Disciple-Making In 2 Timothy

The apostle Paul was a master disciple-maker. Paul excelled in evangelizing and discipleship. Evangelism and discipleship are the two wings of the disciple-making airplane. Unfortunately, in the anti-supernatural movement of 1850, a man by the name of Charles Adam separated “making disciples” into two parts: evangelism and discipleship.

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The plane I flew on when interning in Turkana, Kenya (Summer 2011).

The holistic command in Matthew 28:19-20 was split into two terms. Modern churches have been shaped by the faulty separation. Evangelism became the process of bringing people to Christ, or the communication of the gospel by saved people to lost people (Reid, Evangelism Handbook, Kindle Loc. 440). Discipleship became the process of growing people up in Christ. However, disciples cannot be made unless both evangelism and what became labeled as discipleship, defined by Michael Bird as “gospelizing,” are happening (Bird, Evangelical Theology, Kindle Loc. 104).

Therefore, 2 Timothy is filled with an abundance of “gospelizing.” As Paul writes to Timothy, Paul’s desire to ensure several disciple developmental markers which have been achieved by Timothy are continued. For structural purposes, I see three layers of discipleship Paul desires Timothy to remember. One should note that these markers are not sequential. One does not merely move on from one to the next because they have “completed” that step. Instead, they should be viewed as maturity markers. When one is deficient it should be strengthened. When one is skilled it should be refined. The layers and markers can be applied to our modern church context for holistic disciple-making.

First, Paul desires Timothy be grounded as a believer. Throughout 2 Timothy, Paul shifts from the example of himself to Timothy, to poor examples of being grounded. Just as a child grows in maturity, Paul desires Timothy to grow in spiritual maturity. Paul reminds Timothy of his identity in Christ and his spiritual lineage (1:2, 5, 10, 12; 2:11-13; 3:17; 4:8). Paul encourages Timothy to walk in obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit (1:6-7; 2:10, 22; 3:12). Paul desires Timothy learn spiritual talk in prayer and sharing the good news with others (2:2, 15, 22; 4:2). Timothy is reminded how a believer grows through feasting on the Word of God (1:10, 13; 2:9; 3:14-17). Lastly, Paul knows Timothy needs to learn how to flee from sin and purify his life (2:14-26; 3:5; 4:5). These five developmental markers are interconnected. Should Timothy waiver in any one of these areas, serious consequences would result. Paul’s goal for Timothy is long-term faithfulness and obedience to Christ. The long-term vision must be built on the gospel and being rooted in its implications.

Second, Paul desires Timothy equip others for the work of ministry. Healthy beings reproduce. The world will not be reached by the witness of a single individual. God wants us to reach the world in the same way it is populated—by multiplication. Paul instructed Timothy to entrust the grace of Christ to faithful men who will then be able to instruct others. Should this occur, Paul will have spiritual great-grandchildren in the faith. What if a new Christian was able to grow so that in two years the new Christian is ready to help another grow?

Jesus loved the world and helped thousands, but he closely trained only twelve men who trained others. The ministry of multiplying disciples comes through ministry to individuals. This is the way Paul communicated his life to Timothy (3:10). We reach the masses through the man.

In working with the man, he must be equipped. Paul compares the work of a disciple to a soldier, athlete, and farmer (2:3-6). Paul himself plodded on for the sake of others (2:10). Paul imparted his life to them and he recognizes his work in Timothy (3:10). Paul continues to equip Timothy by reminding him about the profitable use of the Scriptures. The Word is useful for teaching others to walk with God in belief and action. Rebuking identifies sin and shows where the believer has gotten off the path. Correcting shows the disciple how to get back on the path and how to change. Finally, the Word trains in righteousness by showing one how to stay on the path and live in an accordance with God’s ways.

The work in maturing others and equipping them requires desire, decision, determination, and discipline. The work is not haphazard. For example, consider a man who desires to have time with God before going to work. He realizes that in order to have enough time, he must get up early. He decided to get up at 6:30a. The next day he oversleeps because his desire and his decision alone could not get him out of bed. He then determines to use an alarm clock to help him get up. The real test comes when the alarm goes off. Discipline must then come into focus. He must shut the alarm clock off and not go back to bed. Good habits can be developed as a result of consistent discipline. The desire for good habits begins with training and accountability from another (1:3-7). Consistency requires thought and effort on a daily basis. It continues through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Paul desires Timothy persevere in the faith by holding onto the gospel as disciples go throughout the world (1:13; 2:1, 12; 3:11). Paul reminds Timothy that time will be hard because people will reject truth (3:1-5). Paul countlessly alludes to his own suffering and coming suffering because they are engaged in a spiritual battle (2:3-4). Paul was able to testify to his perseverance, in light of his suffering, concerning his earthly walk with Christ (4:7-8). Paul was able to persevere because his focus was on eternity and life beyond this present life. Paul provided countless examples of those who did not persevere. Demas is an example of one who was choked out by the thorns (4:10; cf. Mk 4:19).

Our modern churches would do well to learn from Paul and Timothy. Present-day Christians must invest in a few people and help them become grounded in their faith. The Christian must entrust his whole life to them, rather than merely a few hours a week. This lifestyle goes beyond the small group meeting or the worship service. Further, the overseers of the church must equip followers of Jesus to reach others for Christ, grow new believers, and then equip others. Finally, the pastor must demonstrate and champion perseverance. Because many pastors oversee programs, these programs should be structured to encourage the development of disciples not inhibit them. In order to implement such principles, the church must realize equipping and needed perseverance come through engaging with those outside the building walls.

The New Apologetic

Reading and studying other writers and thinkers have been immensely helpful in shaping my view of cultural engagement and practical ministry. One of the most helpful thinkers I have followed is Derek Rishmawy. Yesterday he shared an excerpt from his essay in the new work Our Secular Age.

His essay focuses on applying Charles Taylor’s insights to ministry to Millennials growing up in the Super-Nova of belief and the internet age, (and really anybody inhabiting our cross-pressured age). Here are both the excerpt and his full post:

We’ve reached the point where everybody has to preach apologetically, even if your congregation isn’t mostly millennial. To be clear, I don’t think such preaching is simply a matter of incorporating in every sermon arguments for the resurrection, or the existence of God, and so forth (though some of that might help). Instead, we need to actively answer objections to the gospel from inside the mindset of our cross-pressured culture on a regular basis as a part of ourscriptural exposition.

We need to show the consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel to this generation. But it is not enough to simply defend the gospel. Present the way it interrogates the dominant, unquestioned narratives of our hearers—on meaning, money, sex, power, politics, gender, and so forth—and actually makes better sense of the world than any other view on offer.

This precise line of thinking contributed my recent post on the Bible. The necessity of engaging people in the internet age apologetically is why works Unparalleled by Jared C. Wilson and The Problem of God by Mark Clark shot up my reading list.

I am also convinced that everybody does not only have to preach apologetically, but churches must disciple others with the apologetic necessity in mind. I am sorry (not really) but “because the Bible says so” is no longer a persuasive statement.

What might a few disciple-making essentials need to be, which will help establish a consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel in the life of a believer?

 

I could probably suggest several essentials. Developmentally in the life of a believer, I think there are five core markers which are built on. However, primary to the other four is the understanding of one’s identity in Christ.

Did you know there are 33 Things that happen at the moment of salvation? That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

When we rightfully understand who God is and how he acts, we grasp the power of our new identity. Because God sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and then be resurrected, we now have the ability to know God personally. When God saves us and we believe, we experience the thirty-three things.

God is, so God does; therefore, we are, so we do (living apologetically).Unknown-2

How would your life change? What apologetic would be projected into the world if you lived in light of your identity in Christ? Here are fifteen. Why not begin a search for the rest?

  1. Forgiven
  2. Child of God
  3. Having access to God
  4. reconciled
  5. justified
  6. Placed “in Christ”
  7. Acceptable to God
  8. Heavenly citizenship
  9. A part in the eternal plan of God
  10. Free from the law
  11. Adopted into the family of God
  12. Delivered from the power of darkness
  13. A chosen generation
  14. United to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  15. Possessing every spiritual blessing

Offer Better

Today, I as I concluded my reading in Acts the second half of the final chapter really stood out to me.

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 

Paul testified about the kingdom of God. I thought the phrasing sounded familiar. In Acts 1, Jesus concludes his time on earth by “speaking about the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God has been expounded upon and heavily debated theologically. However, now more than ever, I am seeing a need to return to communicating specifically about the way of Jesus. Too many churches teach and preach as if we can fix ourselves in lieu of a God who loves us from a distance, yet never take the time to know Him. Modified self-help expressions of Christianity do not work. People do not buy it. What does it look like for God’s laws and love to permeate every aspect of our lives?

I had two recent conversations with different people about the Gospel. Both openly rejected historic institutional Christianity. They wanted no part in another social club that had a poor history. However, when the conversation changed to following Jesus and allowing his model and teaching found in the Bible affect our lives, they were more open. In fact, one agnostic Jew (non-practicing, self-proclaimed agnostic, Jewish heritage by birth), made a distinct comment as I asked him to respond to my spiritual journey coupled with the Gospel. “I like the way you have articulated the personal belief and expression to following Jesus. That makes sense. No, there is no way I would consider Christianity as a religion for myself or my family.” In his mind, Christianity brings bad, but following Jesus may bring some good.

Somewhere along the line, our thinking shifted from Christianity as a movement to be advanced to an institution to be maintained. To do ministry or to organize something to care for people and connect with people that does not directly get organized by a committee, team, or minister in the church is completely foreign in most cases. To simply equip people to go live as Jesus has transformed their lives and respond to the Holy Spirit takes serious effort, instead of simple obedience. Alvin Reid comments on the need for such a reversal:

We can complain about that and mourn the loss of impact, or we can look at the early church who had no standing in the culture, had no buildings to invite people to enter, and yet so lived the gospel in the culture that they turned the world upside down…A missional church focuses as much or more outside its fellowship (and thus outside the walls of the building!) as it does on the inside. Missional believers think of themselves as being sent into the culture as ambassadors for Christ. The typical conventional church today magnifies what happens inside its fellowship and often even more inside a building (which is not the church, by the way).

The rediscovery of Christianity as a movement (the kingdom of God manifested in every believer) is paramount to the future of the church. The rediscovery can get messy and will get messy. We are dealing with real people and their real problems. We are dealing with a real world and its real brokenness. But, seeing the kingdom manifested is nothing less than joining Jesus on His mission to seek and to save the lost through making disciples. It is seeing the holistic health of God come to a city. It is a foretaste of a future heaven. It is God in action through His people.

What’s fascinating? Our world is trying to provide holistic health, transformation, and enter into the mess. In some cases, they are doing a better job than the church. Our founder, Jesus, was the best possible example of entering into the mess.

Last week, I went to a gathering of faith-based people in all professions for the city of Vancouver. The organizers always have someone present some information. The main speaker provided a brief overview of ACEs and how to have tough conversations with teenagers and families specifically around the issue of marijuana, opioids, and alcohol (see youthnow.me for some of the information provided). The main speaker had to repeatedly encourage those in attendance, “messy means it won’t look like you think it should.” She then would provide a very normal example from her experiences. One example she provided: progress may mean the parent goes from smoking weed every day and giving it to their kid to smoking weed every day and not giving it to their kid. Progress. Steps.

Her other main point: “You cannot take (fill in the blank drug) without offering something better, or when stress gets high they will always return to (fill in the blank drug to cope).”

As I heard her plea to offer something better to faith-based people who served in health services, social services, the school systems, and other community health organization, I could not help but ask a few questions.

Church, are we truly offering something better?

Christian, are you living something better?

Better is not demonizing their choices or the consequences. Better is not fixing them. Better is not making them more moral. Better is not a message of faux happiness. Better is not dismissive of “faulty” reasoning. Better is not merely waiting to talk and share information. Better is not ignoring the mess.

Better is resiliently listening to those in front of us and seeing them as people, not projects. Better is keeping curious even when we do not want to be. Better is being empathetic. Better is following through on a care path. Better is connecting the dots from the Gospel to life’s situations. Better is including them in your walk with Jesus on how you are letting the kingdom of God transform every area of your life. Better is hope and joy in the ways of Jesus.

30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

 

Equipping Students…It’s Possible

It has officially been just over a year on the journey of using Explore the Bible Curriculum and the COMA technique of teaching others to read the bible. So far, its use in the Student Ministry of CenterPointe has been a success. Let me back up a bit to share more of the story about why we are using these two resources.

When I was a freshman entering Kentucky Christian University, I thought I knew much of what the the bible taught. I had competed in Bible Bowl and had attended Youth Group somewhat faithfully. When a tough bible question was asked, usually I could come up with the answer, especially the easy Sunday School ones. But, upon my first bible class, OT Survey, I realized that much of my bible knowledge had come from what other people taught me or told me, not what I had read or actually learned for myself. Quickly, in order to maintain the grade, I began diving in to the Old Testament and the Gospels. I soon realized I could make little sense of what I was reading and why it even mattered to today. I did not have any concept of how Moses connected to Jesus, or I was supposed to read Psalms different than 1 Kings.

Now to put my thoughts in perspective, my reading comprehension scores have always been low, but usually I could make out some connections to seem somewhat knowledgable. However, after struggling through the familiarity of Genesis and Matthew, I came to the conclusion that I had no idea how to connect bible stories to my own life. In the academic sense, I was fine, but in my personal walk with God I was distraught. After all the Bible Bowl and all the learning I had done, I could not figure out how to read the bible for myself and make it personal and I was supposed to be studying for life in ministry. Now, I do not mean to indict my youth ministers or others, but they had told me what to believe and think, rather than shown me how to discover it for myself in the depth of God’s Word. I merely could answer questions right on a test or pass a surface level bible study with flying colors, but there was a disconnect between learning the bible and applying the bible. Because of this, a holy dissatisfaction began to arise.

By God’s grace, people around me began to point me in the direction of commentaries and resources to help with bridging this gap. I attempted the SOAP method, but found it personally difficult. I attempted to consult commentaries, but their application was still distant and impersonal. As I began to grow in my understanding of the bible, I began to apply what I had began reading, but I sought a clear and concise way to teach others what I had been shown by others. Thankfully, my brother-in-law, recommended a resource called One to One Bible Reading by David Helm. I should mention by this point I am already a weekend Student Minister and, whether by my own curriculum, or others I resolved that I would not send my students into adulthood without being able to think critically about the bible and read it for themselves. I knew that someday Kyle (me) may no longer be CenterPointe’s Student Minister and the best way to for a ministry to sustain itself was through hearing from God and learning to be Christ-centered in every way. I was on a mission to eliminate the reasoning that the bible was difficult to understand or from another time and place so it does not apply to us today from our thinking.

As soon, as I finished reading One to One Bible Reading by David Helm, I began to implement the practices I had learned. Specifically, a process called COMA: Context, Observation, Meaning, & Application. Our church has used this process with other supplemental studies to help student and adults read the bible for themselves.  I found the process worth teaching because it was able to be reproduced. About the same time, I had been searching for curriculum to use in my new middle school class on Sunday mornings. At that time, Lifeway.com had just come out with their Explore the Bible curriculum that went book by book breaking down God’s Word in a simple process. Each week the curriculum went through essentially the same process that I had learned from One to One, so I was sold on using it in my class.

Fast forward 9 months after teaching this process through the lens of Explore our students began to get it. We were seeing students in 15 minutes sit down and pick apart a passage and figure out what it meant (central truth) and then how to personally apply the meaning in specific ways with little guidance from the “teachers.”

Our next step was to begin teaching them to teach others. By God’s timing it was finally time to launch a high school class. Our high school class, by the way we only had one consistent high schooler until this summer, is devoted to equipping students to lead other students in bible study. By God’s grace, 9th & 10 graders have been opening up God’s Word, walking through a passage in Genesis, figuring out how it applies to them, and peer to peer teaching each of the past three weeks. What has been amazing, not even sure if the students realize it, but their commitment to God’s Word has affected our outreach efforts. They are beginning to lives of intentionality and purpose, not because we have some cool mission statement, but because God’s Word speaks to them and they go apply it. Also, when non-Christians are introduced to a study that asks more questions and is more process than content, we find them learning more content than simply ignoring the teacher.

As we have brought new students into the middle school and high school classes there have been challenges. One challenge has been switching the brain from learning content to learning process and learning to ask questions. I have found that much of my personal experience of regurgitating content is the same for many church kids. These church kids are bothered when the teacher of our middle and high school classes ask more questions than provide answers. They so desperately want to get the answer right that they are unsure of why the right answer matters. One of my favorite exercises is answer questions with questions that drive kids back to the text. In essence, we are helping student be more biblically-anchored, not because of teaching content, but teaching them how to walk with God by reading His word and through process making it less intimidating. This challenge has been good because it forces students to own their faith and provide substance to the content they have already learned.

I would love to hear how others are teaching students to read God’s Word! I am all about best practices, so please share your thoughts, or questions.