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The Key to Turbo-Charging Your Discipleship Efforts

As I debriefed 2016 with a friend, we reviewed one of our greatest disappointments. We sent a team off with high expectations. For a while they thrived, but then, as the year wore on and the pressure came, they buckled and ended poorly. We were left to ask “why?” And I came back to the example o…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

As I debriefed 2016 with a friend, we reviewed one of our greatest disappointments. We sent a team off with high expectations. For a while they thrived, but then, as the year wore on and the pressure came, they buckled and ended poorly.

We were left to ask “why?” And I came back to the example of Paul and what he said to his son in the Lord, Timothy.

I can relate to Paul. He spent half his life getting it wrong. The last half his life he imitated Jesus and discipled a few people. And along the way he learned a discipleship secret that he shared with Timothy.

Here it is: Paul invested in his disciples until they became reliable. Then he pressure-tested for reliability to see if his discipleship had taken root.

Then he invested in a few of them until they became sons. And then he invested in those sons until they could stand in for him as Timothy did.

That’s it. Not a seeker-sensitive church or a better worship band or some tech solution. Just a focus on getting disciples to a place of deep relationship and dependability. 

As Paul neared the end of his life, he wrote letters to Timothy giving him counsel. I’m posting this blog post today on 2/2/2017 in honor of this secret Paul shares in 2 Tim. 2:2. “The things you have heard me say…entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

We see that there are four levels of disciples: Paul, Timothy, reliable people, and others. We all start as untested new believers. Many drop out and don’t graduate to the next level: reliability. And most reliable disciples never make it to the kind of deep partnership that looks like a father working with his son. That’s what Paul and Timothy had.

Reliability in what? The next chapter of Paul’s letter to Timothy tells us: It’s reliability under pressure – especially the pressure of persecutions and sufferings. He says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
 
Paul goes on to tell Timothy how to disciple. “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
 
Read the last part of 2 Tim. 4 and you’ll get a picture of how Paul did this. He has his disciples scattered around the Mediterranean and is giving them instructions. Some buckled under the pressure and others proved themselves dependable and carried on the work.
 
2 Tim. 4:6-7 contains his final words to his spiritual son. “the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,” he says.
 
In his valedictory speech, he’s saying, “this is how I discipled you – keep on passing on what I gave you.”
 
Most of us don’t want to get too far out of comfort zones, so our reliability may not ever get much of a pressure test. But this was an essential part of Paul’s secret. 
 
Look first for dependable people. Consistent people. Lead them until they become mature and are able to fight the good fight and run their own race.
 
How dependable are you and I? Have we been pressure-tested? If so, how did we respond? 
 
It’s not too late. Maybe you’ve been swimming in the safe but shallow end of the pool for much of your life. You were made for more. Jesus is calling us out into the deep.
 
It’s enough to show up as a reliable life-giver to a few others and see if God doesn’t take you from there into deeper waters. I promise you – that’s where you’ll begin to experience more of the abundant life Jesus promised his disciples.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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