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.

Links of the Month (April 2017)

For Your Worship – Why I Didn’t Sing When I Visited by Tim Challies

For the Next Generation – 3 Reasons Young People Leave the Church by Jason K Allen

For Staff Culture – 7 Reasons the Best Employees Quit by INC

For Getting on the Same Page – Pastors, Parents Differ on Youth Ministry Goals by Barna

For Developing Trust – 5 Ways to Grow a Culture of Trust by JD Greear

For the Mission – Framework for Missional Christianity (11 Part Series) by Saturate & Alan Hirsch

For Guest Services – How to Lose a First Time Guest in 10 Minutes of Less by Carey Nieuwhof

Links of the Month (March 2017)

For Evangelism – Tim Keller Speaks at Google on The Gospel Coalition
 
For Understanding LGBT Issues – Mark Yarhouse’s Blog
 
For Leading Your Staff – 4x4x4 Coaching Process by Brian Jones
 
For the Next Generation – Time to Start Thinking about Gen Z? by Kindred Youth Ministry
 
For Your Library – Outreach’s Resources of the Year by Outreach Magazine
 
For Winning Over Parents – Top Five Ways to Win Over Parents by Youth Specialties
SITS_FACEBOOKFeatured Image: Summer In The Son 2017

Reframe (Part 2)

Instagram made a shift in the look of their app. Not only did they change the app look, but they also changed the color scheme surrounding pictures to give more focus to the picture itself. Essentially, they reframed all of a person’s pictures. Instead of a competing color scheme for a person’s attention, they muted the frame eliminating any competing color for a person’s eye. Now, reframing the picture makes the picture more vibrant. When we reframe our understanding of church and our Christian organizations around a kingdom mindset by seeking Christ, our churches and organizations become more vibrant.

As we begin to reframe our understanding of kingdom, our approach to ministry within the local church changes. Ministry no longer exists within the vacuum of programs within your church. A competing strategy is no longer developed with sections of the whole. When we learn to seek Christ and abide in Him, supernaturally, the effects of this relationship begin to change. We often do not know how to deal with ministry outside the confines of what we are taught and personally experienced.

Any organization feels the tension when shifting from operating as an isolated entity to one that collaborates and has to rely on others to share in the larger vision. Trust becomes essential. A common vision is non-negotiable. I am thoroughly convinced that as our culture shifts we must rely on Christian living with the mindset always putting God’s kingdom first. Trusting and applying this mindset are not alway shares with the same philosophy of how best to live in light of God’s rule and reign.

The Pharisees and disciples struggled with these very ideas when Jesus begin ministry. The disciples  moved down a pathway and joined Jesus. The Pharisees clung to what they knew and could tangibly control–their additional laws. The Pharisees had good intentions but fear ruled within them. Their fear gave birth to bitterness, contempt, and anger closing themselves off from what the Father was doing through Jesus.  

Within our changing culture, fear cannot and must not rule us. We have to begin serving others through a kingdom framework, instead of a withdrawn western church framework.Jesus shifted the centrality from the religious leader back to hearing and obeying God together. A kingdom framework challenges the modern day pastor to shift from the central role back to a servant and someone who equips others.  When we serve others well we can lead them. A kingdom framework shifts from a pastor central church back to a kingdom-centered church. Therefore, we can no longer “do church” or “do bible college” the way we have always done it. Operations must change and will change. Churches and Christian Universities are already moving to a kingdom framework. Contrast the two frameworks below:

Church Framework

  1. Gospel of Salvation: “I’ve been baptized or saved” “Heaven someday”
  2. Disciple: Church Member and “Doing” things for God
  3. Society: Indifference or disengagement
  4. Church: Building or Institution

Kingdom Framework

  1. Gospel of the Kingdom: “Here and Now” “Arrival of present reality”
  2. Disciple: “Being” a Son/Daughter of God, where we hear and obey
  3. Society: Domains – “Where you are” and “Reconciliation of all things”
  4. Church: Ecclesia – called out one and the family of God

Framing up a correct mindset will only come as we seek Christ together and take bold steps to bring the present reality of God’s goodness to others.

I believe that what God has in mind for the church was rooted in how Jesus established His church.We must consider how far the Western church has wandered from God’s original intention. Honestly, it is all in how you frame up the issue and approach day to day life in the kingdom. As we reframe, are we bold enough to make the shifts? Or, will we settle for what we know and can control?

Winds of Social Change

I am extremely thankful for these past several weeks. Already in my new position I have gathered much data and feedback from recent bible college graduates who are beginning a life in ministry or who have been in ministry now for several years. Sadly, some are struggling. Really struggling. Why? I’ve not dug deep into answers, but as we catch up, chat, and begin to discuss what we see God doing in the world around us, I’ve noticed something. The path they thought they would follow and discover is not what they found. Some have switched from several jobs. Some are out of ministry. Some cannot believe the dysfunction that exists within the churches they work in. Some are in great situations. Some are really seeing God move. Some are even experiencing what they had hoped for.

Wherever they are, or are not, it seems there is one constant. Ministry is changing. It looks different. It’s not as it once was. People are no longer showing up to the church. As it relates to my current position, churches are not seeing students to bible colleges any more. Honestly, this is confusing and a shocking to many who work in church and university leadership. They cannot fathom the disconnect. Often, blame is placed on the local churches for not sending. Or, churches blame the universities for not putting out ministers and preachers and abandoning the historic traditions. Sometimes churches blame culture or youth sports. The buck is always passed and blame is always shifted. History details that technology always improves and there is advancement. Progress is progress because it moves forward, not backward.

Here’s the reality: we live in a digital society. New media values are already ingrained into this new generation. It takes a minute for a three year old to figure out when they touch a tv why it won’t respond to their touch. Everything is a tap away on a computer, smartphone, or voice command. No one needs to show up to church to listen to a sermon anymore. It’s available via podcast. No one needs to attend bible college to get practical ministry tools and training. It’s available for free via YouTube. Available via the internet allows for innovation, experimentation, and participation. But, there is still need for churches and bible colleges even with all the present accessibility. However, because their is so much information, churches must transform and universities must transform. People want a church and university where they are participating members of a flexible community that has a deep abiding cause. In reality, isn’t that the hope and prayer of every human’s heart? Isn’t that why the church is so vitally important? It was originally designed as a flexible adapting loving transformative community with a deep cause and purpose.

Frank Underwood in House of Cards on Netflix is a captivating character. I find the show so riveting because he understands people; therefore, he knows how to manipulate them. Challenge them. Rule them. I don’t advocate for the methods or his reasoning. But, one thing I think his character understands more than anything is the culture, or at least he did. The new season specifically shows the tension between what was effective and what will be effective and how a digital age can either strengthen someone or cripple them. I suppose that’s what successful and effective politicians know how to do–take advantage of the cultural changes. They adapt. Look at today’s real life politicians. Trump is playing on people’s emotions. Sanders is playing on people’s dreams. Cruz is playing on people’s fears. Still, they are capturing the social winds and using them to their advantage. I have always found its easier to use sails to capture the power of the wind and harness the direction it blows, rather than row against it. Some politicians understand adapt and survive. Let’s hope the our churches and bible colleges start getting it too. Not for the sake of personal gain or as a result of fear. Instead, driven by a mission to effectively send transformed kingdom disciples into the world who can adapt to the winds of social and technological change for the sake of the gospel.

Practically speaking, missionaries adapt to their culture and context. They do not sacrifice the gospel. They simply indigenize, not compromise. They become one with their surrounding to communicate the most valuable truth to all–that the God of the universe is on a mission to rescue and renew all of creation, specifically mankind, through the person and work of Jesus. That’s the good news. Salvation. Restoration. Redemption. For individual people. For families. For communities. For this world.

“Good missionaries understand the culture they’re called to serve. If you’re reading this [blog post], you are called to serve a digital culture. This culture operates differently than the one you might have grown up in. It’s different from the one of just a few short years ago. This culture thinks, believes, buys, behaves, and speaks differently than any other culture you may be familiar with. This cannot be overstated. We need to rethink the way we interact with this digital culture. Sharing is a new way of life. There are no more one way streets. Everything is participatory. A new media culture is not content to sit idly by.” – Justin Wise, The Social Church

My hope and prayer is that the church no longer be reactionary, rather get ahead of the social change, or at least in stride. With no compromise of the gospel, but for its sake. Too much is at stake.