As a pastor and church planting strategist, Tim Ahlen has watched many believers miss a key aspect of the Christian life — making disciples.
“Jesus never instructed His followers to get decisions,” said Ahlen, lead pastor of Forest Meadow Baptist Church, Dallas. “He called His followers to make disciples.”
Ahlen has spent more than 40 years teaching and coaching on the multiplication results of disciple making. He has spent nearly 20 years concentrating on that discipline among the diverse ethnic groups in Dallas and beyond.
Forest Meadow Baptist was started in 1972, and growth came quickly in the Dallas neighborhood of Lake Highlands. However, after a church split in 1976, membership declined and never recovered. It had dropped from 400 to around 40 members by 2002.
When Ahlen was called as pastor in 2003, he knew a different approach was needed.
So the church implemented a two-fold strategy, Ahlen noted.
“The first part was to preserve and protect the worship practices of the traditional Anglo congregation, at least to the extent that they followed biblical mandates,” he explained. “The second part of the strategy was to pray for, identify and engage the new and unreached peoples who had moved into the neighborhood.”
The first church plant was a Spanish-language congregation. Further community research found more than 100 ethnolinguistic people groups within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the church, among them Sudanese, Zambian, Kosovar, Oromo, Anglo, Nepali and Bhutanese.
The small church got busy.
People came to Christ and were trained to start multiplying churches, and God blessed the efforts.
In 2010, a census revealed 118 churches whose roots traced back to Forest Meadow.
Only God knows the people impacted with the gospel and the churches planted worldwide that originated from the Dallas church, Ahlen said; the numbers have become impossible to track. But the fruit continues to grow. Because of an increased use of social media platforms over the past year, the church has deepened a partnership with believers in Sudan. In addition to English-language worship at Forest Meadows, four additional congregations meet each Sunday:
- Dallas Oromo Evangelical Baptist Church (worship in Afaan Oromo language)
- Forest Meadow en Español (worship in Spanish)
- Arabic Community Church (worship in Egyptian Arabic)
- Forest Meadows’ Sudanese group (worship in English and Arabic).
An all-congregations Sunday School, plus weekday prayer meetings, Bible studies, fellowship, occasional block parties and training in disciple making help with community outreach.
Forest Meadow’s mission statement reflects the church’s commitment: “A Family of Churches Making Disciples from Dallas to the Ends of the Earth.”
And Ahlen continues to emphasize the importance of first being a disciple and then making more disciples. One of the best ways he’s found is Zúme, an online training platform that equips participants in basic disciple making and simple church planting multiplication principles, processes and practices.
“Since August 2020, the impact of Zúme has exploded and now is producing 90-plus percent of the fruit of my ministry,” Ahlen said. “This is directly attributable to the impact of COVID-19 on the acceptance of digital discipleship models.”