by: Morgan Malone
In 1983, I remember sitting in chapel as a 20-year old religion major at East Texas Baptist University. We had a guest speaker by the name of Dr. Billie Hanks who spoke on the importance of making disciples. He challenged us with the Biblical mandate for discipling others, shared how he had discipled people in his own life and gave us discipleship materials we could use. He then shared a story that stayed with me for many years about going to visit a minister friend to see how he was doing. The friend was discouraged and told Dr. Hanks he did not know if he could continue to pastor. He felt like he was on his last leg and about to fall. Dr. Hanks listened intently and then began to ask a few questions. “Who are you personally discipling?” The young minister thought for a moment and eventually he answered, “No one.” Dr. Hanks went a step further and asked, “Who could you start discipling?” The minister mentioned a few people he could possibly disciple. Hanks then said, “Let me encourage you to begin discipling one of these people.” At the end of the conversation Dr. Hanks assured his friend he would pray for him and check back with him in a month.
A month later when Dr. Hanks called the pastor he was excited and upbeat, so different from the discouraged man he was a month earlier. Dr. Hanks asked him how things were going, and the minister told him they were great. He had begun discipling a man who was a member of his church. The pastor was encouraged by the success of the discipleship process that he and the community member were going through. Hanks then asked if he was still considering leaving the ministry. The previously discouraged pastor responded by saying, “No way. I am in it for the long haul.”
When Hanks finished the story, he challenged us as students at ETBU to disciple others. In his opinion, there was no better way to revitalize a discouraged minister than by discipling someone else. Thirty years later, I am still reminded of that message.
I have personally experienced feelings of depression and loneliness as a pastor. On occasion, I have wondered if I should continue in the ministry; however, each time discouragement began, I have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to go back in time to that discipleship message and remember the importance of investing and discipling others. When I have acted upon that message, I have been encouraged and strengthened in my faith.
Let me encourage you to give it a try. Ask yourself, “Who am I currently discipling?” or “Who could I begin discipling?” Ask God to show you someone in whom you could invest and help to mature in their faith. I’m convinced He will gladly answer your request. It sounds simple, and it is, but the benefits for both of you will be very rewarding, encouraging and eternal.