Montana Bible College believes that discipleship equals directed relationship. Discipleship is directed because it has a goal: to make mature followers of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:28-29). Discipleship is relational in that it is always done person to person. The command to make disciples is given to people for people (Matthew 28:18-20). Elders are people shepherding people. Missionaries are people sent to people. Parents are people raising people. In fact, discipleship is even seen in Scripture as spiritual parenting (1 Thessalonians 2:6-8,11-12; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4). Good discipleship needs BOTH direction and relationship. Direction without relationship is a program approach to discipleship that says, “Read this book. Take this class. Memorize these verses. Listen to these sermons. Memorize these answers. Follow these steps.” Conversely, relationship without direction results in a discipleship process that says, “Let’s just hang out together. Let’s meet over coffee to talk. Let’s encourage one another.” Montana Bible College believes that discipleship is a life-on-life relational process with direction and purpose. We believe that Jesus and the Apostles clearly modeled this approach.
But how does Montana Bible College translate directed relationship to actual practice? What actually happens? What does a student here experience?
Most people immediately equate going to Bible college with taking academic classes. MBC certainly believes in academic course work. Classroom instruction provides a major component of the directional aspect of discipleship at MBC. But academics is not the whole picture. Relationship is necessary too! This is why MBC makes sure every student is connected in relationship with a more mature believer who understands what discipleship is. Mature disciplers get involved in the lives of their disciples to lead them by example, to encourage, to exhort and admonish, and to walk with them through the trials and triumphs of life – all of this and more in order to present each one mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29). Direction and relationship come together at MBC.
Each freshman student is placed in a small group led by a mature disciple-maker. Students begin to learn about discipleship by participation in the process! Combined with participation is instruction through the Evangelism and Discipleship courses taken the freshman year. These courses focus on specific instruction in evangelism, discipleship, theology, and practical ministry skills.
Building on the foundation of the freshman year, sophomores through seniors engage in discipleship full scale through Discipleship Lab. D-Lab emphasizes training up disciples of Christ who multiply themselves by discipling others. The program combines specific direction in discipleship with real-life relational experience as both disciplee and discipler.
The directional aspect of Discipleship Lab explores in the sophomore year what it means to be a disciple of Christ, realizing that the first step to discipling someone else is to be a disciple and know what a disciple of Christ is. Students study the life of Jesus – who He was, how He did ministry, and how He trained His disciples. The junior year takes the concepts of discipleship learned in the first year and transfers them to the Church so that students understand what a disciple-making church should look like. We believe discipleship is not to be a program within the Church, but rather is the purpose of the Church (Matthew 28:19-20). The junior year goes on to address the method by which we are to disciple others. How does a person disciple someone else? Where do they start? What do they do? The senior year of Discipleship Lab works to translate into practical ministry the understanding of discipleship gained in the first two years. How do you practically implement these ideas into life and ministry in the future? For example, what is discipleship going to look like for a pastor of a church on Monday through Saturday, not just Sunday? Not only do students study these topics and discuss them, the program also brings in men and women in ministry who have discipling experience as pastors and leaders in the Church to share their wisdom and be available for practical questions.
The relational aspect of Discipleship Lab begins as students are discipled by more mature believers. All MBC students are required to be discipled by a more mature student, faculty or staff member, or other approved person. The faculty and staff of Montana Bible College are deeply committed to making disciples and are all actively involved in personally discipling students. The passion of MBC is to see our students grow in their knowledge of God and His Word, fall more deeply in love with our God, and become mature followers of Christ through the application of His Word in all areas of life and constant dependence upon Him.
The relational aspect progresses as students become disciple-makers. We require our students to disciple someone else during their sophomore through senior years. This process is guided through the Discipleship Lab courses. Disciplers have access to help in making disciples through those who disciple them and through the availability of the Discipleship Lab instructor.
The final component rounding out the relational aspect of MBC’s discipleship program is ministry involvement. We require all sophomore through senior students to be involved in ministry on an ongoing basis. We want our students doing face-to-face ministry with real people and serving shoulder-to-shoulder with brothers and sisters in Christ outside the safety of MBC. This is another avenue for students to put practical feet to what they are learning in the classroom. This ministry involvement may or may not be “church” ministry. Students minister in such settings as youth or children’s ministry, college or adult ministry, jail ministry, soup kitchen, pregnancy caring center, Love In the Name of Christ, and so forth. Each student earning a bachelor’s degree from MBC culminates his or her ministry involvement with an internship.
Montana Bible College intends to create a movement of multiplication by raising up disciple-makers who will fulfill the Great Commission the way Paul expressed in 2 Timothy 2:2: The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.