Discipleship Story: Phillip Slaughter
Phillip Slaughter is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Mansfield, Arkansas. He has been featured here on the blog before. He and his wife Rose are former students of mine from BCM days in Monticello, Arkansas. He also served with me at Journey Church and rivals my owncorny joke-telling. If you haven't read the introduction to this series,please check it out here! Here's Phillip's story:
I will never forget the day Jeff asked me if I wanted to go through 1-on-1 discipleship with him. I was excited, but I had no idea how it would radically change my life. He taught me God’s Word, allowed me to learn from his life by watching him as a husband and dad (mistakes and all), rebuked me when necessary, encouraged me, and simply lived life with me. I also remember the moment he warned me that he was finished investing in my spiritual development in such an intimate way if I didn’t start obeying the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2. He entrusted truth to me, and it was poor stewardship for me not to pass it on to others who would do the same. I prayed that night and decided to ask a former roommate, Michael Pettiette, if he would commit to studying the Bible with me.
Not only did God use Jeff to exhort me toward obedience, but that obedience led me to a friendship with Michael that has been my most consistent and strongest friendship of my adult life (apart from my wife, Rose). God’s Word radically changed Michael’s life, and we committed to not only studying it but also obeying it (something we are still striving toward today). Thankfully, I can name many men and women who have joined us in following Jesus and making disciples in the way Jeff modeled to me (which finds its roots all the way back to Jesus).
Last week I was hanging out with Austin West, a former student and current Collegiate Coordinator for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. I was thinking about the qualities that make him, Michael and so many others successful in their flawed yet impressive pursuits of Jesus. Simultaneously, I was preparing my final sermon in a verse by verse study of 1 Peter. This led me to rediscover a familiar passage while studying the lives of Silas and John Mark (who are both mentioned at the end of Peter’s letter). The passage is found in Acts 17:10-15. It takes place in Berea immediately following a crazy experience in Thessalonica where Paul, Silas, and others were chased out of town. The Bereans were completely different than the Thessalonians. Luke writes,
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11, ESV).
Austin, Michael, and many others share the characteristic of being teachable with the Bereans. Throughout the years, the men and women who I have seen consistently grow in their love, obedience, and commitment to Christ have been teachable. They know they will never be a completed work on this side of eternity. They always strive to know Christ more and live for him more faithfully. They constantly improve at loving others and being valuable to their churches and God’s Kingdom.
Frustrating discipleship experiences
On the other hand, some of my most frustrating experiences as a disciple-maker have been with people who think they have it all figured out. Those stuck in their ways and unwilling to change. People who know enough about God to be blinded to the truth that there is always more to discover and forgetful of the joy of knowing him more. People who do not have the privilege of being acquainted with the heartache of realizing you were wrong about something in the Word or something about God. Do not be like those people. Be like Michael and Austin. Be like Jesus. And make disciples who will do the same.
For those of you who have been doing this for a while, are you still teachable? When was the last time you learned something new or realized you were wrong? For those who are new to this, keep pressing on. I cannot begin to describe the joy found in intimately knowing Jesus more and more as the days and years go by.
As a final challenge, I encourage you to read the following passage which Jeff and I studied many times together roughly 18 years ago, and I continue to study frequently today. Read it as if it is your first time:
"...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:10—16 (ESV))