Invitation to Discipleship: My Story of Being Discipled and Becoming a Discipler
In this invitation to discipleship, Anthony Walker describes how he was discipled to become a discipler.
Several times I’ve been asked to speak on varying topics from the epistles Paul wrote to Timothy. Almost every time, my mind goes back to how I relate to Timothy. Recently I was asked to speak from 2 Timothy 2:2 and the clause “commit these things to faithful men,” specifically within the scope of discipleship. I shared a message that was 30 years in the making. As I stood before the audience, I shared that I had three mind-blowing moments that helped me in the preparation of the presentation.
At the age of 2, I lost my father to a tragic heart attack. This tragedy sent my life and my mother’s life into a whirlwind. In her depression, she leaned on my grandmother to raise me. My Granny, as I affectionately call her, may not have had an education past the 5th grade, but her wisdom, her biblical knowledge, and her faith would surpass some scholars’. Throughout my life, she has given me the Word and helped to establish my faith.
“My mother knew that I would need godly men in my life.”
Additionally, my mother knew that I would need godly men in my life. She would often take me to see great men of God who preached in the area. One man caught my young attention.
Dr. Charles Beaman was a young dynamic preacher that fascinated me. He was educated, biblically sound, funny, charismatic, and even a sharp dresser. I was always excited to hear him preach.
Later in life, my mother remarried, and I transitioned to live with her in Nashville. The church that my other grandmother was attending was about to install a new minister. That minister was Dr. Beaman. Wow, how God lines things up!
Invitation to Discipleship by Dr. Beaman
I now was able to hear Dr. Beaman preach every Sunday. I enjoyed his messages. They were deep enough for the scholars in the audience to dig around and yet never hit the bottom. At the same time, they were simple enough for the young in faith to partake and never drown.
On one occasion he asked if I’d like to go with him to a Youth Day of which he was the keynote speaker. I was so thrilled. I get to ride in his car! I thought. Not that there was anything special about his car; it was an older used Honda. I think it was just the fact that I would get to spend time with him. Over the years there were more opportunities like this. He would come to lunch with me at school. He would make special time to talk with me.
At age 11, I shared with Dr. Beaman that I wanted to preach. He inquired, “Why?” to which I explained that I studied the same Word that other ministers preached, and I thought that I could do the same. To which he replied, “Well, let’s get to studying!” He prepared me to preach my first sermon before I turned 12. And then he challenged me by making sure that I would be back in the pulpit within a couple months.
As I matured in the faith, he continued to be a guide, friend, and confidant. He recognized a personality trait of mine, in that I am challenge-oriented. So, he challenged me often.
“As I matured in the faith, he continued to be a guide, friend, and confidant.”
Here are some key lessons I remember from Dr. Beaman.
He taught me that “Leaders are readers.” He would often refer books for me to read, keenly in areas of Bible, management, and leadership. These would be skills I would need to have as a minister. To this day he often calls with 3-4 books I need to be reading. He challenged me to think, to critically think.
He also taught me to be a life learner. The dualism in that phrase is that I need to learn from life, but also learn for the rest of my life. He would often say after an experience or an observation, “There’s a lesson in that.”
He always stressed that I need to be ready for whatever may come. Be ready.
“He always stressed that I need to be ready for whatever may come. Be ready.”
Additionally, he took me around the world. As an education consultant, he was always traveling to different school districts. Thanks to him, I’ve been to several states attending conferences both in education and the church, and I’ve even been to several countries around the world.
Continuing in my maturation process, for about 4-5 years, he put me through “church college.” I was responsible for utilizing my talents for the body. I can sing and I’m artistic, among other talents. Therefore, he put me on the song leader rotation. I was responsible for teaching the high school and college-aged classes, in addition to teaching the adults in his stead if he had to travel. I was to preach when he was absent. I was a consultant on every ministry. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed the challenge knowing that it was preparing me for the future.
At age 24, I got a call to preach for a church called Hwy 231 in Murfreesboro, TN. The more I spoke there, the more I knew something special was happening. So I began to talk with the chief advisor on my personal advisory council, Dr. Beaman. It was so awkward. I knew I was ready to fly, he knew I was ready to fly, but neither one of us wanted me to leave the nest. But it was time.
Neither one of us wanted me to leave the nest. But it was time.
The last Sunday that I was at Dr. Beaman’s was so full of emotion. I couldn’t tell you what songs were sung or the text from which he preached. But one statement he told me that day blew my mind: “Anthony, what I have done for you, now you must do for someone else.”
I thought, I’m not 100% ready to preach for the church at Hwy 231—let alone be what you have been to me to someone. I’m not ready to take anyone around the world, or teach them what he’d taught me, and so forth.
Yet I could see what God was doing in my life. As I studied Scripture, I began to see some similarities between Timothy and me. Like Timothy, my faith foundation started in my grandmother, was passed down to my mother, and down to me. Like Timothy, I had a spiritual father that confirmed my development in the faith. But also, like Timothy there is the point at which Paul challenges Timothy to do what he has done for him by discipling someone else.
Dr. Beaman’s Discipleship Challenge
Soon after starting to preach at Hwy 231, a family came to visit one Sunday. They were an unassuming family: a father, mother, and young child. Although I wondered who they were and what they saw in our little church, they placed membership the next Sunday.
I love children of all ages. And I had a fondness for their son Chris. Each Sunday, I’d give him a high five, while talking with his parents. One Sunday, I used him as an example of a young boy from the Bible in my sermon. When he returned to a seat, he didn’t sit with his parents. He sat in the seat next to where I regularly sat for the rest of service. And the next Sunday, he sat there as well. And the following Sunday, and the following Sunday.
Over the years, my friendship with Chris and his family grew. I would often go by their house and chat with his parents. But a visit wasn’t complete without spending time playing with Chris. Chris, knowing that I was an athlete in high school, would challenge me to a race. And I would beat him bad every time. Why? Well, I wanted him to try to beat me no matter what. And I concluded that if he would ever get to the point where he could beat “Mr. Anthony,” then surely he could beat his friends. In short, I was trying to teach him a relentless work ethic.
I was trying to teach him a relentless work ethic.
Although you’re reading this and can see what God was doing, at the time, I still didn’t see it.
Chris would invite me to have lunch with him at school. Even though I was the only adult invited, I would go to his birthday parties and play along with his friends. One day his parents called with the news that Chris wanted to be baptized. Although Chris has an amazing father, he wanted Mr. Anthony to baptize him.
Even then, I didn’t see what God was doing.
Chris continued to grow in the faith and develop as a young Christian. He began participating in the worship service: leading songs, reading Scripture, praying.
He began participating in the worship service: leading songs, reading Scripture, praying.
When he graduated in 2020, the schools didn’t have their normal graduation ceremonies due to Covid. But our church had an outdoor ceremony for our graduates. In his graduation speech, he said that one lesson he recalls in life is the fact that I would come over to his house and beat him racing. He said he learned that with persistence and hard work, he could be successful. Although I never uttered those words to him, he got the lesson.
Suddenly, my mind was blown. All this time, I had been discipling Chris just as I had been discipled.
How You Know You’ve Made a Disciple
We’ve often heard the leadership adage that you must “duplicate yourself.” But discipleship isn’t about duplicating yourself, it is about making another disciple of Christ.
A disciple learns to follow, follows to learn, but never arrives.
Disciples of Christ are on a relentless journey to be more like God’s Son. They learn to follow Jesus. They continue to follow Jesus because they continue to learn from him. But they never get to a point where they arrive.
Paul was not trying to create another Paul. Timothy would never be Paul. But Timothy would become another disciple of Jesus.
Discipleship isn’t about the tutor; it’s about the teaching. It isn’t about the leader; it’s about the lesson. It isn’t about getting quickly to a destination; it’s about the journey. I would never be Dr. Beaman. But I can be the best Anthony I can be in my journey with Christ.
As a challenge to my Bible class, I asked the class, “How do you know that you’ve made a disciple?” One of my elders gave one of the most concise responses I’ve heard to that question. “You know you’ve made a disciple, when the disciple you made, makes a disciple.”
My mind was blown again.
Making Room in Life for Discipleship
While I appreciate the discussion and study of discipleship, I don’t want to be so focused on the tactics and strategies that I miss the opportunities before me. One friend put it this way: “Making a disciple isn’t about adding a spot for disciple making on your schedule, it’s about including them in your current schedule. Jesus didn’t set out to make disciples at a certain time of the day. He would just say, ‘Peter, James, John…come with me.’” Along the journey, disciples were made.
“Along the journey, disciples were made.”
I am more intentional about disciple making in my life now than I have ever been. I often pray that God would reveal to me those who I might miss. I ask him to reveal those around me who are faithful, available, and teachable—those whom I can entrust with the things that others have poured into me. I pray that I will be diligent enough to pour it into them as well.