2023 has been a season of solid growth in our ministry with a deepening look at the message of Jesus particularly in the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Mark for a number of our discipleship groups. Our disciple making leaders are given freedom to choose a book in the bible or another biblical curriculum stressing our discipleship journey and the multiplication of making disciples.
We have favored micro groups of 3-4 men to maximize personal connectedness, Holy Spirit activity and shared leadership. Currently we have 8 weekly discipleship groups (D groups), 3 of them are weekly groups at the Washington County Jail.
Making Disciples Not Getting Decisions
We have been focusing on Jesus message (Discipleship Gospel) and Jesus method of making disciples. We are experiencing in many evangelical churches a great emphasis on “getting decisions” for Christ rather than “making disciples.” These decisions are shared widely as proof that there is true revival and spiritual growth happening. Following Jesus is the authentication of spiritual transformation not raising a hand with every eye closed and every head bowed. Many believe this Sinners Prayer approach represents the ABC’s of the gospel, the entry point of faith. But without a call to discipleship connected deeply with conversion it is falsely believed to be the finish line.
Jesus message of the “good news” that he was declaring everywhere he went could be defined this way: “The gospel is a Scripture-based (narrative) declaration of who Jesus is, what he has done, how he fulfills Scripture prophecies, and how we should respond to him.” Discipleship Gospel p. 106
This definition includes the necessary elements to encompass the A to Z’s of the gospel. The discipleship gospel message of Jesus must be recaptured as our first priority and only a careful study of the gospels under good teaching and the leading of the Holy Spirit will be sufficient. But what if the gospel that people are responding to requires almost nothing from them? Nothing more than an intellectual agreement to a few “admit” statements about personal sin, Jesus as Savior and inviting Him into your heart. This approach is summed up in the “Sinners Prayer.” This prayer often conveys no announcement of the Kingdom of God, no declaration of the resurrection, no call to repentance of sin, and no call to following Christ as King. Jesus never used anything like a Sinners Prayer.
Repent, Believe the Gospel & Follow Jesus
Christ’s call for our response to him is comprised in: repentance of our sin, faith in the gospel message and following Jesus as his disciples in Spirit led obedience (Mark 1:14-20). It links together conversion with discipleship. These cannot be separated. The Sinners Prayer approach to evangelism encourages a false assurance of being born again and the unshakable promise of heaven based upon their personal decision. Consider the words of a wise disciple of Jesus who gave his life in defense of the gospel and the tyranny of Nazism. “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
“The gospel we preach will determine the disciples that we make.” (Bill Hull) If we preach and teach a non-discipleship gospel, one that makes following Jesus optional, we will get half- hearted, cheap grace professing Christians. We are seeking to make disciples of Jesus who are living out daily, a repentance of sin, faith in the gospel and following Jesus in Spirit led obedience.
Locking Arms Staff Hire — Neil Walker
Neil’s calling begins with a love for the people of New Kensington through a ministry of presence and intentional programs (YMCA, Valley HS) where he is serving young men and broken families. These relationships are cultivated through “Humble Ministries” with Pastor (Discipling Leader) Jerry Jefferson and through discipleship groups focused on at-risk young men and fathers. Neil is also leading D groups in the Greater Pittsburgh region and networking to gather momentum for cycling discipleship groups. Neil states, “The “call” above all things is the call of Jesus Christ in the gospel. It must come to me personally. I must repent from my sin, believe the gospel and follow Him (Mark 1:14-18). This is my daily life.”
Neil has a strong background in leading young men and training leaders to use cycling as a strenuous sport that can be used to educate, mentor and to do biblical discipleship.
Neil is currently a Half Time staff member with us. We are seeing a good response of support since Neil came on staff April 15th but much more is needed. Please join us in helping Neil build a team of monthly donors and prayer partners!
We have been witnessing strong participation in our weekly D groups with better equipped leaders modeling what it means to follow Jesus. Our January mission trip with Del Rey Ministries was supported by 10 of our brothers who were changed by their experience with the morning teaching (led by Bishop Garlington), the daily worship, the Del Rey pastors and villagers in the bateys, and the fellowship with God’s people throughout the week. Our monthly First Fridays have become a spiritual marker and call to discipleship for many men. Our ATP smoker at The Club Leaf & Bean was well supported and raised a good amount. Maybe the greatest highlight so far in 2023 was our May retreat that featured our brother Doug McCary from Jacksonville (HIS Light Ministries). Our theme was “Declaring Christ as King over Every Area of our Lives.” We had 62 men in attendance and roughly 12 of that number were young men between the ages of 12-18. Harrison Hayes (Liberty University student-athlete) and Neil Walker did a great job leading alternate youth sessions. Many of them remarked how it was a life changing weekend for them as followers of Christ. We also featured our close brothers that have become part of our Team Jesus! They include: Stu Hayes (Locking Arms Band), Jon Kolb, Hollis Haff, and brother Kim Costanza. Their biblical teaching and personal interaction with our men was powerful! Our departing declaration we repeatedly shouted was “Jesus is King, Follow Jesus.”
We supported Man Up Pittsburgh (over 1,000 attending) again this year and we look forward to being part of the follow up work with men. We need your prayer for our upcoming Boys Camp with Del Rey in the Dominican July 17-22. We will be serving 40 boys ages 14-18 chosen from the villages where our Del Rey pastors live and lead their churches. Special thanks to our sponsors for enabling us to make this camp happen. Kim Costanza, Matt Mason (Worship Leader), and I will be teaching along with the pastors. We will continue to support our ministry partners with over 20% of our annual budget. Be watching for our 6 week summer series led by Jack Keebler “Answering the Tough Questions” kicking off Wednesday, July 26. We will meet in Bridgeville and host it on Zoom.
9th Annual Locking Arms Golf Outing
Our 9th Annual Locking Arms Golf Outing is coming up Monday, August 21st at Quicksilver Golf Club. It is our only true fundraiser for the year. Individual golfers are $200 or $750 per foursome.
Event Page: www.lockingarmsmen.org/events
October 2nd Good Shepherd Academy Golf Outing
Sponsored by Locking Arms at Quicksilver Golf Club
Learn about this great school in South Sudan led by Rev. John Chol and their impact on over 450 students daily! https://gs-ef.org (Click on Golf Outing) See attached PDF
Our monthly payroll has increased approximately 25% in the past 2 months by taking on staff Neil Walker. Thanks to all who have supported us in the past and so many who continue to support us. Along with a successful golf outing we need your help to make it in the 3rd quarter. Can you make a donation of $50, $100 or $1,000? Maybe you could help us by joining our monthly support team?
You can make a tax deductible donation on our website at: www.lockingarmsmen.org/giving
You may instead send us a check payable to Locking Arms Men.
Our address: 6307 Oyster Bay Court, Bridgeville PA 15017
Your prayer support and financial help is greatly appreciated! Your partnership enables us to continue in God’s work here in Pittsburgh and in the Dominican Republic.