Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 1-4.
“The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.” ― Kevin DeYoung
There is a growing movement in churches today, an imperative which has been ignored too long. While focusing on numbers and decisions we neglected the thrust of Jesus’ ministry – discipleship. We have built churches which are often devoid of discipleship. If instead we had been disciplers, there would have been no lack of growing churches. Paul summed up the essence of discipleship when he described how it stretched across four generations of believers:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
You (generation two) heard me (generation one) and told reliable men (generation three) who will teach others (generation four). The process involved isn’t limited to witnessing or helping the lost make decisions. Discipling takes a believer, at any stage in his growth, and shepherds him or her through a continuing process of learning and doing until they are qualified to do the same for another believer. Jesus was the master discipler, and his success was shown by the rapid growth of the church. After Jesus’ death there were only 120 believers, but within weeks the number had grown to thousands and it has never looked back. Jesus spent a small amount of time teaching large crowds, but the vast majority of his time was engaged in discipling a small number of people, and three men received even greater attention. This is the pattern that God wants us to follow so that we can maximize our impact on the world.
My pastor, Brandon Ware of Green Street Baptist Church, recently shared Jim Putnam’s definition of a disciple.
- A disciple is one who knows and follows Christ.
- A disciple is one who is being changed by Christ.
- A disciple is one who is on mission with Christ.
Jesus gave the command for discipling in his Great Commission.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Teaching the doctrines of Christianity is a key part of discipleship, but it can’t stop there. That Greek model of teaching creates students full of head knowledge who won’t necessarily live out what they learn. Instead we need the Jewish model which Jesus used. Those who are truly discipled learn by living with their teacher, observing him in action, doing what he does with his assistance, then doing it independently. It is very much like the method we used in medical school to learn procedures. Each student would “see one, do one, then teach one.”
What would it look like in the local church if spiritually mature men and women began doing what Jesus did by finding two or three others and intentionally investing in their life by providing support and accountability? Spiritually mature men ought to be investing into other men, and spiritually mature women ought to be investing in other women. Through such a relationship, disciples can be taught how to pray, how to study God’s Word, how to share the gospel, how to give, and what it means to follow Jesus. This is a simple process of how we can make disciples who repeat the process in the lives of others. It was this process that turned the world upside down. – Brandon Ware
In order to fully carry out the command of the Great Commission, we must understand a crucial term in this verse. The King James Version of the Bible renders the Greek word for make disciples as teach. Matthew 28:19 in the King James Version reads, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” Many diligent believers simply read this word and merely teach people about salvation—share the gospel and lead them to a decision for Christ. This is good and admirable, but it is not enough: more is required to make a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is only one aspect of Jesus’ command. Making disciples requires equipping, training, and investing in believers. So what is discipleship? We could say that it is “intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.” In other words, a disciple learns what Jesus said and lives out what Jesus did (Matthew 28:19). – Robby Gallaty
Image, “Christ with two disciples,” by Rembrandt