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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

A Discipleship Strategy Small Churches Can Actually Follow - Podcast with Karl Vaters

Updated: May 4, 2023

Karl Vaters Podcast on Discipleship

This is a transcript of a podcast episode with Karl Vaters from his podcast "Can This Work in a Small Church?" I've transcribed the podcast here, with Karl's permission, but i'd encourage you to go listen to the episode on discipleship here.

Karl has a new podcast for church leaders, which you should definitely put on your list, called "The Church Lobby."

Karl: Hi, I'm Karl Vaters and welcome to Can This Work in a Small Church. My guest for this episode is Darrell Stetler. He's a small church pastor. He's a father of seven, yes, seven, and the author of some great discipleship materials designed for small churches. In this conversation, Darryl and I talk about the importance of discipleship in the life of the church, how it is central to our role and to our calling as pastors. We will also talk about his specific curriculum, why it's so useful, why I recommend it, and how he even uses modern technologies in a very simple way to keep it up-to-date and fresh for everyone. And don't forget to stick around when the interview is done, I'll come back with an overview of the content and an answer to the question, can this work in a small church? Well, Darrell, welcome to the podcast today. It's good to have you on.

Darrell: It is fantastic to be here. Karl, what a great, great privilege to be with you.

Karl: Well, thank you, and a great privilege for us to have you on. We're going to be talking about discipleship today, and I'm really excited about it because in recent years, without question, the one aspect of the pastoral role that has been reemphasized to me more than any other aspect of our role is the aspect of discipleship.

Darrell: Wow.

Karl: I was taught in Bible college how to exegete scripture, how to teach scripture to others, a whole lot of pastoral role things, all of which are very important. Thinking back, it's been 40 years now, so who knows my memory, here's what it used to be, but I don't remember discipleship receiving the importance that I think it deserves. And I'm glad to see it coming more into our conscious teaching in the pastoral role. So how does that come about it in your ministry that discipleship has become such a key part of what you do, not just in your congregation, but in the work that you do to help other pastors?

Darrell: Well I would like to think that it was primarily a scripture thing. Obviously the Great Commission is a huge, crucial command that Christ has given to the church. And even linguistically, the main verb in the Great Commission is make disciples. Yeah, we really ought not to miss this. It's the big E on the eye chart, right? Like, we, we have to see that one or we've got a real problem.

But the truth is that we don't think deeply enough about it. Or maybe we weren't discipled as we ought to have been or we're just not used to thinking that way. We're used to living in a culture where the overall direction of the culture helped us disciple our people, or at least didn't cause quite as much of a drag on it as it seems to in more and more and more in recent years. So I think that partly the revival of that has been a sudden realization, like in the American church, we have discipled ourselves into the mess we're in, and we're going to have to disciple our way back out again.

Karl: I don't disagree with it at all, but that's a really strong statement.

Darrell: It is. And we would all look around and say we're in a mess. And people are it's easy to like blame it on this political party or that political party or whatever, or the sexual revolution or whatever else. Post-modernism, whatever bogeyman we come up with. But the truth is that the church of Jesus in America has discipled -- or not discipled -- its way into the place where we're at. And so I think that just looking at it as a, way that we can take responsibility for becomes really, really important. Because we can only change the things that we can take responsibility for.

Karl: Yeah, exactly. It goes back to, I may butcher the saying, but it's a famous leadership saying, your, your systems are perfectly designed to get the results you're getting.

Darrell: I love that. I love that. Right. That's, it's so true. And it's like, it's unfortunate and painful, but it's true.

Karl: Yeah. But what you're saying is true if we take responsibility for it, rather than blaming outside forces. And certainly, as you said earlier, outside forces have changed. Yeah. We no longer have a culture that generally supports the direction we're going in, but if the blame is there, and if that's where we affixed the blame, it's simply not under our purview then to have any ability to adjust. But if we take a look at our responsibility, then we can make the adjustment to it. So where do you think we have particularly failed with our discipleship over the last generation or so?

Darrell: Well, there are a variety of ways we've really struggled and we haven't asked the right questions. Sometimes we've failed to ask the question, what is it I'm really trying to produce? What is a disciple and what does that look like? Sometimes we've just kind of assumed that it was a person who comes to church at least once a week or three times a week, or has been baptized or has taken our membership class. And we haven't really sat down to take the time to think through. So what is it I'm trying to produce? What would that look like? Honestly, I had this trouble for years. I've been a pastor since 2003 in the south part of Oklahoma City. And I had this trouble for years where I really hadn't thought clearly about what it was I was trying to produce.

I wanted my church to grow, I wanted to collect attenders, but I didn't feel like, I was doing a good job at making disciples who could make other disciples. So one day I read this quote by Dallas Willard and he said, "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he was you." And that it shook me up because I was like, oh, this is not about information. This is about transformation. This isn't about the head knowledge that I can give to those people, but it's about heart and hands as well. It's not just head, what I know, its heart, what I love and hands the way I act, and what I do. So there's a transformation of habits, a transformation of thinking, a transformation of the things that I love and the things that I hate more than just, here's a set of tips for Christians or doctrines to memorize. Although obviously doctrine is important, I'm not saying it isn't, but I'm saying the way we are in head, heart, and hands all has to be touched by discipleship.

Karl: Yeah. I think we, we have split these pieces out sometimes in order to understand big concepts, we break them down into doable pieces. Right. But then sometimes we fail to put the pieces back together into the whole again. And we see them as separate. So this whole idea of making disciples, most of the way I perceived it, and I'm going to say to a degree I was taught, was kind of like, we go make converts and then we teach Christians. And then after we've done both of those things, that's what discipleship looks like. But it really isn't because we're not called to make converts. We're called to make disciples. We're not called to teach Christians, we're called to make disciples. Now the conversion process and the teaching of, of believers are under the umbrella of discipleship. But if they're not brought back under the umbrella, after we separate them out into pieces so we can understand them clearer, then we're really not doing the discipleship properly, I don't think.

Darrell: Yeah. So the great commission, literally the main verb is make disciples. And the other three verbs are participles -- if you're a Greek person. So it's like "while you're going make disciples" ought to be the way it's translated, but that's awkward English syntax, right? To say in English. And so they don't translate it that way. But "while you're going make disciples," and then there are two kind of subcategories underneath that -- baptizing them and teaching them.

And so we grab those two things we're like baptizing and teaching. And so we're like, Hey, Sunday school program this or whatever. And that we think program about discipleship, but we forget that it says teaching them to observe everything I've commanded you. The point is to teach the people to be fully committed to the kingship of Christ, fully committed to living out that kingdom. And action in that kind of way is the values of the Sermon on the Mount and all of that, that's gotta play into discipleship. And if it doesn't, we're not doing what Jesus said

Karl: Even the act of verb in the verse you just mentioned, it's not teaching them to know everything I've commanded you. Yeah. It's teaching them to do everything I have commanded you. And then of course, if you go to things like the Book of James where if you know it and you're not doing it, you're actually living in self-deceit. It's, it's really strong language in the New Testament for people who are filled with head knowledge without the follow through of the obedience and of the discipleship part of it. Absolutely. And I think quite often, I think some of it goes to gifting. Some of us feel like we're good teachers and not necessarily great, guides to walk along with people. And other people are great with people but may not have a, what they would consider to be a strong teaching gift. And so we only lean into the half of it that we feel the most comfortable with or the most competent in. But while yes, different people have different giftings, this isn't about a gifting, this is a command like...

Darrell: Yeah. Right. Absolutely.

Karl: It, it's not "make disciples if that's your gift." It's "make disciples!"

Darrell: Exactly. That’s an important point. Sometimes we create an understanding of discipleship that primarily orbits around our set of gifts and proprietary knowledge. And I did this for years where I was pastor church and I made some disciples, I'm grateful for that God's grace was active and we're making some progress, but I wasn't able to give it away because my strategy for making discipleship was primarily winging it based around my gifts. So I was like, every time somebody gets saved, you're like, hey, fantastic, let's go out and meet for coffee. And I'm like, Indiana Jones, I'm making it up as I go along. You're so like, okay, I'm going to, respond to this person. Let's jump into the gospel of Luke and let's start reading. And so call me if you have questions and I can always answer their questions because I grew up in a preacher's home and I have a teaching gift. But how do you multiply that out and make it possible for multiple people in your church to be able to disciple somebody else? You gotta set it free from your gifts. Because not everybody has those gifts. You gotta create a pathway. You have to create a strategy.

Karl: Yeah. Let's talk about that pathway and strategy. You made a statement when we were talking before the podcast, and if I, if I get, don't get the exact quote, go ahead and correct me on it. But you talked about asking the question, what habits do I want to create? Not just simply what ideas do I want to teach? Yes. Break that down for us. Because that to me is, is really central to this issue.

Darrell: It's not primarily about the issue or the ideas I want to teach or the content that I want to teach, the facts that I want to teach. A lot of churches, they do get good facts and good theology and they kind of gather up those things and put 'em into a membership class or a discipleship class and they say, all right, this is it and this is what it means to disciple people. I would argue all of that information will come along if the disciple has the right set of habits that they're doing regularly. If they are regularly engaging in a certain set of habits, those habits will inevitably result in the continued transformation of that person. And nothing is more proverbial than a person who has all the content. They know all the content and they can spit it back out. But they haven't been transformed.

Karl: I was reading about a great pastor of, it may have been Eugene Peterson, it may have been Martin Luther, who knows who it was. Who was saying somebody had come to him and said, I, I don't feel all that close to the Lord. What should I do? And the response I believe was well say your prayers. The answer was do the stuff. Pick up God's word and read it regularly. Engage in your prayers at the regular time. Do the things we work far more outside in than inside out.

Darrell: Yes, yes. That is true. And so engaging in those disciplines. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, really similar kind of philosophy. He's like, literally the Methodist comes from, they believed there was a method, you know? Yeah. And, and so there's, there's a set of things. I want to be in the places and put myself in the places where God is going to speak to me and continue to transform me. And so what are those habits? Identifying those things helps to create. And which ones would we teach first? Which ones would we teach second? What would we teach third? Becomes a way of creating a strategy that doesn't revolve around information, but like, what do I want to teach? It involves what kind of habits do I want to create? And I think that that's a really valuable way of understanding discipleship that we're turning to recapture as a church in America. I hope

Karl: To me that whole idea of, of developing habits rather than simply teaching information means that it can't just be done in the classroom setting. I'm not anti-classroom setting. We have classes in our church too, but a lot of times I think what we're calling discipleship is really just simply teaching classes and people think they're being discipled because they can list the classes that they've gone through. And, but it's really possible to go through classes and sit on Sunday morning services for year after year, decade after decade and not be discipled because at the centre of discipleship and creating of these habits, it has to be a mentoring relationship. One of the things I love about what you do and how you teach this to other pastors is that you really lean into the whole idea of making sure that this is done within a mentoring relationship. So walk us through why that is so important and how that might work itself out in the life of a small church pastor, for instance.

Darrell: Yeah. So one of the challenges with how discipleship is taught in larger churches is that it seems to be that it's taught primarily in programs. Its meetings, it's, we create programs. In fact, we can create so many programs that are really great and their quality large churches can that it makes it unnecessary to even have friends or nights of the week that aren't taken up with Christian activity. So I was listening to a friend of mine, Dr. Steve Gibson, teach at a discipleship conference several years ago. And he made what I thought was a really profound statement. He said, the dominant model of American Christianity for discipleship is a space suit. And he said, we want to create a space suit and put people in it as fast as possible or they'll die. He said, you know what a spacesuit is, right? It's a self-contained environment that protects us from a hostile world.

Karl: Wow.

Darrell: he said, so our churches then over the course of decades of this, have become collections of people in spacesuits where they come waddling in and their spacesuit and they wave at other Christians inside their self-contained environment. And they give a few awkward hugs, and then they waddle back to their cars to drive back to their self-contained Christian environment home. And he said that while that has successfully made and sustained some disciples, it isn't the way the New Testament model, mental model of discipleship is. He said the dominant New Testament mental model of discipleship is a baby born into a family. And we know this by all the metaphors, you look at the metaphors that are used, and you have born again. And you have, the new birth, and you have brothers and sisters in the faith, and you have fathers and mothers in the faith, and you have drinking milk and you need to grow up and eat meat.

You've got John talking about little children and young men and old men and all of these things, all these metaphors come back to a mental model. And that mental model is a baby born into a family. So connection becomes so vital. They tell us that I've got seven children. So I kind of this is soapbox area for me, but because I'm tired and blessed and Yes. My children as they were born, I remember the doctor taking them and immediately, and it actually got more, as my children got further and I got further into the seven kids, the doctors were learning more and more about how vital this was. They would immediately take that baby and put it up on my wife's shoulder and put it on her chest and just let her hold that baby and have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible immediately.

Karl: Yeah.

Darrell: As opposed to like grabbing that child and putting it in a hermetically sealed container where we don't have any germs and there's nothing in, we sterilize the living daylights out of it. They literally pipe in all the nutrition and everything's like, reach your hand through and touch thru the gloves. And I know that this kind of stuff may be necessary in some situations. Neonatal intensive care, but normally speaking, that immediate contact with a mentor. That immediate contact with a loving parent becomes really vital. That kid has no idea what is going on, but there's something vital happening in their body. There are immune system responses that need that, and then it goes right on. And it just continues. Like psychologists tell us that when you hold your new-born and they can barely even focus on you, but you're looking at them and you're looking into their eyes and talking to them.

They have no idea the significance of the noises coming out of your mouth, but they're learning things on a really deep level, such as I am worth looking at, I'm worth looking at. I'm a person I'm worth speaking to. I'm an individual. And those are things that are so down deep that you can't even touch them. They won't even know how to articulate that until they're in college, but they're learning it. And so in the same kind of way that high touch environment, so everybody with the mentor know Christian by themselves is one of the things I think that pastors have to fully adopt and buy

Karl: All the metaphors you're talking about. Of course. I've read them just as much as every other, Christian has read, who spent time in the New Testament, has read them anthropologically looking around the world, there is no more helpless life form on earth than a human baby. Any other life form on earth, even in its infancy, has a higher level of instinct and survivability than a human baby does. We are completely and entirely dependent upon older human beings for a ridiculously long period of time compared to all the rest of living beings as well. And so even if you take that parallel over, is there a more spiritually vulnerable time in our lives than as a brand new baby in Christ? Yeah. And that's when we need that nurture more than anything else. .

Darrell: Sure My encouragement to pastors of smaller churches, that's one of the thing reasons. I love what you do. I am a small church pastor. I'm a practitioner, not a theoretician. Smaller churches can get in the same, they can fall in the trap of trying to be large churches and trying to, trying to act like large churches. And we really ought not to have the luxury of trusting in our programming. We can't just trust in, Hey, I've got a service on Sunday morning and a midweek deal and a Sunday school. It doesn't work that way. It’s actually smaller churches are uniquely qualified to do this kind of work. They're, uniquely qualified because you can go to, a mega church for a long time and be completely anonymous. You cannot in my church. It just doesn't work even

Karl: Even If you want to be, you can't.

Darrell: Exactly. They might want to be anonymous. It's not going to work. So I think that churches, small churches are uniquely qualified to do this kind of thing and to be able to say, Hey, baby, born into a family, we can do that. I know what that is. So the value of being able to connect people together and say, you're not going to walk alone here. We're not going to trust in our programs. We're going to trust in our relationships. To be able to walk people through this is beneficial not only to the new convert, but it's also beneficial to the spiritual parent. I am a better person for having been a dad because it taught me I have to do stuff and I have to say things and then I have to like go live it out myself and I'm a better person for that. And it's, it, it really, the mentoring relationship helps both the mentor and the mentee. And so really, really valuable for church culture.

Karl: You just said two sentences, it just amused me. They may be the best two sentences I've ever heard to describe parenting. I have to do stuff and I have to say things.

Darrell: Wow. That was, you know that is really profound. I'm just so glad I could be a blessing.

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Karl: Hey, I'm going to make a switch here. That's going to sound potentially pushes back against what we just said, but it isn't because we're talking about the closeness of it, the relational aspect of it, the mentoring aspect of it, being involved in each other's lives. And now what I'm going to bring up is the whole technological aspect of it. Because in the work that you do, and we'll be talking about it in a moment, and there'll be a bunch of links in the show notes of how people can connect to your actual material. Your material is very accessible to anybody who picks it up. You can know exactly where you are. You know exactly where you're going. There's not a small church pastor who's going to pick up one of your books and go, oh, I can't pull this off. It, it feels very accessible, but it's also very high tech.

On every single lesson there's a QR code to scan, and when you scan that QR code, you go to a page that you've prepared where there's a video teaching and there are links to Bible readings, both audio and visual. It is a very high-tech format that you have used. And you've used it extremely well. So let's talk about, I don't want to intimidate the average small church pastors that they have to go as high-tech as you have been able to pull off beautifully with your stuff. But why is it important to add the high-tech aspect to this while we're still talking about a very hands-on relational process of discipleship?

Darrell: Yeah. So I'm a firm believer that the culture develops these, we develop these these habits, these rhythms, kind of "cultural liturgies" if you will, where we develop these rhythms and these ways of doing things. And one of the rhythms this, since this is audio, they can't see me. But one of the rhythms is this right here, pulling out your smartphone... And checking it what do we do 50 times, a hundred times, 150 times a day. Yeah.

I was not raised up with a smart with a smartphone. Nobody was, but the new generation coming along behind us, they are being raised with them. And so we, we have this, this routine that we get into to where now I don't go to Funk and Wagnall's encyclopaedia on my shelf when I want to answer to a question and I don't go to the, Yellow Pages. Like, that's completely obsolete now. I had a friend who was younger than me, he said, back when Yellow Pages was still occasionally being printed, he said, "I'd just like to thank the Yellow Pages for printing out a big part of the internet for me to throw away."

When we want an answer, we have a routine that we go through. And that routine is you're picking this smartphone up and saying, I'm going to look for an answer. I'm going to ask Google. I'm going to ask Siri. So here's my opinion: you're only going to get so far fighting the way that people communicate and seek for answers in today's world. You’re only going to get so far fighting that routine.

And I know that smartphones get a bad rap and they get bad press. I don't let my kids have them until they are at least 16. But having said that, when we're talking about discipling people in the world who are already into that and they're already there, we have to understand that they are already there. So, a while back, I heard John Piper say, he said something like this, and I'm paraphrasing. He said, smartphones get a bad rap. But he said, it has never been easier to get addicted to the Bible than it is right now.

Karl: Yeah.

Darrell: ...he said, you, you already have multiple translations in an app. It's continually with you. And he said, maybe the problem isn't a technology problem. Maybe the problem is a heart problem. And I was like, whoo, that's intense and true. And so I've decided as a small church pastor, and as a guy that creates discipleship strategy that's doable for small churches, I've decided that I want to engage that part of life. I want to bring that in in such a way that low tech meets high tech and that tech encourages connection, not discourages it. In such a way that tech is, it's wired into the program. You need to contact a mentor, you need to reach out. That there are reminders there to do those analog high-touch things that technology can help promote that. So one of the things I try to do is take and offload the teaching and the information into the technology so that pastors can move over and concentrate on the relationship.

Karl: Yeah. I love that. So speaking of the high tech that you've built into the products that you've created, let's talk about some of that. You have multiple, in addition to pastoring a church and fathering seven children, you've just got tons of time to write some high-quality curriculum as well, because why wouldn't you? But you have created multiple different resources.

Can you walk us through some of the key resources that you've created? And we'll put links to all of this in show notes, of course, so people can find more. But what's are some of the key places that some pastors who are listening now might be directed towards?

Darrell: Yeah, sure. So I create something that is called the New Start Discipleship Journal. It's a 50-day Bible reading plan for new Christians that features a five-minute video that basically teaches them what that day's Bible reading means. The first 25 days are the highlights of the New Testament. The very first reading is Luke 1 and 2, the birth of Jesus. Day two is John one, one through 18. The identity of Jesus. Day three is Luke 4, 14 through 44. Jesus begins his ministry. Day four is Matthew 5 and 6 the core of Jesus teaching. And each of those has a five-minute video that says, here is what this means and here is why it's important. In the context of the story, God's telling the second 25 days, the readings are a little longer because they're Old Testament and they're, longer stories and that sort of thing. So we go back and pick up the backstory in the second 25 days.

In fact, if your readers are interested, I'll give them a free copy of that in the show notes, like you said, Literally And that will take them to a place where they can just download an evaluation copy of the journal for free with, to learn more about that whole process.

After the new start disciples of Journal, I go on to something called the Obedience Challenge. Which basically focuses in on 90 days of obeying Christ's commands since that's how Jesus defined discipleship. I said, well, I guess I should probably see what he commanded and figure out how I could work people through that.

Depend on how you count them, there are 45 to 48 commands of Jesus in the New Testament. I pulled them out and did a 3-4 minute teaching video on each one and just walked through a 90 days. There's 89 chapters in the four gospels. So we did a 90 day Bible reading plan through the gospels, the second step that focuses in on obedience and meditating and praying on that, listening to the Holy Spirit. How can I obey? The whole thing is connected to video and online experiences as you're talking about.

So continuing right on after that, the Baptism Challenge is the next thing after that -- it's 21 days to get ready for baptism and walks people through seven days of what baptism means and why it's important. Seven days of how to create your baptism testimony and seven days of teaching through the Apostles Creed, since that's the baptism affirmation in a lot of places.

In those daily, we encourage people to pray over friends that they're inviting and to text a friend, like even right now, grab your phone and text a friend. Invite them to your baptism testimony or your baptism service Sunday. So anyway, that's, I love that whole process. And then it just kind of continues on from there and trying to train people how to continue to grow, how to get connected to other Christians. Just a lot of different tools and modules that are part of that journey.

"Do you have a discipleship curriculum you recommend?"

Karl: Yeah. One of the top five questions that I'm regularly asked as I speak to other small church pastors is, do you have a discipleship curriculum that you recommend? And for years, my response has been, well, whatever works for you is fine because it's going to be different for every small church. But I've also been along the way looking for answers where I can say, hey, here's a couple opportunities for you to look at. Yeah. Whatever works for you and what works for one church may not work for another, but here are a couple places that are specifically designed with small churches in mind. And what you do is that, which is one of the reasons I'm so thrilled to have you on the podcast today and to continue to work with you going forward from this point on.

What you're doing is you're really answering what you mentioned earlier. And I'm, I'm going to paraphrase you and probably butcher the way you said it, but you said something earlier, like, what we often do in discipleship is we just piggyback off of our gifts. And this provides a process because most small church pastors, including me, we have certain gifts. It might be preaching, it might be teaching, leading, it might be coming alongside people, but the process gifts are typically not what we're strongest at.

That's simply not, not the sweet spot for most small church pastors. And you provide that in a way that is really accessible really easy to understand, and that people can really have some confidence in the theological rigor of it as well, without it feeling like it's, it's not a heavy theology, but it's a strong theology and it's presented in a way both high touch and high tech that people can really get some value out of. And that the people in the church who then become disciple-makers can walk through the next generation of disciples with. Yeah. So I really want to encourage people with that. It's one of the reasons we really are, are excited about partnering with you on this.

Darrell: So, second Timothy 2, Paul says to Timothy, he says, the things you have heard from me. So we've got, two generations of discipleship right there. The things you've heard from me, commit to other faithful men. And I would say women as well in that situation who are able to teach others also. So you have literally four generations of discipleship in that one verse. And those are people that Paul, it's li it's the last letter he's ever probably going to write. Like he's about to be martyred. He's never going to meet the people that Timothy's disciples discipled. He's never going to meet them. He has no idea about their language, their proficiency. He has no idea if they can read in the ancient world.

Karl: Yeah, and they likely couldn't.

Darrell: But somehow he knows that what he gave to Timothy can be taught to another generation of disciple, whether they are as educated as Paul is or not, and whether they have the gifts that Paul has or not. And so I think that creating pathway, an entryway and a pathway for pastors that is crystal clear is what's going to take to me to multiply. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to multiply. We're winging it every time, trusting in our gifts.

Karl: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. Again, there'll be more in the show notes and we'll be partnering with you as it goes forward. We're really looking forward to people getting some real benefit out of the resources that you've created. And hopefully even just out of the podcast today, some better understanding. I know you've helped me and some clarification of what discipleship really looks like in the body of Christ, but we're not going to finish there because we have the lightning round that we have to go through, first of all, before I'm allowed to dismiss you. Okay. Alright. Okay. All right on. Yeah. Lightning round. Question number one, what are the biggest changes you've seen in your field of ministry in the last few years, and how have you adapted to it?

Darrell: Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. So I think first of all that I'm going to go two different things that come to mind. First of all, I think that the smartphone era and social media, that would be thing number one is just kind of this always on, always connected. It's changing the culture in a major, major way. And it's having tremendous impact. How many a billion TikTok users now or something like that, and, billions of people on Facebook and things. It's changing us. Not always for the better, but it definitely is a huge, sea change in the way that we have to navigate, figure out how to navigate that. So personally, I've just decided that I'm going to go along with it and use it as best I can. There are three ways that churches can respond to things that in the culture, they can either reject it, receive it, or redeem it.

And I think that if we reject some things just completely out of hand, we wind up isolating the gospel and walling it off from what's going on in the culture. If we receive it, we run the risk of just complete syncretism where we value the same things that everybody else values. I think we gotta redeem it. So how much glory and truth to Christ can we pack into 240 characters or whatever it is on Twitter? And how much beauty of Jesus can we lift up? How much truth from the word can we put into the things that we say? And it has been a struggle for me. I've had to adapt some things and like stop saying political stuff. And by the way, you Karl tweets every day. I don't know if you follow Karl's Twitter, every day he tweets the verse from Timothy about don’t involve yourself in stupid arguments. What are you up to? Like 1,300 days or something now?

Karl: Yeah. It's in the 13 hundreds now.

Darrell: Yeah. Yeah. So it's true. Like it's still true today. And so, the first day that he tweeted that do you physically put those in every single day?

Karl: No, I take one time a month. And I kind of put them out in advance. It’s second Timothy 2:22 have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments because they produce quarrels and

Darrell: Well, that's a good way to adapt to the world the way it is now.

Karl: It's, and what's interesting is, people will come back, well, what about this argument? Well, if it's not foolish and stupid, you're allowed to engage in it. That's what the scripture says. Just don't engage in the foolish and stupid ones.

Darrell: So true.

Karl: Yeah. And how do I know if it's foolish or stupid? Well, if it's only going to end up in a quarrel, then it's a foolish and stupid. The verse works the same forwards and backwards.

Darrell: Absolutely. Yeah. So I, I think that that's valuable. The other thing I think has changed a lot in the last few years is at least, maybe this is just my perception, but political pressures of all kinds have just ratcheted up tribalism and combined with what I feel like is a profound disappointment that I've had in politics over that time. And maybe this is just me and my own mourning and repenting and being okay with an idol that's been like torn down in my life. But the deep discontent and disappointment that, I've had over that course of time in politics has raised up for me. And you ask how I've adapted to it. It has raised up for me a deep longing and appreciation for the kingdom of God. I think the kingdom, the idea of the kingdom has never been more real to me than it has in the past few years.

It's been more joy giving to me than it ever has been before. There's this kingdom where the rulers are not like the earthly ones, and where it won't tumble and it won't fall and it will not fail. It cannot fail -- an unshakeable kingdom. And so that to me has been the way I've adapted that. And honestly, it's given me great joy to proclaim that, to stand up before my people and say, I am not here coming to you today to proclaim any earthly kingdom or to tell you to put your trust in any earthly prince, but to proclaim to you an unshakable kingdom that will not fail. And a king that's fundamentally different than the rulers of this world.

Karl: Ooh, love it. Beautiful. Beautifully done. I love it. All right. Question number two. What free resource, like an app or a website has helped you lately that you would recommend for small church ministry?

Darrell: Wow. So I love there's, there's an app called Smart Receipts. This is like nitty gritty, where the rubber meets the road. I use a receipt app because I'm horrible at paper. Like I don't do paper very well at all. And I have a church debit card that I have to use because I'm a small church pastor. Right. And you gotta do purchasing and you gotta buy stuff and, and so I love smart receipts. That's worked well for me. Okay. There's a pro version you can pay for, but there is a free version as well.

Then, man, the other thing I don’t know if you guys, your guys use Evernote, but Evernote is a really cool tool. I actually wind up paying for the pro version of that as well. But there's a browser extension in Evernote that will let you clip just the text of Something into an Evernote file. And over the last few years I have filed 700 illustrations preaching illustrations. Like I'll find a great study or a news article that's particularly captivating or a funny joke and I'll click the little button and I'll clip that into, and I'll add a few topic words at the bottom. So temptation, Jesus, incarnation or whatever, I'll add a few topic words that I might search for when I'm preparing a sermon. Then I'll just click that and file it under my preaching notebook. And so I've got like 700 illustrations now that I've filed and I use it. It's time to go back. I don't have to remember that. It's always there.

Karl: Evernote is really, even the free version is very robust.

Darrell: It is, yeah.

Karl: And what usually happens, and what happens for me is I use it for just one or two things and whatever you discover that works for you, it does that it’ll do those one or two things really well and very quickly. Yeah. Like, like you say, especially with the browser extension on the laptop, the Chrome extension. Yeah. It just sits there and you do it, you click on never note. And for me it brings up audit because I only do that one or two thing. It brings up basically those two things every time. And I just click on it and in like two seconds of time I've got this thing saved and now it's searchable. Yeah. In Evernote form I ever want to find. Yeah. It great.

Darrell: Absolutely, absolutely love it.

Karl: Yeah. Yeah. I love the free stuff like that. Great. Number three, what's the best piece of ministry advice you've ever received?

Darrell: Oh man. There are so many things that flooded my mind at that moment that, that have really been transformative to me. But one of 'em has never let the work of the Lord make you so busy that you're too busy for the Lord of the work. And I think, that's valuable because I fight that one all the time. I have to say ouch with that one because it's a, it's a powerful piece of advice I got. I got to watch my dad who's also a pastor by the way. I got to watch my dad love his family really well. And I did not regret that my dad was a pastor and I talked to other pastors’ kids who did, and I didn't that he was, he was not too busy for the Lord and he also wasn't too busy for his family. And I aspire to be that kind of man.

I heard Andy Stanley give a talk a few years ago about leadership. I'm sneaking in two things that are sure. Pieces of ministry advice. But he said, he said, you're going to cheat somewhere. You're either going to cheat he put two verses together. He said, I want to bring two verses together that are not related. He said, one of them is Love your wife as Christ love the church. And the other one is where Jesus said, I will build my church. And he said, I want to bring those two together and tell you that you can either cheat the wife that the Lord told you to love, or the church Jesus promised to build.

And I was like, oh my goodness. It really was a, it's been a foundational thing for me. Because I can run really fast and I can be very happy working. I love what I do, and I can be very happy working for 10, 12, 14 hours a day. No problem. And to decide that there comes a moment where I have to decide to cheat the church that Jesus promised he would build so I can go love the wife that Jesus told me to love is some of the most profound, I think, ministry advice I've ever seen.

Karl: That's great. I love it. And going back just to touch, as a fellow preacher's kid myself, I gotta give props to my dad for doing exactly what your dad did. He was always available for us. We never felt at a moment that I felt bad that I was the preacher's kid. And that was a gift he gave to us that we will never, ever be able to repay him for. So, yeah, absolutely. Well, from that to the last one, what's the funniest or weirdest thing you've ever seen in church?

Darrell: Oh, goodness.

Karl: As a preacher's kid, you should have a wealth of these.

Darrell: Some of it, I hesitate to share. Yes. Right. I was,--

I have, I think every small church pastor has that one person that comes to church and has done something-- those experiences. I had a guy pull into my church parking lot one time and we were all standing around in the parking lot after church and he pulled up and he was obviously high. It's where I live in the south part of Oklahoma City.

He was obviously high. And he said, he pulled up and he looked at me, he said, I'm Jesus Christ. And I said, I don't think you probably are, honestly. He said and we debated back and forth, he kind of peeled his tires and drove out of the church parking lot. And he circled around the block. I called the cops because I was like, this guy's going to hurt somebody. I called the police and was on the phone with them kind of trying. And he spun back in, he like circled the block and came back in and he said he looked at me, he drove up and said, I'm the devil I said, "you're getting closer." so anyway, you, you have no control over the kind of things that happen. So many funny, funny stories and things that happen over the years.

It's just a joy and an honor to be to be in ministry. And I wouldn't trade it. I wouldn't trade what I do for anything in the whole wide world.

And I hope that every small church pastor who's out there and deals with weird, frustrating things, I hope they feel like a real sense of the awareness that all the goofy stuff that goes on is still worthwhile in the eyes of the Lord. That they don't look down upon themselves. There are approximately 1500 mega churches in the United States. And if every one of those mega churches added another thousand Christians, it would be 1.5 million new people. However, if every small church added 10 Christians, we'd have 3.8 million new ones.

Karl: Yep.

Darrell: The scale that God has, that God has at work, the work that he's doing in small churches. I love Zechariah four 10 where don't despise the day of small beginnings. The Lord rejoices to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel, the, like, the wall isn't even done yet, but God is glad to see the not, not the finished wall. He's glad to see the tools in somebody's hands. And so don't despise those small days, those days of small beginnings. It's worthwhile to see the tools in your hands. And God looks at those small church pastors and he sees the tools in their hand and he rejoices. And I'm glad for that.

Karl: Absolutely. What a beautiful way to finish it up. Thank you so much Darrell for that. If anybody does want to follow up with you on any of this, how can they find you?

Darrell: Sure. Well if they want an overview of what I do, they can go to so that will take them directly to a place where they can do it or just click the link down on the show notes. We'll, put that link in the show notes as well. gives an overview of all the different stuff that I do with NewStart Discipleship and super excited to share that with people. And if there's somebody who's listening who is a dad and they want to know how to disciple their kids they can go take a look at I do that too.

Karl: Yeah, that's all part of the process and I think you may know a little bit about that with seven kids. So

Darrell: I've had a ridiculous amount of experience.

Karl: Yeah. There we go. Hey, thanks so much Darrell, appreciate you being with us

Darrell: Today. That's an honor to be with you. Thanks, Karl.

Karl: One of the healthiest trends happening in the church today is this renewed appreciation for the importance of discipleship. So I love how Darrell brings a robust but accessible approach to this central aspect of the Christian life. So what are some takeaways? Well, here are a couple takeaways for me. First of all, the importance of helping people to create discipleship habits, not just filling their heads with information. This is essential. This is so important. A lot of the times we're not discipling people, we're just getting them done with the classes. But discipleship includes the creation of habits. And I love how this is an essential aspect of what Darrell does. Second take away from me was for us, how important it is to make sure that we see discipleship as a whole and not just broken down into individualized pieces. It's not discipleship here. And then we have something else on the discipleship there. It has to be integrated into everything we do in the life of the church.

And then my third big takeaway was the essential role that mentoring relationships play in discipleship, especially in the early days of someone's walk with Christ. It is so important for them to connect with a mature disciple and to not just be taught by them in a classroom setting, but to enter into a relationship with them. His description of seeing new believers as infants in Christ is something that I will be thinking through and praying over and acting on in my own ministry going forward.

So can this work in a small church? Well, yeah. The whole thing is designed for that. Very, very much so. Not only does discipleship work in churches of every size, but I think Darrell's approach has a handful of ways that is especially applicable to the hands-on kind of relationship that we as, that we as small church pastors have with our congregational members. I really encourage you to check out Darrell's materials. The links to all of that will be in the show notes. We as a ministry plan to partner with Darrell even more thoroughly and deeply in the future and to bring his resources to as many people, to as many churches, and to as many pastors as possible. I hope that you will avail yourself of it. Reach out to Darrell, use it in your congregation. But whatever material you use, whatever the source of your resources is, make sure that we are putting discipleship front and center.

If you'd like to support this ministry with a one-time gift or monthly donation and help put these resources into the hands of ministries that need them the most, check out our support link in the show notes. Would you like a transcript of this episode? It will be available within a few days of the podcast air date slash Karl Vaters. You can find the link in the show notes. This episode was produced by Veronica Beaver, edited by Phil Vaters. Original theme music was written and performed by Jack Wilkins of And me I'm Karl Vaters and I'm a small church pastor.

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