in your life Tonya! I had a family doing something similar for me. Very grateful! We can all be that someone to the next person!

You're right, it is a simple process Richard. But it's powerful because it is centered in real-life discipleship. And once people get connected to Jesus, He changes everything! :)
Posted by Richard on 09/21/22
Indeed a very powerful testimony of what God can do through his word. That clearly illustrates the simple process that we have covered in our study guide for this week The Call to Commitment on our practical suggestions. The end result of spending time with the Word, Prayer, Obedience, we will become great witnesses for Jesus     
Posted by Tonya Anspach on 09/21/22
I came to the church through a friend at work. We were fairly new acquaintances and I was just trying to get to know her. We took walks together after work almost every day. I would ask her about her religion. Eventually she invited me to some seminars and the rest was history. However, that history included her feeding me books that brought me closer to God and having me and my husband over for fellowship. Without her and her husband's efforts and follow through I'm not sure I would have stayed with the church. We all need support in our new found faith. I pray God uses me in that way as well.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/20/22
Sadly people are sometimes baptized without being well grounded in the basic teachings of the Bible, there is limited or no follow-up, and because strong ties and relationships are limited, people go off on tangents.

I've got an article on this you might find interesting Sam. It's entitled, Death in the Pot.
Posted by Shawnda McKnight on 09/20/22
Follow up is very important. I had a friend in the church whom I thought believes the way I do. We would always talk about God and His goodness. Then one day I mentioned that we don't get to the Father except through Jesus and she laughed.. ( I was so taken aback) After all of these years she doesn't believe that Jesus is God! If I had asked questions early on.... I know I cant blame myself bc she studied for herself and this is what she came up with.. Lets keep her and others that don't believe in the Creator/Savior/Word come to life....
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/19/21
I think those are indeed the critical skills: internalizing Scripture, and then learning to apply it. The third thing I gleaned from them that was really foundational was multiplication. That's still the bedrock of our ministry: take it in, live it out, pass it on.

For a fun verse Valerie, take a look at Ezra 7:10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 10/17/21
I always gain something new from this story. First, I love the fact that you had friends that taught you how to memorize and to study the Scriptures. They cared about you enough to lead you to Christ.

This time I learned that your primary training came from the Holy Spirit through the knowledge and application of God’s Word. The formal training came after you were equipped by God to work in His vineyard. Truly an example of being chosen. (Many are called, but few are chosen.)
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/11/21
That's a powerful cross reference there in John 3:33He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true., and yes this process is definitely an important aspect of the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:16-1716 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.). I also really like your emphasis on relationship Paul, both our personal relationship with God, and how well we are able to help others have that experience. Good post!
Posted by Paul Carson on 10/11/21
You nail it with the line from Jeremiah 15:16Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. in that God's word is good (full of nutrients) for the soul.
Additionally John 3:33He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. indicates to me that receiving God's word (His testimony, His covenant), is related to the sealing work of the Holy Spirit upon the believer.
It follows that our impact as disciple-makers is directly correlated to the relational connection that God has established for us - that of engaging with Him through His word.
We can only impart that which we have tasted, and testified to, as making a difference in our own lives.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/23/20
You are very welcome Carlos. I remember that day very fondly. Thanks for going on to become the first Project CALL leader in our church the following year. You started a sequence that continued for 7 generations and is still going today...

Your friendship has been a huge blessing to me!
Posted by Carlos Vera on 11/21/20
It was ten years ago in October 2010 that I heard a new Pastor had just started at North Aurora SDA church. I visited and was sold on the vision of transforming the church into a training center. The flyer for Project CALL starting in January 2011 was exactly what I felt I needed and the first day of Survival Kit confirmed it was definitely for me.

Thank you for sharing your ministry with us and for continuing to make this incredible content available. I know I am blessed by what I study and learn here.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/18/20
That's awesome Tina, that people could be drawn to you through your quiet and peaceable life. And yes, every little effort adds up, doesn't it?

That's the exact progression Richard we should all seek: spiritual babe, mature disciple, and finally worker. That's going from seedling to mature plant to multiplying fruit in the parable of the sower. Let's all aim to be good soil for the seed!
Posted by Richard on 10/16/20
That is an amazing experience, that is a practicle summary of the process of a through desciple. Being a baby Christian, to a Desciple, to a Worker. We all need to experience similar growth in our spiritual journey with God   
Posted by Tina Deetua Glentworth on 10/15/20
I do agree that real disciple is about living a faithful Faith life around people we are connected, the Holy spirit worked in those souls around us to open their eyes to see the presence of God in us. I did have experience where people around me noticed that my life is full of life and peace and they wanted that life for themselves the life that Christ is made Lord in all aspect. And when i saw this happened it gave e joy to see that a quiet walk with God can also see God's mighty work of saving souls. let's not weary in doing small little thing in every day walk with God. Holy Spirit God can do great things!!   
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/13/20
Petrona Spaulding , yes definitely! Not only will it help us stay on the right path, but also those we work with. Good post!

Lupita, actually they reached out to me. It's a good point worth mentioning, that new believers rarely know what they need. Which is why we should take the initiative in reaching out to them. :)

Jeannie, I've moved your question to a dedicated forum post as I think it is a super important topic and deserves some dedicated attention and discussion...
Posted by Jeannie Marcoux on 10/12/20
Dan So, if the discipleship training ends with Revival Keys vs. Team Tactics, how does one move a group in an in-person setting to the evangelistic component?   Already, the discipleship course with Team Tactics, and excluding Revival Keys took 8–9 months. Just trying to understand how to do it better next time around.   
Posted by Lupita on 10/12/20
How did you find these friends? How were you drawn to them?
Posted by Petrona Spaulding on 10/12/20
I think it’s important to combine evangelism with follow-up and training to ensure that we are staying on the right path, and being consistent in the Word of God. Connecting people to Jesus through training will also empower them to help others get connected to Jesus. Memorizing scriptures will keep us walking close to Christ and living by His every word.
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/21/20
That's great Dicky! I just saw your post there--and made this exact recommendation. :)

In our new discipleship track, we're recommending Revival Keys instead of Team Tactics for our level three course. Team Tactics is now part of our Evangelism track, along side several other ministry components. Revival Keys is more a refresher on basic principles of discipleship, combined with an emphasis on preparation for ministry by seeking the power of the Holy Spirit for ministry. If you haven't taken it yet, that's our current promotional class.
Posted by Dicky on 08/20/20
I decided to take up the Lost Art course, instead of TT. Yes, I have 2 persons in mind I am praying before meeting them. They had completed SK, BT, and TT some time back, as my church signed up with FAST in 2012-2013. Pray that God's Spirit will move their hearts.
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/14/20
God is good Dicky! I pray the Lord gives you someone (or a group) you can help invest in and disciple. It will be a wonderful experience!

Our study guide courses are a whole different experience when they are done in a group, face to face. Or even by skype/zoom. Something about the interaction that's really powerful and life-changing...
Posted by Dicky on 08/13/20
Reading your testimony excites me, inducing a desire for similar experience. I guess, I have experienced partially some of what you shared. Praise the Lord for His goodness, and FAST mission ministry.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/29/19
Stay encouraged friend!
Posted by Chrstian Emenike on 10/29/19
Thanks and I really appreciate the effort. Stay bless
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/29/19
We sometimes get sponsorships for our Study Center Chrstian, but I don't have any available at the moment. We'll see what happens. But do feel free to take advantage of our free tools and classes. We try to open up a different class every month!
Posted by Chrstian Emenike on 10/28/19
One of the challenges I am facing is the ability to meet certain financials. I am determine to succeed in life only through the power of Jesus Christ. I was to join if there is a kind of scholarship to assist me in my learning.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/10/19
That's wonderful Bert! We're thrilled to have you here. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help. And thanks so much for sharing about us in your sermon!!! :)
Posted by Bert Hopkins on 10/10/19
I am very happy to have found the Fast Missions Ministry and I thank God for the opportunity it gives me to memorise Scripture. I am trying to get my Church involved and included in my last Sermon. I want to start at least a team and God willing the Church.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/10/19
Happy to share my experience Nan. God is good, and His Word is powerful! It's a blessing to share it. :)
Posted by Nan on 10/09/19
Thank you brother Vis for your powerful testimony. I was greatly blessed! It reminded me of Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.. Knowing and sharing the Word is the life of evangelism and Abba's opportunity to bless his children as He did with you!
May Abba continue to bless you as you do unto others as it has been done unto you!😊
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/09/19
Amen Carol. Anything we can do to help others get going strong in their walk with God is a blessing to the cause of Christ!
Posted by Carol Lathen on 10/09/19
Dan, what a beautiful testimony how God connected you with some Christian friends that took you under their wings and taught you the basic of the Christian walk how to pray, study the bible, and share your testimony and etc. God wants us to do the same after they are brought in through evangelism we are to follow up with training. Thank God for the ones that took it serious with you and follow up with training. As a result we have FAST MISSION. Praise GOD!!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/08/19
That's a great testimony Carole! Hoping you'll be able to find a way to help get someone else started memorizing too. Exciting times. :)
Posted by Carole Bliss on 10/07/19
Today I visited a lady in the nursing home, as I talked, scripture came to mind, I started repeating it to her, and she looked at me in agreement. This example tells us the importance of knowing scripture.
Posted by Laurie Wissink on 03/02/19
I never heard that cliche before Dan, but it is so true!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/02/19
Glad I could share something that was helpful Laurie. God truly is good, and there is power in the Word.

Reminds me of the old cliche about how we're just one beggar telling another beggar where there's some bread!
Posted by Laurie Wissink on 03/01/19
I agree with David where he said, "I want to affirm you by boldly saying, "Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen(well-not literally with mine own eyes, Pastor) in me(you, Pastor), DO(emphasis supplied): and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.)" I studied Philippians 4:9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. just a few weeks ago and I thought of Pastor Dan too! Thank you brother (Dan) for sharing what God has shown you about discipleship with us!!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/22/19
There's definitely power in the Word Leslie! Making some room to let that power start getting and working within us, that's the challenge isn't it?
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/20/19
A wonderful testimony Floride! I'm sure the Lord has a special reward in mind for those friends who helped you and your husband... :)
Posted by Floride Leonce on 02/19/19
Hi Dan, my experience is similar to yours. When we got baltized, my husband (my fiancé then) and I, there was a couple in the church that were like mentors to us. They taught us everything: singing, praying, studying Scripture, etc. The husband was very much involved in lay activities; so, he took my husband with him to every visit. When we got married, they came to our house to pray every week, and they were the ones who introduced me to group prayer meetings. I can say that they’re the ones who really helped shape my Christian life and I will always be grateful that God had put them into our paths. All that is to say it is very important to take care of new believers and make sure they get all the help that they can to have and enjoy a great Christian experience.

Memorization is very important. Sometimes, as I go through stuff in my life, I feel encouraged and find comfort as certain verses pop up in my head. Or if I’m asked a question, the reference just comes to my head easily. And I believe if the verses come handy now, they will be handy even more when are faced with trials and tribulations, and the only treasure we will be able to draw from is what is in our heads.

So, thank you for this important lesson! My prayer is that God help me to apply it and make me be more consistent in my studies.

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