Center for Discipleship seeks to connect students

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 or visit in person in the Spiritual Life Office in Montgomery Hall.

A review of IF: Gathering, Conference equips young women for discipleship

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor    (Photo: The Bison/Hannah Lounsbery)

February 9th, Jennie Allen, founder of IF, sat on stage at the Moody Theater in Austin, with a candle, five years of experience and a women’s ministry that is about so much more than ‘women’s issues.’

According to their website, “IF exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, gatherings and opportunities so they may learn more about who God is and disciple other women right where they are.”

The IF:Gathering, a women’s conference hosted in Austin, Texas and live-streamed to over 2,600 locations in 25 countries, carries out this creed by preparing this generation for a very specific mission: discipleship.

“Discipleship is the thing we have to do in the midst go the thousand things we have to do,” Allen said in a conference session.

While IF didn’t start as a conference ministry, the IF: Gathering has become a huge part of the organization’s identity and a means of accomplishing their discipleship goals.

The IF website states that the purpose of coming together for the Gathering is “to remind each other of the importance of following God and the reclaim the priority of discipleship as His means to change the world.”

While many women’s conferences leave women with a vague idea of refreshing, renewing and going back to normal life ready to live a little more like Jesus, the IF:Gathering is about gospel truth and the concern for social justice that truth brings, calling believers to no longer be content living a ‘this little light of mine’ lifestyle.

“I’m sick of little candles,” Allen said. “I want to become the generation of flamethrowers.”

In her first message to those gathered, Allen presented a plan: each woman would intentionally disciple two people a year, who would go on to disciple two people a year, who go on to disciple two people a year.

If 100,000 of the women watching and attending the conference- a tenth of the average viewing audience- follow this plan, within five years it will have affected over 25 million people.

Allen doesn’t believe this goal is out of reach.

“I think we could do it,” she said. “But we have to believe we have something worth throwing. We have God, and the world needs him.”

That weekend, Allen and the conference speakers proved to audiences across the world that believers in Christ have something worth throwing.

400 miles from the Austin theatre where the message was being preached, nearly a hundred young women were gathered to watch, listen and learn here on OBU’s campus. Before the conference started, junior cross-cultural ministry major Sarah Lee was anxious to spend some time in the Word.

“I’ve been going through a season of a lot of doubt, a lot of worry, so I’m really praying that this weekend will kind of show me that’s not how He wants me to live, and how who He is takes away my need to worry,” she said.

Throughout the weekend, and for many weekends to come with IF:Locals across the globe, women heard messages about the things that are truly effecting their faith and the world in which they are attempting to minister.

Jennie Allen and Rebekah Lyons spoke to those struggling with mental illness, reminding them that there is nothing that can prevent the Lord from working through and in them.

“God didn’t pick the wrong girl for ministry,” Lyons said.

“Satan picked the wrong girl to mess with.”

Esther Havens Mann and Ann Voskamp spoke on their work in refugee camps where thousands of men, women, and children are left feeling like nothing.

“Are there nothing human beings in the world because too many of God’s people are doing nothing?” Voskamp asked the crowd, going on to call Christians to see and treat refugees as the reflection of God, as are all created beings.

While topics like these, along with other big issues like Me Too and racial reconciliation within the church, are taking over conversations in today’s church culture, they were just points in a larger message: true and unwavering dedication to the Gospel.

In presenting the issues like this, the way in which Christians deal with these issues and assist those effected is nothing more or less than the duty placed upon each and every believer.

Speakers like Christine Kaine and Nick Vujicic preached messages of revival to a generation that desperately needs to step up and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

“Stop scrolling through everybody else’s lives,” Kaine said of social media, “and run the race set before you.”

Among these messages was one that resonated particularly with Sarah Lee: dealing with doubt.

“I feel like it was what I needed to hear,” Lee said.

“I think it’s very easy to get caught up in all the worry and all the doubt and it’s really easy to take your eyes off of Jesus and to think inward. I think the message that I’m taking away from this weekend is to stop looking inward and to start looking to Jesus again for everything.”

Throughout the weekend’s weighty messages, OBU’s Local Gathering opened up time for women to use conversation cards to talk with others at their tables.

Each woman who attended the event received a set of cards along with a journal and one of IF’s discipleship studies.

Erica Reed, junior elementary education major and one of ten student volunteers who works alone side an executive team of OBU staff to plan the event, said that the conversations were an integral part of the Gathering.

“A lot of IF’s goal is within discipleship relationships, you have vulnerability, so that can be a deeper relationship,” she said, “that women wouldn’t just talk with each other about the surface level things but that they would truly share what is on their hearts.”

With the discipleship center up and running in Montgomery Hall, discipleship is becoming more and more important on the OBU campus.

“A huge goal that OBU also wanted to get out of [the event] was a desire for discipleship on our campus, whether that be women seeking to be discipled [or] to begin discipling, that it would continue to become a deep part of OBU’s culture,” Reed said.

Part of learning to disciple others is looking back on who discipled you, according to Reed.

As part of the event, the young women gathered in the upper GC wrote the names of the women who helped build their faith on white tiles, symbolizing stones of remembrance.

“In Paul’s letter to Timothy,” Reed said, “he says to remember where your faith began, and remember your faith, because Christ is what you really need to remember.”