In the house where I grew up in Nigeria, it was a common sight to see my Dad, sitting in our kitchen, books spread out on the dining table between him and another man, memorizing scripture and reviewing discipleship strategies with his student.
My parents are missionaries in Nigeria, and Dad’s primary ministry involves training church leaders. Specifically, he works with a team of Nigerian colleagues from the ECWA Discipleship Unit to teach pastors how to disciple others.
Training is the big idea behind discipleship. It’s not enough to introduce someone to the Lord; once they’ve committed their lives to him, you want to instruct them in their faith so they can grow and eventually become strong enough to instruct others. And that’s not all: when my Dad agrees to take someone on as a discipleship student, he makes them commit to find one or two students of their own who they can disciple simultaneously. And if each of those finds others, and again, and again . . . the numbers add up.
Discipleship training makes a difference. As a tangible example, Dad offered an anecdote from his days of engaging with this same ministry in Liberia:
“There was one fellow who I worked with in Liberia who became a refugee in another country during the Liberian civil war,” Dad said. “A few years later when I visited him, he was not only still continuing to grow himself, he was doing discipleship with others in the camp as well as Pastoring a church in the camp. He was encouraging the people in his church to disciple others, both inside and outside the camp.”
In Nigeria specifically, many church leaders have used discipleship as they carry their ministries throughout the country. It provides them with a way to keep growing in their own faith as well as to reach others. Despite advances, however, huge needs still exist. Because of security concerns, many missionaries left Nigeria’s northern states several years ago. Now, as the country becomes safer again, both national and foreign missionaries are moving back into the north to support existing churches and help plant new ones.
With this new spread of the Word comes a new need for discipleship. Every new Christian must receive the tools to learn, grow, and instruct others. That’s how countries get transformed.
The biggest need for discipleship in Nigeria is for people: “People committed to teaching, and people committed to receiving with a willingness to pass it on,” Dad said. “We have lots of materials, but we need willing people.”
If you wonder how you can get involved, here are three easy answers: pray, give, and go. By doing so, you’ll assist the discipleship team that already exists in Nigeria to continue and grow in their ministry. For more information, contact [email protected].