John Honeycutt is a pioneer in missionary church planting who has made discipleship a priority in his ministry. He spoke to The Baptist Voice about the importance of one-on-one discipleship and developing a heart for missions.
What prompted you to develop the Daily in the Word discipleship course?
Around 1989, I had the opportunity to partner with sixteen pastors in Asia to start churches. We pieced together training materials from different resources, but it wasn’t a natural flow. It was missing important topics we thought were needed for a young church, and it didn’t always use the best verses for certain subjects. We cleared the table and asked, “What does the Bible say we are supposed to be doing here?” Using that question as a starting point, we found seven key passages of Scripture that became the outline for the discipleship lessons.
How does discipleship relate to a missionary’s purpose?
Well, it’s at the core of his purpose. The Great Commission is to go, teach (win them to Christ), baptize, and teach them to observe all things. Sometimes it’s the last part that doesn’t get much attention, but it is the very core of the Great Commission.
What is essential for consistent discipleship in a church?
Starting with purpose, having proper procedures, and choosing the right people as your first disciplers is key. Focus your time on those people who are ready to move forward. There are many things that demand our attention in ministry, but discipleship focuses our attention on people who want to grow. Work with them until you can trust them to disciple newer or younger Christians. The key is making disciples who can make other disciples.
What difference do you see in Christians who have and have not received discipleship?
It’s very much like the comparison the Bible makes of a newborn baby. If the newborn does not get proper nutrition and care, then he doesn’t develop properly. There will be a serious delay in his growth and possible damage to his physical health. The same is true for spiritual newborns. They need to get nourishment and loving care immediately to mature properly and to be able to reproduce in the future.
How can a pastor get started if his church is not doing one-on-one discipleship?
For an existing church, there are careful procedures to follow. These are listed on Daily in the Word Discipleship website.
You grew up in a missionary family. How did God bring you back to the mission field?
I went to the Philippines when I was sixteen, and it was a positive experience for me. At that time in the Philippines, people were just becoming receptive to the Gospel. My father and Bob Hughes placed a million Bibles in the country, and I saw the dramatic effect it had. After ministering in the states for ten years and through a series of short-term missions trips, the Lord confirmed He wanted us to plant churches in Asia. That was in 1987.
You have planted five churches yourself and helped over 500 other church plants get started. How does this happen?
The key is that there are national pastors who are ready to start churches. A country has to be producing pastors who are church planters themselves. They are planting churches and planning to start more. We have sought these men to partner with them in finances, personnel, Bibles, and discipleship lessons. Because they were also dedicated to multiplying disciples, it accelerates everything.
Where is God using you today?
We have relocated to Hong Kong, planted a church, and plan to start more. We use the new church plants to train our Chinese partners. These church planters are dedicated to multiplication, and they partner with their home church to accelerate the new plant. We provide one hundred Bibles and discipleship lessons, and we help secure temporary funds in different ways for the new church. We train them to start three congregations at the same time. So far we have seen nine churches, and forty more are ready to go.