New Discipleship Resource for Nigerian Church
All believers face challenges as they continue to grow as disciples of Christ. Leaders of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN) saw this happening among many church members, so they asked Resonate Global Mission missionary Mike Van Der Dyke to partner with them in developing a discipleship manual to help strengthen believers and the church.
“One of the most urgent needs of the church in Africa is discipleship,” said Van Der Dyke. “And we’ve seen that the growth of the church here has kind of outpaced the progress of discipleship.”
Van Der Dyke said that in Nigeria—and throughout many Sub-Saharan African countries—people can easily fall back into practices from traditional religions when facing a challenge.
“If they run into any serious illness, a death in the family, or a tragic event in society, the tendency is to go back to some traditional practices and use them to try to counter what is happening in their lives,” he said.
The influence of prosperity gospel teaching—and the idea that faith in Christ is more transactional than relational—can also be far-reaching.
“People can be easily deceived by prosperity gospel teaching, by preachers that come with different teachings that aren’t really biblical but have some biblical references,” said Van Der Dyke.
To help in equipping believers to grow as disciples and in their personal relationship with God, the new discipleship manual includes 18 lessons covering topics such as the Bible as God’s Word, salvation by grace alone, spending time with God, worship, and more. The manual is intended for use by individual believers or in small groups. It has been published in English, and CRCN leaders plan also to publish it in Hausa, a widely spoken local language.
“Our leaders agreed that it will be used in all CRCN churches as a [post-baptism] class for all members,” said Pastor Sagarga Gargea Nuvalga, general secretary of the CRCN. “We are hoping that it will build our members to deeply appreciate and cherish their faith and that they will be able to defend their faith. With this and our other materials, we will grow and nurture members to be practical and effective Christians.”
Van Der Dyke has already been using the discipleship manual for a midweek gathering at his church. Week by week, he said, the group of 50 participants is working through the topics.
“We have had good discussions, and many of the people have asked for extra copies of the notes so that they can give them to family members or children who were not present,” Van Der Dyke said. They show encouraging signs of growing more committed to Christ, he said.
Part of the discipleship manual urges believers to take ownership in their walk with Christ and not to rely solely on the church for spiritual growth. The manual directs them to look to Scripture for guidance. As the group at Van Der Dyke’s church has worked through the discipleship manual, he has also distributed a Bible-reading plan. Everyone has been eager to set aside time in their daily life to read Scripture, he said.
“The Bible-reading plan has gone over quite well, especially with the elders. They were very enthusiastic about it and have started using it in their personal devotions,” said Van Der Dyke.
Resonate, Van Der Dyke, and leaders of the CRCN are excited for the ways God will work through this discipleship manual to strengthen believers and the church as a whole.