For decades, a continuing concern for short-term missions teams has been the follow-up with new converts.
Have the new converts grown in their relationship with Christ? Was the local pastor able to thrive while dealing with the spiritual needs of so many new converts at once? Or did the new converts’ faith, rootless as described in Matthew 13:5, wither?
The new Digital Bible Institute addresses this issue by utilizing online small group study in multiple languages at the same time.
“Small group leadership holds the greatest potential for revival in the local church,” Southern Baptist evangelist Sammy Tippit told The Baptist Paper. In ministry on four continents, Tippit saw that when biblical truths about prayer, evangelism, discipleship and revival were practiced together, God multiplied His church and renewed His people.
“Digital Bible Institute is a Jesus-focused ministry with a mission to combine biblical, spiritual and practical small group leadership training that results in spiritual renewal among followers of Jesus,” Tippit said. “One of the great features of DBI is that we are able to cross geographic and linguistic borders to share the gospel and make disciples. That’s exciting!”
DBI includes online weekly video teaching with a text summary and assignments for the students. The DBI website, digitalbibleinstitute.com, describes the training provided:
— The prayer module trains followers of Jesus to have intimate communication with God by developing a daily time alone with God. It teaches biblical and practical truths about prayer.
— The evangelism module trains followers of Jesus to effectively share Christ with others, including spiritual truths about motivation for sharing the gospel and the power to share it, biblical truths of the gospel and practical training for sharing your testimony and engaging others in a gospel conversation.
— The discipleship module trains followers of Jesus to grow and multiply as His disciples in two specific areas: becoming more like Jesus and helping others grow in His image. This module leads the students to become disciple multipliers.
— The revival module presents truths about spiritual awakening by interviewing pastors and Christian leaders who have experienced personal renewal and have seen revival in their communities, as well as explaining biblical truths that have produced these revivals and spiritual awakenings throughout history.
The 20 video instructors — “content masters” — of the material have proven track records in applying the truths they teach. The instructors include David Butts, chairman of the U.S. National Prayer Committee; David Bruce, a vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International; and pastor Bill Elliff on revival.
“We know that there are thousands of Christians around the world who are crying for solid discipleship resources,” Tippit said. “With DBI … we not only provide the resources, but [we provide them] in multiple languages, with accountability that will strengthen [Christians’] relationship with Jesus and impact their nations.”
Across the world
DBI director Corey Webb, based in Texas, leads a small group of pastors in Africa in the prayer module. After studying Lesson 8, Supplication, online together, they prayed for each other, Webb told The Baptist Paper.
One Uganda pastor’s request was for land on which to build a church. The land was unexpectedly donated. When the pastor gathered the community to dedicate the land, he preached and 13 people came to Christ that day.
Webb and the Ugandan pastor celebrated together over a cup of coffee — Webb in Texas and the pastor in his home — via the internet.
Webb is one of 150 Christian network leaders in Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe who have been beta testing DBI to work out the kinks before the April release date.
The training will be available at no cost in at least 10 languages by the end of this year, and because it is digital, people speaking different languages can be in the same small group.
“[DBI will include] eight languages by April, but 10 by the end of the year,” Tippit said. “It will come out in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Farsi, Hindi, Punjabi, Nepali and Urdu in April. We are working on Dari and may start the Romanian translation soon. I just had someone say that they were willing to fund the translation into Romanian.”
An Iranian taught by Tippit how to follow Christ “led some people to Christ who live in Pakistan, but from three different language groups. Some speak Urdu, some Farsi, some Dari,” Tippit said. “He asked if we had anything that could help him disciple them. DBI will enable him to do that” without tripling his workload.
DBI will work just as well for people from the United States who take short-term missions trips internationally or in North America. Since the training is all online, missions volunteers will be able to follow up by setting up small groups from among the people they meet.
The online small group training can also be used in local churches. “Small group” is key — the training is not available for individual study because of the accountability component.
Consistent reading of Scripture and daily talking with God, as well as experience in applying evangelistic and discipleship skills, is built into the training.
“We want someone who goes through the prayer module to come out a person of prayer,” Tippit said.
“We want the person who goes through the evangelism module to be leading people to Christ,” he noted. “We want the person going through the discipleship module to have someone they are discipling.”
Tippit has used the latest technology throughout his ministry, which started during the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s in Chicago with stickers of catchy phrases and flyers designed to attract the attention of youth searching for meaning in their lives.
Over the following decades in Eastern Europe, South Asia and the Middle East, Tippit and his wife, Tex, undergirded by a strong prayer life, watched God move as the people they met engaged with Scripture and were discipled.
In 2015, a leader in India asked Tippit to provide discipleship training via Skype. That thrust Sammy Tippit Ministries into the internet age. Today it has 10 language-specific websites, 13 apps for mobile devices and 13 social media pages. Tippit used 51 QR codes for supplemental information in his 2018 autobiography, “Unashamed: A Memoir of Dangerous Faith.”
“The world is changing so rapidly,” Tippit said. “But the gospel has not changed and won’t ever change. Making disciples has not changed. Walking with God has not changed. The challenge we face is bringing the unchanging good news of God’s love to a rapidly changing world.
“God has provided the technological tools to reach the world, tools no other generation has ever had,” the evangelist continued. “It’s an exciting time to live.”