By Tim Zakarian
In last month’s article “Show Me How,” we talked about how to help someone who is newly saved take their next steps of faith.
To review that article, click here Show Me How.
Helping a person take their next steps of faith is important. When a person decides to put their faith in Christ, we often say they have been “born again,” they have been given a new life (John 3:1-3). Most mothers would never think of abandoning a newborn baby, leaving him or her to fend for themselves. In similar fashion, a new Christ-follower needs to be nurtured and protected. Yes, it is exciting that someone accepted the Lord as their Savior and has chosen to be born again, but it is also important they learn what it means to have a relationship with Christ. It is important we disciple them.
In “Show Me How” we provided some ideas for discipleship. In this article we want to share real stories of four people who were discipled intentionally and let you decide for yourself if the time and emotional investment paid off. We talked with Brea Acosta, who pastors alongside her husband, Tim, at Pathway Church in Graham, Washington; Caleb Plummer, a youth pastor at The Intersection, an Open Bible church in Spokane Valley, Washington; Johnny Montgomery, a staff pastor at Waypoint Community Church in Springfield, Oregon; and Mike Allison, lead pastor of Discover Church in Lodi, California.
1. Tim: How did you first connect with the person who discipled you? In what ways did you interact?
Brea: I was discipled by my youth pastor and a few other adult leaders. They accepted me as I was and mentored me towards the Bible as a new believer. They encouraged me and cared for me. They would send me postcards in the mail and schedule visits with me.
Caleb: I first met my pastor when I was in sixth grade. My family had just moved to the Eugene/Springfield area and started looking for a new church to attend. My youth pastor always put in effort to interact with me and make sure that I felt seen.
Johnny: [I was discipled] by a youth pastor in the area. I attended his youth group several times. This was a start to our friendship and discipleship journey. We met when I was fifteen.
Mike: Pastor Andy Stanley, when referring to the discipleship process, suggests that we should invest deeply into a few people for a long time. He uses the expression, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” My youth pastor lived this out with me. From an early age, [when I was] a student in his youth ministry, he intentionally invested in my life. We did Bible studies, he gave me leadership opportunities, he encouraged me to serve and to use my gifts to bless others. When I did not have a clear path forward after Bible college, he invited me to an intensive internship opportunity and exposed me to the crucible of leadership in the church world.
2. Looking back, what were some of the things he/she did to help you grow in your walk with Christ?
Brea: During youth group I was taught and encouraged to look up and read [the] Scriptures. I also participated in small groups where we would study the Bible. The leaders over me would also pray for me.
Caleb: My pastor is a big part of where I am today. One of the things that he taught me was how important my character in Christ truly is. I grew up in the church and always saw such talented people on worship team, talented speakers, and talented leaders. But . . . he showed me how important it was to be a man of integrity, to own up to my imperfections and allow God to use me through them. He showed me that none of us is perfect, that sin and mistakes can only be taken care of when they are not hidden. He taught me a lot about ministry, but he taught me more about what it meant to be a godly man in church and outside of it.
Johnny: My youth pastor had boys’ Bible studies and individual talking times. [He] created a space for me to feel received as the only Black person in the group. I was treated as one of the students in the group. He made me feel welcome. This allowed me to grow in my walk with Christ.
Mike: My youth pastor encouraged me through intentional Bible study, offered counsel when needed, and gave me opportunities to serve and use my gifts to bless others. He modeled a Christian life and marriage that I had never seen before. He demonstrated wisdom and discipline in his personal life that inspired me to do the same. He also advocated for me to have opportunities to serve and lead in multiple ministry opportunities and walked alongside me to develop my leadership giftings.
3. Did you and your leader have regularly scheduled times to meet? Did your leader use a specific format in your meeting times? Where did you meet?
Brea: Once I started serving as a leader in youth group, I would meet with my youth pastor to check in on how I’m doing individually as well as a leader. We would meet at church. I’m sure he had a specific format and used resources that he was aware of.
Caleb: My pastor and I did not start meeting regularly until I was in college. When I graduated high school, he approached me about an internship opportunity. In some ways, it felt like a long time coming, but I clearly remember being honored that he would make the time to meet with me and talk about ministry in the middle of a Subway. From that point on, we met about once a month. It was my responsibility as the intern to schedule time, but looking back I wish I would have spent more time meeting with him. I know that he would have always made the time for me, and there are not many people in life that would do that. Our meetings were some of the highlights of my internship, whether we were meeting for lunch or just in his office.
Johnny: As we started, it was in a group setting. As we got to know each other better, we had more individual times of discipleship. We met weekly [for] lunch and individual meetings and as needed. We met in his office typically.
Mike: When I was a student in youth ministry, my youth pastor would meet with me twice a month in a home or at a park, at times with other leaders as well. We generally had a time of Bible study as well as playing a lot of basketball and video games. He always made time to help me address challenges and encouraged me to be investing in people and not only projects.
When I was a student, he certainly made use of strategic discipleship Bible studies on the market at that time. Later in life our format often included reviewing our schedules, taking time to celebrate areas of strength, and encouraging each other in areas where we felt we needed growth. We met at strategic points to pray, do long term planning, and set regular goals.
4. If your pastor/leader was of the opposite sex, what steps did he/she take to keep proper boundaries in place?
Brea: When I would meet with my youth pastor at church, we met with the office door open and only when someone else (i.e., church secretary, other students, or lead pastor) was present and in the building. He was very cautious about this.
Caleb: My pastor is a male; I am a male. But there was so much that I learned about how to handle being a male pastor pastoring a female. He regularly taught me the importance of connecting a female in need of pastoring with a female that could help/mentor/talk with said female. Inevitably, as a pastor, we get called to meet with females throughout the week. Watching my pastor, I learned how it was important to have accountability. Today, if I meet with a female student, I do not meet with her alone. If we meet in my office, there is always someone else in the office and my door is never shut. Obviously, this sometimes is challenging, but my pastor taught me the importance of this practice and how it protects me and the ministry I serve in.
5. Now that you too are a leader in a church, does this person still maintain contact with you? If so, what is that relationship like?
Brea: We see each other at conferences or special events, but for the most part we do not communicate on a regular basis. When we do see each other, it’s always pleasant.
Caleb: My former pastor is like a second dad to me. I hesitate to say that because it sounds super cheesy, but I mean it. Throughout highs and lows of ministry I know that if I called him, he would take my call. We talk on the phone about once a month, and we regularly text about the Dodgers and the Lakers. The way that he balanced being a pastor to me, at times as my boss, but most importantly my friend, was truly appreciated, and I aspire to be like him in that way.
Johnny: As a leader, I have stayed In contact with my former youth pastor. We talk from time to time.
Mike: My former youth pastor remains a critical voice in my life although our relationship has evolved to more of a peer relationship. After planting a church together and then my subsequent launching into this new season of ministry, his insight, wisdom, and willingness to challenge me to continued growth is an essential part of my personal growth.
6. What were some things your leader could have done differently?
Brea: I had great leaders when I was a student and young adult. I am thankful for each of them who believed in me and gave time mentoring me. Although I felt that I was seen as a great role model for younger students and was reliable, I was never asked to serve on the leadership team for youth group. As a student who jumped into youth ministry with both feet, I always felt that I wasn’t good enough. I always wondered what more I needed to do in order to be a leader. Knowing how dedicated I was to youth group, church, and God, I think leaders should have asked me to serve on the team. I know that it has affected me as an adult leader. I sometimes feel that with all that I do for my church (past or present) I may not be doing enough, that I may not be good enough.
Caleb: I remember there were times I was adamant that my former pastor could have done this or that differently. The thing that I appreciated about him the most is that I could push him on things and dialogue with him. At the end of the day, he was not afraid to admit he was wrong or that he had made a mistake. Of course, there are things in ministry that can be done a million different ways. He knew he had a certain way and relied on others to fill in some gaps.
Johnny: I believe that my youth pastor’s model for discipling youth and others works well. He had very good boundaries in place.
7. Are you now actively engaged in discipling someone else?
Brea: Yes. I serve in youth ministry as well as leading women’s ministry and life groups at my church. I enjoy mentoring students and women, teaching them about Jesus, and encouraging them to love themselves and to find their identity in Christ.
Caleb: As a youth pastor, there are a couple of students who I have truly been pouring into as a mentor, leader, and hopefully a trusted adult. My goal with students is always to help them grow in their walk with God, grow in their ministry, navigate their lives outside of church, and discover who God has called them to be.
Johnny: Yes, I am actively discipling others both in the community and in our church.
Mike: Yes, currently I have multiple discipleship-focused relationships. I am modeling much of what I learned from my former youth pastor, investing deeply into a smaller group over a longer period of time while coaching multiple other leaders as well. It is my goal to continue to raise up disciples and model what was so impactful in my life for others.
Discipling another person requires sacrifice. It requires an investment of time and is not often accomplished during a 9-to-5 workday. Yet, in a time when people are supposedly more connected than ever through social media, “Just one in three 18-35-year-old respondents tells Barna they often feel deeply cared for by those around them (33%) or that someone believes in them (32%).”1 These statistics reflect real souls, people who may work with you during the day, sit near you in church, or greet you from across the driveway when you get home from work. Whether you are a youth pastor, a coach, or simply someone who cares about others, you have the opportunity to invest in another person’s life and to teach them to do the same for someone else.
As you can see from these four individuals below, your impact can be exponential in influence. Look what happened through Jesus’ disciples!
Brea Owen, a California native, has been serving in ministry for nearly thirty years. She and her husband, Tim, served as youth pastors at San Jose Open Bible Church for almost ten years. They then served as youth pastors and associate pastors for thirteen years at Life Church in Concord, California. They now serve as lead pastors of Pathway Church, an Open Bible church in Spanaway, Washington. Tim and Brea have been married for twenty-four years and have three boys: Isaac (20), Jeriah (18), and Grayson (11). Aside from being wife, mom, employee, student, and leader, Brea enjoys spending time with her family, taking walks with her sidekick, Koda, and cooking. Brea is finishing Tier 2 of Discover Ministry School and plans to become licensed with Open Bible.
Caleb Plummer is a youth pastor at The Intersection Open Bible Church in Spokane Valley, Washington. Born and raised in Springfield, Oregon, Caleb always was involved in church in one way or another. He started attending Waypoint Community Church in 2011 and found himself with a calling to youth ministry. He attended college at Bushnell University (previously known as Northwest Christian University) and graduated in December of 2020 with a degree in both Christian Ministry and Mathematics. In his free time, he is either at the movies, at the gym, or spending time with his friends and family.
Johnny Montgomery has been married to his lovely wife, Melody, for twenty years. The couple has three kids: Hannah, Eliyah, and Calvin. Licensed with Open Bible Churches, he has been in ministry for more than twenty years, mostly working in youth ministry. He currently works for South Lane Mental Health and ministers part time as the Connections Pastor at Waypoint Community Church in Springfield, Oregon.
Mike Allison has been an Open Bible minister since 2000. He and his wife, Kristine, along with their three children, planted Discover Church in Lodi, California, in 2021. Along with serving for fifteen years in youth ministry, Mike co-founded Waypoint Community Church in Oregon, then transitioned to lead pastor at Celebration Church in Washington, before answering the call of God to move to Lodi and plant Discover Church. Mike has served as the Pacific Region Youth Director, Pacific Region Emerging Leaders Coordinator and Camp Director, and currently is an at-large regional board member. Mike completed his master’s degree in ministry leadership at Wheaton College in 2023. Mike has a passion for lifelong learning and investing in the next generation of leaders as well as helping people far from Jesus respond to His invitation to “follow me.”
About the Author
Tim Zakarian is the associate director for the Pacific Region of Open Bible Churches. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, with his wife, Tina, to whom he has been married 36 years. The Zakarians have two adult, married children who are serving in ministry. Michael and his wife, Cheyenne, are the youth pastors at Summit Christian Church of the Open Bible in Los Angeles. Christine McAndrew and her husband, Aaron, are the youth pastors at Waypoint Community, an Open Bible church in Springfield, Oregon. Tim has had many roles in ministry, including youth pastor, regional youth director, associate pastor, executive pastor, church planter, and lead pastor. No matter his role, Tim’s passion for the ministry has always been to mentor and develop leaders.