The greatest prayer request of churches around the world is for more and better leaders. In 1972, three Bible teachers—William MacDonald, O. Jean Gibson, and Jack Davies—sought the Lord’s guidance as to how they could address the problem. They saw in the Scriptures that Jesus taught the multitudes, but focused His attention on the training of a small group of men who came to be called the Twelve. At times, Jesus narrowed His ministry further to three men: Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; 13:3; 14:33). Jesus taught these men primarily through life-transference. He welcomed them into His life and shared His day-to-day experiences with them, modeling that which He wanted them to learn. They prayed together, preached the gospel, faced the threats of the Pharisees, and confronted evil. Mark summarizes Jesus’ discipleship ministry, writing, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Jesus commanded His disciples to do likewise, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The History of DIPT
With these Scriptures in mind, the three teachers founded the Discipleship Intern Training Program (DITP). They structured it as a nine-month course of intensive training, in which a small group of men, eight to ten, would be offered internships at Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro, California. Jean Gibson and Jack Davies were elders at Fairhaven. Bill MacDonald fellowshipped at an assembly nearby. The first session of the DITP began on September 3, 1973, with ten interns. Each morning, teachers and students met for 30 minutes of devotional time in the Word and prayer. This was followed by three hours of Bible study. In the afternoon, the interns studied. During the evenings, instructors took the interns out on pastoral visits to the homes of the saints, or the interns were involved in home fellowship groups, programs for children, or evangelistic studies. On weekends, the instructors included the interns in their preaching ministry, taking two or three men along with them as they spoke at neighboring churches. If an instructor was traveling for ministry overseas, he always took one or two interns along with him. In this manner, the interns learned the Bible and how to serve Christ, working shoulder to shoulder with their mentors, and applying what they learned within the context of the church. The interns learned to preach, teach, pastor, evangelize, and deal with real-life problems. The following September, the instructors offered another ten men internships, and the cycle repeated in almost unbroken succession to this present day.
The Leadership of DIPT
The original teachers of the DITP are now all with the Lord, but the training continues. Today, seven men share the teaching load so that interns might benefit from a broader spectrum of gifts and experience. The current instructors, almost all graduates of the DITP, are: Steve Caldwell (Hillivew Bible Chapel, Cupertino, California, DITP 2001), Brady Collier (FreeWay Bible Chapel, Lubbock, Texas, DITP 2010), Grant Ferrer (Fairhaven Bible Chapel, San Leandro, California, DITP 1980), Jim Haesemeyer (FreeWay Bible Chapel, Lubbock, Texas, DITP 1988), Jim McCarthy (Grace Bible Chapel, San Jose, California, DITP 1981), Steve Price (The Bible Chapel of Shawnee, Shawnee, Kansas), and David Reeve (Fairhaven Bible Chapel, San Leandro, DITP 1990).
The home churches of these instructors reflects the history of the DITP. It began at Fairhaven Bible Chapel, in San Leandro, California. In 2000, Brother Davies being with the Lord and Brothers MacDonald and Gibson elderly, the training moved to San Jose, California, where it was hosted by Grace Bible Chapel, San Jose, and Hillview Bible Chapel, Cupertino, California. In September, 2016, the DITP moved to Lubbock, Texas, where it is currently being hosted by FreeWay Bible Chapel, the move necessitated by the high cost of housing for interns in the San Francisco Bay Area and the desire to see the program entrusted to younger men, that the training might continue into the future.
Currently seven men are undergoing training. Three of the interns are Americans, two from California and one from Texas. Four are from overseas, one each from India, Italy, Jordan, and Spain. The curriculum includes instruction in Bible study methodology, New Testament Greek, exegetical preaching, teaching, discussion group leading, pastoral care, principles of the New Testament church, world missions, and family and marriage. Instructors take the interns through a study of each of the books of the New Testament and many of the books of the Old Testament. Once a week, interns participate in evangelism on the campus of Texas Tech University. A ten-day mission trip is also part of the training. This year two instructors will travel with the interns to Central America to teach among the assemblies in Nicaragua and Honduras. They will also travel by dugout canoe to backcountry villages where missionary work has been in progress for about five years.
This is the kind of training we see in the Book of Acts. Paul, following the Lord’s example, shared his life with Silas, Timothy, Titus, and others. These men served alongside Paul and learned from him, gaining experience each day. Even when apart, Paul kept in touch with his disciples, encouraging and instructing them through his letters. He instructed his disciples to train others, writing, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul outlines the purpose of this kind of training in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He writes:
[The risen Lord] “gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
These verses have served as the mission statement of the DITP since its inception. To date, 263 men have been trained. Many are serving today in assemblies across the United States, Canada, Europe, and around the world. Graduates have also started two similar programs. In 1995, DITP graduates started Training fuer Mitarbeiter im Gemeindebau (Training for Workers in the Church) in Salzburg, Austria. There they have trained 185 men. In 1999, other graduates, all missionaries in Central America, started Modulos Biblicos (Bible Modules) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There they have trained just over 100 men. In 2013, graduates in the U.S. started a three-week version of the DITP called the Galilee Program. Southside Bible Chapel in Lafayette, Louisiana, hosts this training program each summer. More than 130 men and women, ages 20 to 35, have been trained so far in Bible study methodology, evangelism, and personal discipleship.
If you would like to learn more about the Discipleship Intern Training Program please visit the program’s website at www.theditp.com. For more information about the Galilee Program, visit www.galileeprogram.com.