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The Timothy principle

To disciple, you have to do life together. In fact, as you journey through life, it’s usually a good idea to bring along those whom you’re discipling.   J. Lee Grady wrote about this in his article “the Timothy Principle.” Here’s an excerpt: Nothing thrills me more than challen…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
To disciple, you have to do life together. In fact, as you journey through life, it’s usually a good idea to bring along those whom you’re discipling.
J. Lee Grady wrote about this in his article “the Timothy Principle.” Here’s an excerpt:

thrills me more than challenging young leaders by taking them on the
mission field. I’ve done this in Nigeria, Ukraine, India, Peru, Bolivia,
South Africa and other places. It’s not always convenient to share a
bathroom or double the travel costs, but the reward comes when I see how
much the experience stretches their faith and accelerates their
spiritual growth.

It’s what many call the Timothy Principle, and it’s found in Paul’s words to his spiritual son in 2 Timothy 2:2:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many
witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach
others also.”

Paul discovered long ago that the most effective
way to expand the reach of the gospel was to invest deliberately and
personally in younger disciples. Although he preached to crowds, he
always traveled with a small team. He wasn’t a one-man show. He shared
his life with people such as Timothy, Silas, Phoebe, Lydia, Luke,
Priscilla and Aquilla-and they became spiritual giants. We would be wise
to reclaim this forgotten art of personal discipleship.

Here are four guidelines I’ve developed for effectively training the next generation:

Get on the same level.
Any real spiritual father (or mother) will invite his
disciples to get on his level and learn both the practical and spiritual
sides of ministry.

Be a genuine friend. Young
leaders today don’t just want to listen to a pastor’s sermons or wait
outside an office door until he asks them to bring him a cup of coffee.
They crave real relationships with humble, accessible men and women of
God who can model authentic Christianity. That requires plenty of
one-on-one communication. You must invite younger leaders into your life
and let them get up close and personal.

Offer plenty of ministry opportunities.
Before I arrived in Colombia last week, I let my hosts know that Jason
was available to speak in churches and youth meetings. Even though they
had invited me to speak at a conference, I wanted Jason to be stretched
in his faith. He ended up leading several powerful meetings with youth
in the city.

We won’t effectively
raise up younger leaders if we only allow them to carry our briefcases
or work at our book tables. They have to do the real stuff! I was so
proud of Jason when he called several people to the front of the church
and offered anointed prophetic encouragement. The Colombians loved him,
and the youth who had been in his meetings lined up to hug him when we
left. In the end, Jason realized that he was a ministry partner with me,
not just a trainee.

Impart your life. Young
leaders today need to become effective communicators, and they must
learn how to flow in the Holy Spirit’s power. But we can’t just give
them a dry, mechanical education. We have to follow the apostle Paul’s
model. He told the Thessalonians: “Having so fond an affection for you,
we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but
also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).

requires sacrifice and genuine love. And it focuses on individuals. As
much as I enjoy speaking to crowds, I have learned that often the most
effective ministry in the kingdom of God is to the one, not the

Comments (5)

  • Thanks again Seth for a great reminder of the generational effects of one-on-one personal discipelship…reading through John 4 this week I have been reminded as well to take joy in being both the sower and the reaper or the harvest. Sometimes we play the role of sower and do not see the harvest being reaped in the life of a disciple…other times we are the reaper. I’ve been both…and admittedly have been tired in times of being ‘just’ the sower…but I rejoice this morning as I let go of the weariness and rejoice in being one chosen to be His ambassador and am strengthend again to press on. Thanks for your ministry Seth.

  • Thanks Seth…This principle has been a distinctive for AIM these many years. I’m appreciating a handful of people I’m mentoring now and find it keeps me sharper.

  • I LOVE mentoring younger followers to become spiritual leaders of tomorrow!
    It is my life’s joy! Nothing, nothing, nothing compares to it on this earth, as far as I’m concerned!

    Yes, yes, yes…Paul and Timothy were perfect examples of this synergetic relationship between young and old, in the spiritual realm. And, one of the keys to the success of such a cross-generational relationship, I have found, is to be open and receptive to mentoring from the younger, less mature, one!

    I’m talking young people four or more decades younger than me. I will never be too old to learn something from a 15- or 20-year old! Whee-hoo!

    As you can tell, I am joyous today on 10-10-10!

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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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