Story by Heidi Shoemaker
In the early months of 2018, the Ohio Conference launched an initiative designed to help congregations regain their focus on growing spiritually. The program, known as Disciple Ohio (DO), began as an idea and hope of conference President Ron Halvorsen Jr., to have a practical and tangible way to help churches become more effective in reaching their communities in Ohio.
One congregation, located in Elyria and pastored by Marius Marton, became the focal point of DO in the Greater Cleveland area. Randy Barber, pastor of the Disciple Ohio initiative who is highly experienced in discipling, church planting and evangelism, began guiding members throughout the discipling process. He sees DO as activating “church members to get out of their routine and make witnessing and church growth a priority.”
This is something Elyria members were challenged to do last fall while going door to door inviting neighbors to begin Bible studies. During the first Sabbath outreach, 18 people signed up for studies. Earlier this spring, Barber conducted a three-week evangelistic series in the Elyria vicinity where 18 people joined the church through baptism or profession of faith. Many more continue to study.
Marton sees God working wonderfully through DO and the Elyria members. “The new members are like a breath of fresh air to the life of the congregation,” he notes, as many are reminded of “where they came from and their first love.” Church attendance has now doubled to around 100 people each Sabbath.
According to Barber, the church is “on fire for the Lord,” and the momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon. Members have led the congregation in a 40 days of prayer and fasting journey. Another member is preparing and training young people on how to give Bible studies. Being a disciple is now the lifestyle of not just a few, but the entire congregation. The church is now making plans to plant a church in a neighboring city.
DO is actively working with four congregations, and more are planned in the coming months. Halvorsen is absolutely thrilled “with how God has been working through the Elyria church family under the leadership of Randy Barber and Marius Marton,” he says. He sees God answering “many prayers in the outreach trainings, visits, Bible studies and evangelistic meetings. I’m praising the Lord for what He has accomplished and continues to accomplish in and through the Elyria congregation and the Disciple Ohio initiative. Let’s all praise the Lord and continue to pray for those still making decisions for baptism.”
For more information about Disciple Ohio’s goals and principles, visit ohioadventist.org/disciple-ohio, or contact DO coordinator Michael Stough II, at (740) 397-4665, ext. 105.