Getting to the Heart of Discipleship
John Dendiu, Ph.D., is known for his engaging Bible and ministry classes and for the time he spends mentoring students, but he didn’t always plan to be involved in ministry. He began studying classical piano as a young boy and, at age 10, discovered chords and jazz improvisation. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance, worked with Campus Crusade for Christ, spent nearly a decade in pastoral ministry and served as a missionary in Indonesia before becoming a professor.
At Bethel, his roles have included music professor, men’s and women’s tennis coach, and now associate professor of religion and Bible. But his journey to this place involved some unexpected turns that shaped his career path.
While in college, Dendiu expected to pursue music as a career. He spent two summers working at Cedar Point in a one of their small entertainment shows. It was there that he met his wife, Diane, who was also a performer. After the two married, Dendiu taught music for four years in the public school setting before applying to a doctoral program in music. About the same time, however, a ministry opportunity opened up with Campus Crusade for Christ.
“That’s where God led us,” he says. “And we did it as much for our own growth. We were just hungry for more training, discipleship and evangelism. And since then, music has only been a secondary vocation. That was back in 1979, and we’ve been in ministry ever since.”
While serving at Campus Crusade for Christ in California, Dendiu discovered a passion for mentoring and discipleship.
“Ever since we were on staff with Campus Crusade 35 years ago, and got some good training in discipleship, it’s kind of like the light bulb went on for me,” he explains. “That’s one of the reasons why we came to Bethel — to try to disciple and mentor students without having the pressures of pastoral ministry.”
Dendiu previously participated in both one-on-one and group mentoring, he is now primarily involved in group mentoring, through which he engages two or three young men, challenging them to grow together.
“I think there’s something about a small group that can play off each other,” he says. “It becomes more of a peer kind of thing, and they can bounce off of each other, encourage one an
other and challenge each other.”
Dendiu guides the discussion in these groups but said his goal is to provide a model or framework in order to prepare students to mentor others. He says that many students he has mentored in this way have gone on to mentor others in group settings, both in the United States and overseas.
“This is really the heart of ministry – discipling people,” he says. “When I look at the ministry of Jesus, that’s primarily what He was about. He had this group of 12 guys and poured His life into them so that they, in turn, could do that for the next generation. That’s why I enjoy teaching so much, because that’s the foundation of what I feel like ministry should be all about.”