For most of his adult life, says Spartanburg family physician Robert Jackson, “I have been a disciple-maker.”
The commitment to discipleship started when he and his wife-to-be, Carlotta, were students at Clemson University. Both were themselves discipled, and they developed a passion for reaching the lost and discipling those they reached.
“Nobody had ever taught me how to study the Bible, how to have a personal devotion, memorize Scripture, or share the gospel,” said Jackson. “Ralph Vick met with me every week for two years and showed me how to study the Bible, have a quiet time, meditate on Scripture, and share the gospel.”
“He came by every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00, carried me through the dorms at Clemson University, and showed me how to share the gospel until the Spirit of God put in me a burning desire to share the gospel myself.”
Jackson soon began to disciple other students. “I took what I learned from Ralph (2 Timothy 2:2) and began to disciple other students. When I got to medical school, I found two guys (one from Charleston Southern University and the other from College of Charleston) and met with them every week even though I was a medical student up to my eyebrows in medical studies.”
“I met with them for a year and a half. One of them became a Southern Baptist pastor and the other one a missionary to China,” he said. Since then, he has not stopped making disciples. “As soon as I get done with one group of guys, I go to the next group. God has allowed me to disciple 40 to 50 men over the course of the last 30 to 40 years.”
Jackson said his approach to disciple-making is simple. “I first go through the assurance of salvation, how to have a quiet time, what it means to be a Spirit-filled believer, the importance of the local church, and how to share the gospel. Then I teach them basic Bible doctrine and several other things I think are critical.”
He emphasizes “doing life” with the men he disciples. “I take them to ball games, hunting, out to eat, church, etc. Any life situation that I can possibly invite them to go with me, I want them to go with me.”
Jackson stated that he used the FAT approach to finding men who are candidates for discipleship training. “FAT stands for faithful, available, and teachable. When somebody is FAT, that is somebody you can disciple. After they graduate (after one and a half years), I tell them to find two or three men and challenge them to meet weekly for discipling,” he said.
A practice that he still uses today is what he refers to as KTBS, which he says means Kitchen Table Bible School. “They meet at my kitchen table every Sunday morning at 6 a.m. I feed them deer sausage and biscuits with jelly that Carlotta and I make. Then, we have exactly one hour and 15 minutes of Bible study and discussion before we close with prayer.”
He found that Sunday mornings work best, since most men are busy doing other things on the weekend. “We are done in time for the men to go home and help their wives get the children ready for church. Most of the guys are younger and have young children,” he said.
He is quick to point out that “evangelism precedes discipleship” and underscores the value of following up with people. “If you lead someone to the Lord, it’s incumbent upon you to help them grow in faith and full maturity in Christ.”
The Jacksons have raised nine children. Before they were married, she was a Journeyman missionary to Gaza, where she worked as a nurse in the Baptist hospital there. After his graduation from medical school, they were married and started their family. She has homeschooled all of their children, and all are committed Christians today.
Along their journey, they discovered a discipleship training center in Pennsylvania for young people. Miracle Mountain Ranch had a summer camp and a gap-year program for recent high school graduates where they combined various subjects on the Christian life coupled with differing degrees of equine training. After attending a two-day program in Tryon, N.C., they were convinced of the value and validity of the ministry. Since they had horses, it seemed like a natural fit. Four of the Jackson children attended the gap-year program.
With a busy medical practice, church responsibilities (they are members at First Baptist Church of Boiling Springs), his discipleship ministry, involvement in the pro-life movement, finishing his second book, and enjoying their soon-to-be nine grandchildren, Jackson says his most important calling is his family.
“I have taken mission trips to 25 or 30 different countries, but what has been most valuable to me is the opportunity to have nine children and to build into their lives a Christian legacy. When I am dead and gone, all that other stuff will fizzle, but God will continue to impact the kingdom through my children and grandchildren.”
A friend recently asked him what he would have done differently in his life. He replied, “I would have married Carlotta five years sooner instead of courting her for five years. If I had, I might have had three or four more children who could impact the kingdom.”
“Time will tell, but I do know the impact my children’s lives are having, and I hope I can live long enough to see the impact in my grandchildren’s lives.”