What is a disciple-making church?

Jon DillonChurch Blog

disciple-making church

What is a disciple-making church?

Towards the end of February, I attended a seminar held at Grace Church of Mentor, in Mentor, Ohio, and it was called “Sustaining a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church.” The pastor, Tim Potter, led the seminar, and his approach was not to give a lecture on discipleship but to testify of what God had done in their church since they became intentional about making disciples as Jesus commands in Matthew 28. According to this passage, making disciples involves evangelizing the lost by preaching the gospel and baptizing those who respond in faith, and then instructing them from God’s Word about doctrine and practice.

Traditionally, many churches have faithfully preached the gospel and baptized those who responded in faith, but for the majority, discipleship has only been facilitated through regular church attendance and participating in small group Bible study. While these are needed and helpful toward spiritual development, often they aren’t enough for most people to realize real, spiritual growth and be motivated to reach others with the truth of God’s grace.

Biblical discipleship is much more personal and requires a relationship commitment between a mentor and a disciple.  We see this intimacy in the life of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles as they taught their disciples.  Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 wasn’t a mandate for an organization but for individuals.

Allow me to share a few of the disciple-making principles I learned at the seminar.  Disciple-making is:

  • A normative, local church, individual responsibility that God the Spirit empowers as Christ builds His church.
  • Each saint shouldering the responsibility to spiritually reproduce
  • The commitment of a life to another life for life.
  • A relationship in process, not a program.

The idea is that every member in a local church body should be actively pursuing redemptive relationships with unbelievers with whom they come in contact in his/her everyday life. In the course of the relationship, he/she would look for opportunities to invite that person to consider who Jesus is and what he has done for them in hopes of a faith response unto salvation. If the unbeliever accepts Christ, then the one who led them would assume the personal responsibility to disciple the new believer for life or as long as possible.

Now disciple-making in the church is not limited to this particular situation.  As new people come into the church, saved or unsaved, there needs to be a continual awareness among the members to form disciple-making relationships.  Even among believers who have been saved for some time, there is a need for one-on-one discipleship.  In fact, at Grace Church of Mentor, every member is encouraged to win one—pray to see a friend to come to Christ; lead one—disciple another believer; follow one—be a follower of a spiritually mature believer; and take one—grow in knowledge by taking one Bible class a year.  The result is a body of believers who are faithfully fulfilling the Great Commission, growing together in their faith, and building a bond of unity in purpose and love.  In the 15 years that they have been cultivating this disciple-making approach, they have seen many God-intended, unexpected blessings in the form of salvation decisions, body cohesiveness, and church-planting, just to name a few.

As the Pastor of Discipleship here at IBC, my hope is that making disciples in our community would be a ministry priority of every member and that it would become our identity as a church for the glory of God. If you have any questions about how you might play a part in developing a disciple-making culture in the church, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Jon Dillon
Discipleship Pastor

New Faces in the Office

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

Creative Director 

Sara Bunn will join Immanuel’s staff on Monday, April 1st, as Creative Director. For the past four years, Sara has managed the church social media pages. In addition to these, Sara will oversee Immanuel’s website, mobile app, church-wide email, and printed publications. We are blessed and thankful for Sara’s talent on our staff. 

Sara enjoys serving the church in this way, along with her communications work with Capitol Ministries. She grew up as an Army Brat in Germany where she came to know the Lord as a teenager and developed a heart for serving in any way God guides, especially in the little, unseen ways, “until the whole world hears” (Matthew 24:14). She met Peter here at IBC and they have an 11-year old son, Jesse. Some random things they enjoy: homeschooling, geocaching, disc golf, traveling, playing games with friends and family. Education: B.S. in Bible and Education, Clarks Summit University

Administrative Assistant—Receptionist

Mary Davis and Christina Kinder will fill in for the next few months as Administrative Assistants working alongside Brenda Bowles. Mary Davis has attended Immanuel for a couple of years after moving from Roanoke, Virginia to live closer to family. Mary joined in February and actively participates in Bible Study Fellowship’s leadership on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Christina Kinder and her husband John have been members of Immanuel for over five years. She regularly supports and serves in the Mothers Uplifting Mothers (MUMS) ministry.

Immanuel is seeking a permanent Administrative Assistant—Receptionist on staff. It is a support staff position responsible for helping pastors and ministry leaders accomplish their responsibility to lead and serve Immanuel Baptist Church. It generally requires 20 hours of work on three days a week. If you are interested in the position, please contact our church administrator, Paul Dreiling, at pdreiling@ibcrichmond.org.


“Life in Community” Review by Pastor Jon Dillon

Jon DillonChurch Blog

Simply defined, a community is a group of people with common interests who live in a specific location.  You could then say that a church community is a group of people with a common faith in Christ who meet in a specific location.  But is this definition an adequate description of what God intended the church to be?  Dustin Willis, the author of “Life in Community,” doesn’t think so.  He proposes that community life in the church is people who have experienced the mercy and grace of God coming together to love and help one another for the sake of their spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.  He likens the church community to a table where a family gathers to enjoy one another and to share their lives.  And that table, which belongs to God, has room for anyone who wants a seat at it.

He begins by describing the importance of being a community and how it is formed in the church.  He points out our innate desire to belong or be a part of a community as God designed us so.  Due to our culture’s push for individualism and the convenience of social media, many people around us have isolated themselves from a physical or emotional connection with other people and are experiencing great loneliness.  They long for meaningful relationships in “a community that discovers and clings to identity, worth, and value.”  God created the Church to be a “community with a deeper foundation and a brighter future than anything the world has to offer.”  The local church should function as a Gospel community reaching the “hurting, the lonely, the has-beens, the have-nots, the accomplished, the rebellious, and the self-righteous” to bring them into a relationship with Jesus Christ and others who believe in Him which would effectively eradicate their spiritual loneliness and despair.

A community is then formed in the church through the discovery of the common ground found in our need for a Savior and the mercy of God because of our sin nature.   Dustin says, “you can’t have a community without common ground, and through the gospel, we have the deepest commonality that exists:  the blood of Christ that unites us as family.”  This gospel community is perpetuated through the continual transformation of each member into the image of Christ as Dustin says, “living out our faith was never intended to be done in isolation but within a community.  The gospel is the driving force to our transformation, and community is the context where the greatest growth and revolution takes place.”

In the next section of his book, Dustin describes the values for living in community as given to us from the Scripture.  The foundation of these values is based on the truth that we are members of the Body of Christ and each of us is especially gifted by the Holy Spirit to individually minister for the good of the whole body, not just on Sunday when we gather together, but every day.  In order to foster a genuine biblical community, we must be transparent and sincere.  We cannot function as a community without truth and honesty.  Dustin goes on then to point out the importance of believers in a gospel community to develop a hatred for sin and love or pursuit of righteousness.  In this kind of community, people care enough about each other to say something when a person is in sin and offer help to that person for the sake of his/her soul and the community at large.  People in a gospel community choose and practice love to one another; they come alongside those who are struggling or hurting to help them persevere; they meet the needs of those who are lacking; they pursue Biblical hospitality as a way of welcoming people into a community.

“Life in Community” is an easy book to read, but its message is not so easy to receive as the author continually challenges his readers to evaluate their perspective and approach to church in relation to God’s intention for the church, as given in Scripture, to be a gospel community which ministers God’s grace to the members for their spiritual growth and reaches the world for Him.  As a way to encourage you to read this book, I will be giving away 3 copies in the upcoming evening gathering.

Jon Dillon
Discipleship Pastor

Invite Your One

Jon DillonChurch Blog

In Luke 14, the Lord Jesus was attending a dinner given by a ruler of the Pharisees, and He took the occasion to teach them through two parables about humility and compassion in the kingdom of God.  Leading up to the parable of the Great Banquet, he gives these instructions when it comes to hosting a dinner, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”  In context, I believe that Jesus is instructing these men to reach out to those who are literally poor and disabled, but their physical condition aptly describes the spiritual condition of people who don’t know Christ as their Savior.  The point is that we ought to intentionally reach out to people who have the greatest needs, physically and spiritually, to introduce them to the Savior and have their needs met by Him.  We need to invite the spiritually poor and disabled to taste and see the goodness of the Lord through the gift of His Son who offers forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

Resurrection Sunday known to the world as Easter Sunday will be upon us in just a little over six weeks.  Church services on this holiday are without a doubt the highest attended services within a year by those who rarely or never attend church.  Many of these people are spiritually poor and disabled not having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  This year, we ought to take advantage of this great opportunity to intentionally reach out to these needy people and invite them to hear about the love and sacrifice of our Savior on Easter Sunday.  That is what the “Invite your one” campaign, which we introduced last Sunday, is all about!

We have made invitation cards to give to those who you invite which will serve as a reminder to them of where and when our Easter services will be held.  You can find these cards at just about every entrance to the church.  Take as many as you think you will actually hand out.  Then we also have made up a prayer card where you can write the name of the person you invited, and it will be posted near the welcome center as a reminder to us all to pray for those invited.  Pray that the Spirit of God will be at work in their hearts; pray that nothing will hindered them from coming; pray that they would receive the truth of the Gospel as Pastor Michael presents it clearly and powerfully.  Our goal is that every person in our congregation would invite at least one person who may be spiritually needy.  The “banquet table” will be set and ready for as many who will come!  Our prayer is that God will send us enough people to fill His “table.” Let’s be faithful to go out and invite!

Jon Dillon, Discipleship Pastor
IBC Richmond

Church Diversity: People Over Preference

Jonathan WhiteChurch Blog

As we examine the diverse church, it is important to understand that this isn’t solely based on an outward appearance of who is in attendance; rather, it should be steeped in rich, free thought expressed through differing ideas and opinions. But what happens when we prioritize our personal preferences over people? Bear in mind that there is a difference between preferences and principles.  Principles are core beliefs found in God’s trustworthy Word whereas preferences are merely our own likes, dislikes, and desires.  The danger comes when we fail to distinguish between these two and proceed to elevate preferences over people.  By doing so, we stifle diversity and miss the beauty God intended, that is a people with different experiences, ideas, and opinions, all worshipping him with one heart and one voice.

But, let’s look at a real-world example of how prioritizing preferences over people can inadvertently create division. A group of friends hang out each week- four are adrenaline enthusiasts and one loves the serenity of the outdoors. The group operates based on a simple majority to maximize the enjoyment of as many people as possible in the group. Due to this mentality, they never go camping.  Over time, the one who enjoys the simple pleasure of being outdoors feels neglected and unheard.  He eventually stops spending time with the other four, and a friendship is lost forever. It is easy to think that he will go on to find new friends who also enjoy camping, but the four friends lose out on a friendship and the experience of camping with him.  Translating this to the church, too often we neglect the people who do not hold the majority opinion, marginalizing them for our own preferences. We rationalize that there are plenty of churches where they might feel more comfortable, but like the friend group, we forfeit a relationship and any new perspectives we could have gained from them.

Change is hard and compromise is even harder. And while these certainly come more naturally for some, we all understand the value of compromising — both sides abandoning their ground in favor of new ground.  Paul encourages the church in Rome to do this when he says, “As for one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions (Romans 14:1)…but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (14:13)….Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (14:19)” Is it possible that our unwillingness to compromise on preferences is an act of “weak faith” and has become a “stumbling block for our brother” that pushes him to find another church?

Where do you see personal preferences taking priority over people at church?  Let me suggest three areas to consider: involvement, hospitality, and worship.

  • Involvement – The Lord calls us to serve the body (1 Corinthians 12), and our personal preferences should not limit anyone’s ability to serve. We should seek to nurture the gifts God has given someone, regardless of race, age, gender, or marital status.  For those we feel may lack maturity, experience, or the right motivation, we should first heed Paul’s warning of passing judgment on the servant of the Lord (Romans 14:4) and then lean-in to be an encouragement in the development of the gift God has bestowed on them.
  • Hospitality – The early church grew by church members bearing witness to the good news and inviting their neighbors to attend their worship services. Shouldn’t we also invite people to our church?  But, if we think that people may feel awkward at our church, then we may need to compromise on our preferences (not our principles) to make our neighbors feel accepted.  This may mean that the church looks more “like a hospital for sinners than a museum for saints.”
  • Worship – We express our love for God through prayer and praise with our whole heart. As unique people indwelled with the Holy Spirit and united to the Father through the Son, our worship is expressed differently.  Uniformity does not leave room for a diverse church.  Allowing people to openly express their love, admiration, and awe for the Lord should be our priority.  Placing limitations on someone’s expression fails to produce a pure act of worship.

Do you see how we can let our personal preferences stand in the way of reaching people and even hinder our own spiritual growth? The easy solution for us is to maintain a homogenous state, creating an environment of exclusivity. Is it sinful? In and of themselves personal preferences are not sin; they’re an extension of our personalities and experiences. However, when they manifest into actions that prevent God’s desire for unity or impose our personal standards on others, we can negatively impact how someone relates to God. Caution should be applied when we are viewing another’s relationship with God through our own personal lens. Each of us has a unique relationship with Him and should be able to share that with others freely. God demonstrates grace when we fall short of His perfect standard, so when falling into an idol of preference: confess, accept His forgiveness, and share His grace with others who may speak, think, or act differently than us.  By doing so, we experience the true beauty of God’s diverse creation.

Jonathan WhiteJonathan White
Pastoral Intern
IBC Richmond

Church Diversity: The Many Branches of Racial Tension

Jonathan WhiteChurch Blog

Church Diversity: The Many Branches of Racial Tension

In the Book of Revelation, John speaks of, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… (7:9).” In many respects, as Christians, we view this as the ideal, yet we struggle to work towards that ideal in our walk with Jesus. Too often this seems like some far off, distant goal that can only be achieved when Jesus returns. Is He not among us now? Is His power only limited to when He is here in the flesh? That does not seem likely when we lean on his mighty power every day in our lives. So maybe instead, we feel that we have no role in creating a diverse church when we are called to “make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)”?

This week, we will examine church diversity with a focus on people (race) and next week follow up with a focus on practice (preference). This is an uncomfortable topic for discussion, but it is an important one because it strikes at the heart of how we view and relate to other men and women made in the image of God.  Therefore, we must start with a difficult question: Do we consider racism sin? If not, why not? And how exactly should we define racism? We will address these questions with two goals in mind: (1) our world is trending towards diversity (i.e. racial, cultural, experiential, and personal) and (2) we need to learn to live out our Christian values in this diverse world.  The first step in this journey is defining our terms so we can begin to have healthy conversations around diversity.

So, what is racism? Who can be viewed as a racist? Let us begin with a helpful metaphor. Imagine that we have a seed. For it to grow, we must plant it, water it, and provide it with sunlight. Now, when it comes to the sin of racism, what is the seed, where is it planted, who waters it, and how does it grow?  In my experience, racism begins with the seed of stereotypes. From there, what we have been taught by our environment (e.g. news, school, parents, individual experiences, etc.) begins to manifest into a bias that can branch out from subconscious judgments into conscious ones if we decide to water it.  Over time, that seed has the potential to grow into overt racism if we are not careful to uproot the implanted seeds. Let us look at how one little seed of a stereotype can grow into different branches of racial thought and behavior.

  1. Seed of Stereotype:  This is an oversimplified generalization about a person based on their race.  For example, “Black people are more likely to commit a crime.”
  2. Roots of Implicit Bias: Generalizations that become subconscious judgments of a person based on the stereotype held to be true. For example, “Black people are criminals.”
  3. Trunk of Prejudice: Consciously judging a person based on the stereotypes held to be true. For example, “That black person is a criminal.”
  4. Branch of Discrimination: Actions that result from prejudice or implicit bias. For example, a black person is followed around a nice store under suspicion of shoplifting based on racial judgment.
  5. Branch of Racial Privilege: Giving someone the benefit of the doubt based on their race by demonstrating a higher degree of grace or reduction of suspicion.  For example, a white person walks into a store without suspicion of shoplifting based on a lack of racial judgment.
  6. Branch of Passive Racism: Turning a blind eye to a racial injustice.  For example, witnessing someone discriminated against as they walk through a store, and not saying something.
  7. Branch of Overt Racism: Outright hatred toward someone of another race and desire to harm them because of it.  For example, prohibiting someone from entering the store based on race and criminalizing it if they did.

Let’s return to our first question: Do we consider racism to be sin? Based on these terms, where do you see sin take root? At what point does it impact your relationships with people of different races? Stereotypes by themselves are not sinful, but once they create judgments of others, we have failed to see people as God sees them.  What about you? Do you see sin take root somewhere else?  I’m happy to engage with anyone interested in continuing this conversation.  May God bless us as we root out the sin in our lives and seek to worship God today alongside every tribe, race, and tongue.

Jonathan White Jonathan White
Pastoral Intern
IBC Richmond


The Church Grows  . . .

Amy HainesChurch Blog

I’m eagerly looking at my seed packets on this winter day.  Deciding what will go in my garden – what and when – we all pick our favorites.  This is also the time of year that seeds for summer missions are planted. God gives the church wonderful students who have a heart for Him and a desire to serve – summer missionaries.

How can the church tenderly care for and foster growth?

  • Create a culture that highly esteems God and serving Him
  • Encourage summer missionaries through prayer and financial support
  • Ask students how the church can pray for them as they seek to serve God this summer – wherever God has planted them
  • Share your story – students love to hear how God works in your own life

This is the time of year when decisions are made. As a parent, summer missions has been such a blessing in the lives of my own children.  Students stand amazed that God uses them to reach children in Greater Richmond with the Gospel. Parents are astonished at the change in their students from quiet and shy to confident and grounded. The church is privileged to have a part in their growth. There is absolutely nothing like seeing God use students for His glory – reaching other children for Christ – you just can’t beat it!

There are many options and one is serving as a Christian Youth in Action with Child Evangelism Fellowship.  The time is now – applications for CYIA are available with the deadline soon approaching on March 15th.  Let’s pray for our students as they discern how to break ground and reach others for Christ this summer.



Rev. John Corcoran: Career in Ministry

John CorcoranChurch Blog

I was born in Jamestown, New York on July 19, 1946.  Most of my years through high school were spent living in a house my Dad built on my grandparents dairy farm.  When not working on the farm, my interests were motorcycles and trains.  When I graduated from high school in June 1964 my plan was to enter military service.  However, I had to have back surgery during my senior year and as a result, could not pass the military physical exam.

Since I had to change my plans, I decided to attend college.  God was using what I thought to be a roadblock to redirect my path.  During my senior year in college, I began to date Naomi Cox, who was from Richmond, Virginia.  In May 1968 I graduated from Bryan College with a B.S. degree in Business Administration.

After graduation, Naomi and I continued to date and on November 29, 1968, we were married at Immanuel Baptist Church.  When we were newly married, we first lived in Arlington and worked in the Washington, DC area.  In June 1969 we moved to Richmond, so I could teach at Richmond Christian School.  From 1969 – 1977 we worked at various jobs and God blessed us with two sons.  Shawn was born on July 10, 1972, and Jason on April 21, 1977.

During this period of time, Naomi and I were active members at Immanuel Baptist Church.  Before I became a member I had the privilege of being baptized by Immanuel’s Senior Pastor, Dr. Stanley Toussaint.  Through my service in the church as an Elder and Sunday School teacher, God was directing me toward full-time Christian ministry.  Dr. Toussaint, and then Pastor Albert Fesmire, were my mentors as I sought God’s will for my life.

On January 29, 1978 (Naomi’s birthday), I preached at Bethel Bible Church in Argyle, Iowa as a pastoral candidate.  One week later the church called me to be their pastor.  On March 15 I was Ordained to the Gospel Ministry by Immanuel Baptist Church.  In April 1978 our family moved to Iowa and began our ministry at Bethel Bible Church.

During my years at Bethel, I began to sense the need for additional theological education.  This was in the time before seminaries had distance learning programs, so the Lord directed me to move my family from Iowa to Lynchburg, Virginia.  We lived in Lynchburg from 1980 to 1986, where I worked full-time and attended Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  I graduated with an M.A. degree in Religion in May 1985.  We continued to live in Lynchburg while praying about God’s plan for our family.

In October 1985 I had the opportunity to enlist in the Virginia State Guard.  Since I was a seminary graduate and ordained, I was commissioned at the rank of Captain and served as a Chaplain.  During this time I also began to meet with a group of believers in Chesterfield, Virginia, who were interested in planting a church.  In July 1986 we moved our family to Chesterfield so we could continue to develop the church.  Eventually, we did plant Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Eventually, I resigned from Cornerstone.  I continued to serve as a military chaplain and minister at Immanuel Baptist Church as an Elder and Sunday School Teacher.  In 1994-95 I had a weekly Bible Study program on two local radio stations.

In October 1995 I attended a Good News Jail & Prison Ministry Banquet for the ministry at the Chesterfield County Jail.  Clyde Abell was the Chaplain at the jail and also a relative through Naomi’s family.  During the banquet program, it was mentioned that Good News was moving its headquarters from Arlington to Richmond and was in need of administrative staff.  I applied for the Controller position and was hired, beginning work on January 2, 1996.

In 1996 our son Shawn married Gaby Kaye and eventually, they were blessed with four children, TJ, Samuel, Zachery, and Eileen.  In 1997, while still working for Good News, I served as an interim pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Powhatan and then Rural Point Baptist Church in Mechanicsville.  Jason, our youngest son, graduated from VCU Pharmacy School and moved out of Richmond to work at hospitals in Maryland, Ohio, and Virginia.

During my time as Controller, I became very interested in the ministry of our Chaplains.  Because I had a seminary degree and previously served as a pastor, I met the qualifications to serve as a Chaplain.  After working in the Controller’s position for seven years, I applied to be the Chaplain at the Chesterfield County Jail.  I began my service at the jail on March 1, 2003.  During this time, Naomi was working as the Senior Pastor’s Administrative Assistant at Immanuel Baptist Church.  She retired in 2016 after 17 years of service to the church.

It was a blessing to minister in the jail with the staff and inmates.  During my almost sixteen years in the jail, I served under three different Sheriffs.  I had the privilege of leading many inmates to faith in Christ, teaching Bible classes and conducting counseling sessions with inmates and staff.  There were also additional opportunities to conduct funeral services for members of the Sheriff’s staff and perform a wedding ceremony for two of the deputies.  This was God’s work and He is to receive the praise for what was accomplished.  My family, churches like Immanuel and many individuals supported the work with their prayers and finances.  As God’s servant in the jail, I was motivated by the admonition in Hebrews 13:3 to “remember the prisoners as if chained with them….”

Join us this Sunday evening at 5pm for Rev. John Corcoran’s Retirement Report, Offering, and Reception


10 Reasons You Should Attend the Women’s Retreat

Women's MinistryEvents

Immanuel women's retreat
Women of Immanuel, have you been thinking about going on the upcoming retreat, but haven’t been able to commit just yet? Allow us to present The Top Ten Reasons You Should Attend the Women’s Retreat (submitted by women just like you!):

1. It’s a time to get away from the noise, distractions, and responsibilities of everyday life.
2. It’s a time to be challenged and gain a fresh perspective from God’s Word through an outside speaker.
3. It’s a time to sing, pray, and share with just women.
4. It’s a time to strengthen old and forge new friendships.
5. It’s a time to enjoy the beauty of creation and worship the Creator.
6. It’s a time to be with women from all seasons of life.
7. It’s a time for God to use you to bless others who are struggling (OR, be blessed yourself) with the comfort they (or you) may need.
8. It’s a time of self-evaluation and self-care.
9. It’s a time for dads to spend an extended period with their children, loving and leading them in new ways and new settings.
10. It’s a time to rest – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
As you can see, there are a plethora of good reasons to go – why not sign up today? We can’t wait to see you there!

Brochures with registration forms are available at each of the sanctuary exits. You can turn in your form following the Sunday morning service on February 10th or 24th at the Welcome Center, or you can turn in your form at any time to Kristin Gilman, Tami Jones, or the church office.