By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor (Photo by Hannah Lounsbery/The Bison)
The title of “disciple” carries quite a bit of weight in the mind of believers. Many think of the twelve disciples of Jesus, the men who walked directly beside him as He did ministry here on Earth.
Since June 1, the Center for Discipleship has worked to demystify the title here on campus; the center also encourages students and faculty to answer the call that Jesus placed on the lives of all believers, not just those of his original disciples.
For some working in the Spiritual Life office, the launch of the Center for Discipleship has been anticipated for quite some time.
“The OBU Center for Discipleship has been a dream for a number of years,” Dale Griffin, assistant vice president for spiritual life and dean of the chapel, said. “The current dean of students, Odus Compton, and I have been talking about how to launch a center within the last ten years.”
The realization of this dream comes from a donation specifically for the project.
“These things are dependent on donors,” Griffin said. “We had a donor come on the scene maybe two years ago, and we began a conversation about what it would look like to launch a center, and he committed to three years of support.”
Those three years of support are split into three specific stages: Discovery, Design and Deployment.
“The first year is what we’re calling Discovery,” Clay Phillips, director of student ministry, said. “That’s where we’re really finding out what all the needs are at OBU, and how many people are currently in discipleship relationships, and we’re also encouraging students to be in discipleship relationships.”
Molly Munger, OBU alumnae, serves as the logistics coordinator for the center, helping to keep track of people on campus seeking discipleship, like the women who attended the IF:Gathering.
“The women that came [to IF] filled out a piece of paper saying that they were being discipled, desiring to be discipled, discipling somebody or wanting to disciple somebody,” she said. “And so we’re able to kind of gauge where women are at on campus discipleship-wise, and some people maybe aren’t interested right now, but there’s a lot of people who are.”
The first year of donor funding has allowed the center to find 350 to 400 students who are either already involved in discipleship or are interested in getting involved.
While the center does help connect people who want to disciple and be discipled, a large part of their ministry is providing assistance and guidance to those already in discipleship relationships.
“We want to be here to invest in the people who are investing,” Munger said. While the center provides resources, it doesn’t provide a pre-packaged, step-by-step guide to discipleship.
“We’re not a discipleship program,” Phillips said. “We’re not telling students how to do or what to do–a method. We’re a center, so we’re a resource for people doing discipleship… We want to foster discipleship, so we want to encourage discipleship. We want to teach people about discipleship, and a lot of students have questions about discipleship, so we want to help them in that.”
While those resources are helpful, they aren’t the key to a healthy discipleship relationship.
“It’s too easy to think that if I go through a curriculum then I’ve been discipled, when actually I need a relationship with Christ that’s encouraged through a relationship with another person. That’s where discipleship takes place,” Griffin said. “The purpose of the center is to foster those relationships on campus and to find ways to engage faculty in discipleship with students, engage churches in discipleship with students, engage students further down the road than other students in discipleship with their peers, and then to foster relationships where students on campus are discipling people in the Shawnee area and around the world where we’re making disciples of all nations. I mean, that’s what it’s about.”
Speaking about discipleship as a community responsibility can help keep the relationships from being the foundation for one’s Christian growth.
“I think that’s the beauty of discipleship,” Phillips said. “It’s not propping up on one person, so nobody gets the credit except Christ, and it multiplies well and it changes lives. I think certainly it’s inevitable if we have true discipleship, it will change the campus.”
This change does not come easily, however. Griffin said the word ‘discipleship’ can be intimidating to some, making misinterpretations as to what discipleship looks like in real life a major roadblock.
“Personally I believe it’s the biblical foundation of Christianity,” Phillips said. “The Great Commission, one of the last things Christ commanded his followers, was to go make disciples of all nations. So at its heart, it’s reproducing the gospel… Discipleship acknowledges the fact that the gospel changes lives and as we go through life and as we’re going, we transfer the gospel to other people by doing life with them.”
The concept of ‘doing life’ with others isn’t the only defining factor of a discipleship relationship.
“[Discipleship] is community where we’re saturated in God’s Word and we love each other,” Griffin said. “Any discipleship relationship I think I’m in has to have the mark of scripture, and if it doesn’t have the mark of scripture then really we’re just talking…and the mark of the activity of the Holy Spirit in our midst is that we love each other.”
Within a discipleship relationship, part of that love is shown through challenges to grow in Christ.
“Those people are valuable; the people who will kind of put themselves aside and sit and listen to you and challenge you and press you to grow,” Munger said. “That, I think, is the conversation that we want to have, and we would encourage students to do and be a part of.”
With the help of the Center for Discipleship, this conversation no longer has to be a difficult one.
“While there are so many people on campus, like staff and faculty, who are willing to have this conversation with students, now there’s kind of a place maybe where we try to be in conversation and communication with people all across campus,” Munger said.
Those working within the center are passionate about discipleship not only because of its potential to make change, but because of their own experiences. Munger’s mentor during her time on campus showed her how important these relationships can be.
“Seeing her love for Jesus made me want to love Him too,” she said. “I think discipleship is important because we’re not alone.”
For resources or to get involved in discipleship, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit in person in the Spiritual Life Office in Montgomery Hall.