Celebrate! | 30 Years of DISCIPLE
The 30th Anniversary of the DISCIPLE Bible Study Movement
Transforming | Global | Interactive
History of Disciple
“As a pastor in the early 1980s, I became aware how isolated and lonely people were becoming and how ignorant they were of the Bible. We started new adult Sunday School classes, but that only reached a few- and it was hard to find teachers. Then I remembered how John Wesley reached out to people with little class meetings – a handful of folks – many poorly educated, farmers and hard-working people – meeting in homes. They would gather like the early Christians in Acts 2:42 – “and devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to the breaking of bread, the fellowship.” The “apostle’s teaching” meant scripture study and the “koinonia” meant sharing life’s experiences together. I dreamed of starting small group Bible studies- but had neither the materials nor the lay leadership to do it.
Then one day, after I became a Bishop, I received a phone call from Nellie Moser, a new biblical educator for the UMC Publishing House. She said she had been talking to Jim Beal, one of my key district superintendents and he said he was interested in developing a small group Bible study plan. The next thing I knew, my wife, Julia, and I were in Nashville sharing our dream. We wanted small groups led by “facilitators,” not “teachers,” with participants reading Bible passages daily in their homes and coming together once a week to share. When I finished, I awaited questions, and debate, but I encountered dead silence. Then Mr. Feastor, President of the UMPH, simply said, “Let’s do it.” Soon we were attending a gathering of scholars at a retreat center in Flower Mound, Texas. Present were top scholars and educators such as Albert Outler who knew the Wesley class meeting history, Dick Murray, who understood how adults learn, how they encounter and appropriate truth, and many others.
Soon after, Julia and I were asked to develop and write the study in addition to our episcopal duties. We did it with these scholars and our brilliant editor, Nellie Moser, guiding us all along the way.
After two or three years with phenomenal participation across the US, graduates of DISCIPLE started asking “What’s Next?” So we had another consultation. What’s next? Goodness, we had studied the whole Bible! Then after a silence, Dr. Bill Powers spoke up, “You know, the Hebrew Bible is clearly divided with three parts: Torah (Pentateuch), Prophets, and Wisdom. What if we balanced those passages with appropriate New Testament material and had three clear follow up DISCIPLE studies?” The response was spontaneous, overwhelming, and Julia and I spent the next several years compiling those powerful studies. Today, over 3 million people around the world have studied DISCIPLE. Many graduates have given their hearts to Jesus. A good number of men and women have gone to seminary and entered the ministry.
It has been a good thing!”
Bishop Richard Wilke
Listen to Bishop Wilke talk about the beginnings of DISCIPLE in this audio interview.
The Movement Continues
• DISCIPLE Fast Track | DiscipleFastTrack.com
Bible study for busy lives! The beloved Bible study enjoyed by millions is now available in a time frame that fits your busy life. Classes meet for a total of 24 weeks (12 Old Testament, 12 New Testament). Each weekly session is designed to fit a 75-minute class. Participants read an average of three to five chapters of the Bible each day. DFT is designed for both small groups of 8-14 or for large groups of 15-100. A new weekly illustrated review video component touches on all lessons from previous weeks and helps participants remember what they have learned. A new Spiritual Gifts component enables participants to explore their spiritual gifts and determine meaningful places of service.
While they don’t perfectly match up Each week includes introductions by Bishop Richard Wilke offering dynamic overviews of the main point of each session.
• BeADisciple | BeADisciple.com
BeADisciple offers online studies, workshops, and courses on a variety of ministry, formation, and leadership topics. Its goal is to make rich learning experiences in an online format accessible to all people, no matter their location. Courses are conducted in small groups with a trained facilitator or a certified instructor. BeADisciple continues DISCIPLE’s commitment to high-quality content, access to experts in the field, and small group discussion.
• BeADisciple Academy | BeADisciple.com/academy
The BeADisciple Academy is a global online faith-building fellowship for high school or college-age students who want to go deeper in their faith lives and leadership skills. The Academy utilizes a modified version of DISCIPLE Fast Track and uses a wide range of contemporary online resources to provide interactive opportunities for students, including social media, webinars, videos, and other web-based initiatives. Both the high school and collegiate sessions run for two 12-week intervals in the fall and spring.