It's 10 a.m. on Sunday and pastor Joey Bonifacio is walking through the crowded parking lot of Victory Fort in Manila, Philippines.
headed to a worship service-one of 94 Victory weekend gatherings with 51 lead pastors preaching in 15 locations around the city.
Bonifacio oversees Victory Fort, serving as one of the nine senior pastors who together lead a multisite, multigenerational church of more than 62,000 in the metro Manila area.
running slightly late for the meeting, but as he
walks through the covered atrium outside the building, he
stops for a moment and notices six college students from the nearby University of Makati gathered around a small round table with notebooks, pens and Bibles out.
They're intensely discussing the week's sermon.
The sound of people singing inside reminds Bonifacio
needs to join the service, but he
pauses for just a few more seconds, carefully observing the most important meeting of the week.
It didn't take much to convince Bonifacio
of the power of true discipleship.
After all, the former business owner not only personally saw its fruit as a young believer discipled by a more mature believer, he's
also had a front-row seat to observe the exponential growth it has produced at Victory.
In 1986, Bonifacio
owned and operated a diversified chemical manufacturing business.
A new believer, he
was just starting to engage in the life of the church-along with his
wife, Marie, and three small children-when Victory's pastor invited them to his
home for dinner.
Having never spent time with a pastor outside of church, Bonifacio
was understandably uneasy about the invitation.
And when he
and Marie arrived at Steve Murrell's house, composed and dressed in their Sunday best, they were surprised when the American pastor answered the door in shorts, T-shirt and bare feet, holding his
"What immediately struck me about Steve and his
wife, Deborah, was that they were normal people-people who we could connect with, people who we could be friends with," Bonifacio
"For some reason, I never expected that from a pastor.
Steve was so real."
That evening the two couples began a friendship that has lasted for decades and impacted every area of their lives-their faith, their family and their vocation.
Murrell not only discipled Bonifacio
, but their families also spent holidays together, their kids grew up together and they even lived as next-door neighbors for 12 years.
During this season, Joey
and Marie were established-in the faith, the Word and the church-and were equipped to make disciples.
After several years of doing both business and ministry, Bonifacio joined the pastoral team full-time at Victory and became the senior pastor of Victory Makati, another of the metro Manila campuses.
Naturally, one of the first groups he
looked to disciple was people in the marketplace.
identified a handful of businessmen who had recently begun coming to Victory
and, wanting to help these men establish solid spiritual foundations, he
tried to start a discipleship group with them.
With their demanding schedules, however, finding a time to meet together weekly seemed almost impossible.
was determined to get these men in a small group.
After discovering that one of them played nine holes of golf at his
country club at sunrise every morning before work, Bonifacio
asked the men if they'd be willing to meet there at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays.
"This wasn't necessarily the time I had in mind, but if it was when these men could meet, then I would be there," Bonifacio recalls.
"Discipleship is relationship-relationship with God and relationship with others."
And that's exactly what was built.
For years, Joey
, George, Tony, Poseng and Boom met faithfully every Wednesday.
When the group began, these men were new Christians.
Some had marriages on the rocks, others were bound in habitual sin and others were in serious debt.
But week after week, Joey
opened the Bible and showed these men how to follow Jesus and how to apply His
Word to every area of their lives.