An international discipleship effort organized by a division of one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services has impacted more than 22,000 churches in 58 countries worldwide over the past seven years.
The effort, made by LifeWay International, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, aims to help believers establish a higher degree of commitment in their relationship with Christ through consultants sent across the world to teach pastors how to strengthen their congregations.
"LifeWay International started almost seven years ago," said Luis Lopez, LifeWay’s manager of international consulting and training. "Since we started, one of our main goals has been to help churches be intentional about discipleship. We are training [pastors] to be able to develop a plan for discipleship in their churches so that believers can be developed into spiritual leaders."
Since 1998, Nashville-based consultants, in conjunction with resident consultants in strategic countries and 279 volunteer consultants across the globe, have conducted nearly 3,000 discipleship workshops. Though the workshops seek to train leaders from all nations, training has also focused on several international areas dubbed the "key markets," such as Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Oceania and India.
According to LifeWay, the workshops utilize its materials that have been translated into more than 100 languages by LifeWay employees and licensed translators worldwide.
"We believe in the principle of multiplication based on what Jesus said: We are to commit to faithful men what has been entrusted to us," Lopez said. "So we train pastors and leaders in countries where they become multipliers by training others to do the same."
The LifeWay manager says Southern Baptist associations and churches can join the process of international discipleship by becoming "teaching partners." Teaching partners receive training and subsequently travel internationally to conduct workshops.
They are churches or groups from the U.S. who travel to different countries and help us teach and train pastors and church leaders overseas," he said. "We’re always interested in looking for people who have the vision to train and join us."
Lopez urged all believers to invest themselves in discipleship ministries because of the important role discipleship plays in growing the Kingdom of God.
"We’re about Kingdom work," he said. "And one of the greatest contributions that we’re making is that we’re helping churches use resources. There is a lack of discipleship resources in many of these countries. So we’re able to provide those resources."
Although Lopez noted that discipleship training can be an arduous process, he said the work was "all worth it" when leaders catch a vision for growing their congregations in spiritual maturity.
"Discipleship is a process that takes time and effort from churches," he had said. "But in key areas we’ve seen some great testimonies of churches that have put into place a discipleship process...That has been very encouraging."
In the future, LifeWay hopes to expand its network of resident consultants across the world so that it can conduct a greater number of workshops, and saturate churches with the Word of God.
"We are definitely committed to expand our network of resident consultants so that we are able to impact in a more intentional way the training of local pastors and church leaders," Lopez said.
"The heart of this is that we’re helping churches all over the world be intentional about discipleship. And I think that is an area where LifeWay is making a very significant contribution to the Kingdom."
For further information about LifeWay international discipleship visit the website at: www.lifewayinternational.com.