August 24, 2023 — After more than two years of development and testing, a state-of-the-art app created by the Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College is now available for widespread use around the world. The BeADisciple Study App has been created by a team that has included SC alumni in the United States and Indonesia.
The app was developed to make small group Bible studies available to groups that may not be in the same location or time zone. All materials for each of the studies are included on the app, so internet access is the only resource needed. Group meetings take place through Zoom technology.
Studies available now include the Disciple I and Disciple II Fast Track programs. More Disciple studies will be added soon, and additional authors and topics are expected to be part of the offerings.
The new app expands the reach of the Institute for Discipleship, which was chartered at Southwestern College in 2001. In addition to several on-campus programs (Bishop Scholars, Scholars in Residence, Builders in Ministry, support of the Department of Philosophy and Religion), it began offering online courses in 2006 and since has reached more than 26,000 learners with online educational experiences with roots in Wesleyan theology
The team behind the dream and development of the BeADisciple Study App has been led by Steve Wilke ’78, executive director of the Institute for Discipleship.
“I was so blessed by being in a Disciple group years ago with students from four different continents that I began dreaming how I could help others have such a rich and rewarding experience,” Wilke says. “After 17 years of offering online continuing course at BeADisciple.com, I could see the impact of online learning and have heard the appreciative feedback over the years.”
Wilke discovered, though, that no software existed that could provide the kind of close fellowship and small group interaction he had experienced in the Bible study
“So we built our own,” he says simply.
Wilke contacted Vince Putera ’07, ’10, an early Bishop Scholar who had been in the Discipleship and Worship Outreach programs while majoring in communications at Southwestern. Putera had risen to the top of the Asian app-development world as founder and CEO of Inspira Solusi Indonesia. (The company was later acquired by the Djarum group and now does business as Akar Inti Teknologi, where he is vice president of technology.)
“Steve reached out to me in 2022 and shared his vision for a digitized version of the BeADisciple program. I was very glad to hear from him—he’s very open-minded and humble in his learning of this new landscape,” Putera explains. “I believe this digital avenue can really close the gap and even the playing field for believers to expand their reach and really bring forth the Word of God.”
Selection of the first studies to be offered on the app was easy: The Disciple Bible Study written by Richard and Julia Wilke, founders of the Institute for Discipleship, was the obvious choice. However, the studies were written more than 30 years ago and while still classic in its teachings, modern scholarship meant updating and refreshing some of lessons.
For this Wilke turned to Bruce Birch ’62. Birch, a world-renowned Biblical scholar, volunteered to edit Disciple content for a current audience. Bruce also used his connections with scholars all over the world to recruit 24 new scholar voices who provide video content each week to Disciple I.
“To roll out our Bible study app we wanted to start with one of the most transformative and impactful studies we know and having Bruce on our team provided us with total confidence in the integrity of the teaching.” Wilke says.
Beta groups began forming Aug. 1, 2023, and beta testers are still being accepted. Interested persons can learn more about the app at www.BeADiscipleApp.com. The free download is available on the App Store (for Apple devices) or at Google Play (Android devices).