I was a Paul Harvey fan. His “The Rest of the Story” radio broadcast never failed to grab my interest and inspire me. I’m borrowing his catch-phrase to bring you the following true account of disciple making that has its own twist.
First, a little background. The story highlighted below started with Milton Jones. Milton and other members of an outreach team sponsored by the Northwest church in Seattle began working at the University of Washington in the late 1970s. They were quite successful in reaching college students with the gospel on this campus. Hundreds were discipled, in turn propelling the Northwest church of Christ from 100 members to over 700 by the late 1980s.
I first became familiar with Milton’s work when I entered campus ministry at Middle Tennessee State in 1984. My friends and colleagues watched closely and tried to learn from Milton and his co-workers. One story in particular left a lasting impression. Milton relayed it at a National Campus Ministry seminar that I attended, and the story later appeared in the September 1990 issue of 21st Century Christian Magazine. Here it is.
They all came to Room 1104. One was sitting on a bench listening to a skit when he got his invitation. Another in the elevator going to do laundry when he first heard. Still another found out from his raquetball opponent. The next invitation was received with a knock at the door of his dormitory room. All around the campus students got the word.
The meeting was to take place in a small dorm room in McMahon Hall at the largest university on the West Coast. The State of Washington had declared the meeting illegal [no religious proselytizing on a state campus]. But the students still came. It was 10 o’clock Wednesday night when twelve students entered the room. The course of their lives would never be the same.
The meeting started when I said, “I believe Jesus is the most amazing man to ever walk on the face of the earth. I don’t know what you think about him, but I’m biased–I believe in him because he has changed my life. You are getting an education at one of the finest universities in the country, but if you don’t learn about Jesus, you will miss the most important education of all. Let’s look at this man called Jesus. And thus the meeting began every week, as Bibles were opened to the book of John, and students began to fall in love with Jesus.
It was only a small group of students who met in a tiny room. What a difference could they make?
Of the twelve young men who came to that room, two became preachers, two became campus ministers, another became a youth minister and two are now deacons in the church.
Four years after that group first met, two hundred people could trace their spiritual roots back to one of those students who came to that Bible study!
Here is where the story really becomes interesting for those of us who live in Murfreesboro. I called Milton a few weeks ago to seek advice in dealing with issues faced in sustaining disciple making multiplciation. During our talk, I reminded him of the dorm story and let him know how that one example had inspired me over the years. He then added a new detail saying, “You do know that one of the guys converted in that dorm study later moved to Idaho and discipled a guy who now lives in Murfreesboro; don’t you?” Actually, I didn’t know that. Milton then said, “His name is Calvin Groen.”
Calvin Groen was only a little boy when Milton held that dorm Bible study at the University of Washington. He didn’t realize that God would one day send a man named John Greenlee, who came to Christ through Milton’s dorm Bible study, to teach him about Jesus. That day arrived, however, and Calvin became a devoted disciple. He later got involved with the campus ministry at Boise State, decided to enter ministry, and moved to Abilene, Texas to pursue a graduate degree in missions.
At the same time the Groens were training in Abilene, the North Boulevard church of Christ in Murfreesboro began seeking a team of people to plant a churches in Tanzania, Africa. They eventually connected with the Groens and thus began a partnership that lasted for fourteen years. God used the Groens and a team of others in a powerful way in Tanzania. Their work led to a church movement that has grown to over 120 congregations and about 7,000 Christians. The Groens were also instrumental in starting an orphanage in the city of Geita. They returned to Murfreesboro a few years ago and settled here. Calvin has become a good friend, godly example, and prayer partner. He has been a helpful ally to Timothy Network.
It all started when twelve men gathered in McMahon Hall at the Univerity of Washington thirty-seven years ago to study the life and teachings of a man named Jesus. God used Milon Jones to plant seeds for a great harvest that would eventually spread from Seattle to Tanzania and now to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Only the Father knows how far and wide it will yet spread!
Let’s pray for a lot more stories like this one! And let’s pray that we can all be a part of one. Never doubt it: God can and wants to use you. There is power in one! The apple seed can become an orchard.