Discipleship, Relationships, and Growing Up in Christ

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher

Luke 6:40

Discipleship was a major part of the life and ministry of Jesus.  One of His first acts, when He began his ministry was to select twelve men to spend time with for the purpose of discipleship.

Discipleship is not the same as teaching.  Of course making disciples involves teaching.  Discipleship is not just receiving instruction, but taking on the beliefs and lifestyle of your teacher.

The disciples of Jesus learned from observation.  They watched Jesus as he prayed, taught and preached the word of God, healed the sick, and cast out devils.  They were with Jesus constantly for three years.  They learned about life and ministry by observing and mimicking the life of Jesus.

All of us learn about life from those we love and respect.  The discipleship process begins shortly after birth as we learn about life from observing our parents and brothers and sisters.  The first phase of our discipleship takes place in that first “small group” called family that we are a part of.  As we grow older and begin to make decisions on our own, other people replace our parents and become our teachers.

The Lord has used three different men in a very significant way to become an instructor and model in my life.  Each one came at a different phase in my life and became influential in my spiritual growth.

My first teacher (I use this word in its meaning as a disciple maker) was Mike McIntosh.  He was the director of the bible school I attended as well as my next door neighbor.  Mike impacted me in my early days as a Christian, serving as a role model to me of what a Christian man should look like.

First, I observed Mike as a preacher and teacher.  I will never forget the fiery sermons he would preach in the chapel at our school.  I remember a sense of holiness, passion, determination, and commitment flowing out of Mike as he preached.  Secondly, Mike would lead us on the streets of Fresno, California for evangelism.  I can still hear his voice as he preached the gospel outside of x rated movie theatres, in the red light district, inside various bars, and at rock concerts.  I caught his passion for evangelism that still beats in my heart today.  Next, I learned about prayer and devotions from being next to Mike.  In those days in Fresno, we had swamp coolers rather than air conditioning.  That meant our windows were open.  I remember hearing Mike and his wife Claire singing to the Lord every morning.  Their prayer, worship, and passion for Christ was infectious.  I learned about worship and prayer not in a class, but from the life of this precious friend.

Mike McIntosh went home to be with the Lord several years ago.  His legacy continues through his son Jonathon who pastors a church in Federal Way, Washington, and through his daughter Annie who is one of the singers with United from Hillsongs.  I am eternally grateful to the impact Mike had on my life.

The next person who the Lord brought into my life for discipleship purposes was Dick Mills.  Dick is a very unusual man with an unusual gift in his life.  He is now up in age and has traveled for many years as a teacher and a prophet.  When he was young he memorized all of the promises, over 7000 of them, in the word of God.  After that time, as he began to pray for individuals, these scripture promises would begin to be recalled to his mind.  He would give prophetic words to the people he prayed for.

Dick came across my path in 1976 in Kerman, California.  It was in a Sunday afternoon service and he called Parris and I out and gave us a word from the Lord.  The word he gave us was out of Exodus 14 and Psalm 46 speaking about standing still and waiting upon the Lord.  Out of that word we had a change of plans which led us back home to New Orleans to pioneer Victory Fellowship.

Several years later we invited Dick to come to our church to minister and began to develop a very special relationship with him that continues to this day.

I caught a love for God’s word from Dick Mills.  I will never forget the time he stayed in my home and I found him at 5 a.m. on the floor in my study, surrounded by multiple commentaries, word study books, and various translations of the bible.  He was in love with God’s word and was like a miner digging for treasure.

Every time he came to minister at Victory (which was once or twice a year) he would bring me a gift.  It would be a translation of the bible, a word study book, or a commentary of the bible.  One time he sent me a rare set of Bishop Ellicott’s commentary on the bible from England. I began to have a greater love for old books from my relationship with Dick Mills.

I’ll never forget the time in 1995 when Dick came to our church during the incredible season of revival.  I remember him in that incredible supernatural atmosphere, talking about his early days as a young man remembering that Pentecostal anointing that had flowed out of Azusa street and was spreading around the world.  His confirmation that “this was that” was one of the great encouragements for us to embrace and continue in Revival.

Dick’s unique combination of the word and Spirit has also had a great impact on my life.  He spoke to me in January of 2000 from Jeremiah 1:11, 12.  This strange, obscure passage talks about seeing the branch of an almond tree.  Dick began to explain to me the significance of the almond tree in relationship to harvest in Israel.  The almond harvest would come first and it would be an indication to the kind of harvest to be expected from the other crops that year.  Unknown to Dick, we had just started, two months before, Beyond the Grave.  In January of 2000 Beyond the Grave began to experience supernatural harvests of hundreds of salvations in each altar call which has continued for over 10 years.  The exciting thing about this harvest is that the BTG harvest is the almond branch, signifying what is to come in the coming harvest to his church.

Dick’s love for the prophetic word has also infected our church.  You can see this gift of prophecy operating throughout Victory Fellowship with the foundation of the Word of God.

The third individual who has impacted my life from a close personal relationship is Rodney Howard Browne.  Rodney also came into my life at a critical time for me.  In the summer of 1994 I was tired, cynical, and looking for a way out of ministry.  Through a long series of supernatural coincidences I ended up in Rodney’s meetings in August of 1994.  After answering an altar call for preachers, I was overwhelmed by the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit.  Falling under the power for the first time, I was introduced into a new realm of the spiritual world.  That day I was beginning an incredible journey into the world of the anointing.

After that initial touch from God, I began to go to as many Rodney Howard Browne meetings as I could.  I was in Jacksonville, Chicago, Dallas, and St. Louis in the next ten months, soaking in this revival anointing.  During this time I began to develop a friendship with Rodney which has had lasting impact on my life.

Out of that friendship Rodney began to come to our church and had extended meetings for many weeks.  Also I began to travel with Rodney as my schedule would allow, just soaking in the supernatural atmosphere.

I have gained some of the most valuable additions to my life from the influence Rodney has had on my life these last sixteen years.

First, I learned and received a first love for Jesus and for the work of God.  In those early days of revival meetings I was struck by Rodney’s passion for the presence of God.  He would wait for long, extended periods of time for God’s presence.  In this world of seeker sensitive, man centered religion, the Lord brought someone into my life who was making time for the Lord in his services.  How refreshing was that!

Secondly, I was stunned by the supernatural gift of preaching that was in Rodney’s ministry.  He would preach for hours spontaneously, many times operating in and out of a prophetic gift while he preached.  This was life changing and began to rub off on me.

Thirdly, Rodney’s love for the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.  Too many “full gospel” people have moved away from spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues.  His willingness to not only allow but encourage demonstrations of the Spirit was powerful and affected me and our church greatly.

Also, Rodney stirred up that love for souls in my life.  I will never forget that three week revival we had in August 1995 when we baptized over 700 people.  What an incredible night.  People coming to the Lord and coming back to the Lord following Him in baptism.  That gift of supernatural evangelism overflowed in our church in the form of Beyond the Grave.  Who knows how many have come to Christ in those altar calls.  (Over 60,000 new convert books have been given out at BTG performances)

I am extremely grateful to these three men.  The Lord used each one at different seasons in my 37 year journey to bring spiritual growth into my life through discipleship that flowed out of a spiritual relationship.  Who is impacting your life?  Whose teachings and lifestyle are you embracing?  What are others learning as they observe you?  Of course Jesus is the disciple maker.  He has determined to use human vessels to accomplish this incredible task.

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