Make a Disciple.
Topic: Topical Passage: 2 Timothy 2:2
I think it’s fair to say that every group of people, whether it be a small group like a family or a larger group like a church has its own unique culture. In other words, they have certain customs and expectations that are just assumed.
For example, every family has a culture of how they do dinner. Maybe they always eat at 5:30, and dinner begins with prayer. They pass the food around the table a particular way, and they always carry on a mellow form of conversation. For other families, it’s grab and go, and everything is casual. Regardless there’s a normal expectation, and everyone just follows a pattern without thinking.
They same is true in a church. Life Point has a culture of how we conduct our services, how we fellowship together, and what we do with each other throughout the week. And again, we probably don’t think about it all that much. We just do it.
As a result, culture is a powerful force. Therefore, it’s important, especially in the church, that we frequently evaluate our culture and make sure that it reflects biblical priorities. That’s what we are attempting to do with our theme for 2019, “Be a Disciple. Make a Disciple.”
Last Sunday I talked about the first aspect of the theme, “Be a Disciple.” You could sum up last Sunday’s message as being that Life Point needs to have a culture in which we expect Christians to grow into mature disciples. Of course we want to love everyone, but someone who isn’t growing should feel a tug at Life Point to pursue maturity, because we highly value maturity.
Today, I want to introduce the second part of our theme, “Make a Disciple.” And I want to challenge us that Life Point must build a culture of disciple making. In other words, when someone new starts to plug into our church, they should quickly sense that we expect our members to invest in each other for the purpose of growing each other into mature disciples. And I realize that’s a big statement, because you can only emphasize so many things enough that they become part of your DNA. But I believe that disciple making is that important. Again, Life Point must build a culture of disciple making. So why is disciple making so important? Notice first …
I. The Priority of Disciple Making
I believe the NT is clear that next to glorifying God, disciple making is the highest priority of the church. I say that because…
Jesus commanded disciple making (Matt 28:19–20). And it’s not just that he commanded it. It was the last command Jesus gave us before his ascension (read). It sort of gets lost in translation, but the only imperative in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.”
As a result, God says that the primary way we glorify him in this age is by making disciples. Our mission is to win people to Christ and to grow them into the kind of mature disciples we talked about last Sunday.
Therefore, God didn’t ultimately put Life Point here to be the biggest church in town or to have the prettiest building. He didn’t put us here to have fancy programs, elaborate church services, or a big bank account. No, he put us here to make disciples in Apple Valley, and to partner in making disciples all over our region, our nation, and the world.
Therefore, every member of Life Point should value disciple making, and each of us should give serious thought to how God wants me to be involved in this mission. But if you aren’t yet convinced or you aren’t sure what this looks like, notice that Jesus didn’t just command us to make disciples…
Jesus modeled disciple making. The Great Commission becomes even more compelling when you consider that Jesus was simply asking us to do what he had done throughout his ministry on earth.
Jesus did a lot of things. He taught large crowds, he healed the sick, and he obeyed the law. His most important work was to die for our sin and to rise again. But next to his death and resurrection, by far the most lasting impact Jesus had was through discipling his disciples.
Jesus began his ministry by choosing 12 disciples, and he invested heavily in them. He took them with him everywhere, he taught them the ways of God, he showed them a godly life, and he equipped them for ministry. Jesus was far more concerned with equipping these men to take up his mantle than he was in reaching the masses.
And we know from Acts and the epistles that these disciples went on to reach far more people than Jesus did. They reached tens of thousands with the gospel, wrote much of the NT and discipled many others who themselves made a massive impact.
And so disciple making was a major priority of Christ. But it’s worth adding that disciple making was also a high priority of the second most influential figure in the NT—Paul. Notice that…
Paul commanded disciple making (2 Tim 2:2). Like the Great Commission, 2 Timothy is Paul’s final charge, and notice the command he gives to his protégé, Timothy (read). Paul had invested a lot of time discipling Timothy, and now God commanded Timothy and all of us to take the discipleship we have received and pass it along to the next generation.
It’s worth emphasizing that the ultimate goal is not merely to pass along information. Timothy was responsible to bring his disciples to the place where they were themselves ready to disciple others. As I said last week, a mature disciple reproduces himself. He must teach others to the point that they that can teach themselves. I’ve heard it said that a good minister is always striving to work himself out of the job by training people behind him.
And so Paul is clear that the church must always maintain a vision for the future. It’s not enough that we have good ministers in place right now. Rather, we need to be zealous to disciple the next generation of children, teens, and young adults, who can carry on the work we are doing.
We should always be looking for the next generation of pastors, missionaries, deacons, women’s ministry leaders, and children’s workers. And it’s worth adding that like Jesus, Paul modeled this himself.
Paul modeled disciple making. Of course, Paul led a lot of people to Christ, but I have to think that most of his lasting impact on the churches he started came from his investment in leaders. Timothy was a prime example of this impact. But Paul modeled 2 Timothy 2:2 in many other people. He always traveled with a team so he could invest in others. In Acts 20, he meets with a group of pastors from Asia, and it’s clear that he has heavily invested in all of them. He loved these men, and they loved him.
So if discipleship was that important to Jesus and to Paul, it ought to be very important to us. Collectively, we need to conduct our ministries with a focus on training leaders. And then every Christian should be passionate about passing along what God has done in them. Don’t come to church every week just focused on soaking it up for your own sake. No, come with a focus to build connections so that you can invest in the lives of others. Embrace the passion of Christ for disciple making. Next, I want to consider more specifically what this looks like.
II. The Pattern of Disciple Making
I’d like to emphasize 3 characteristics of the NT pattern of disciple making.
Disciple making is life on life (Phil 3:17; 4:9; 1 Cor 11:1). I already point out how Jesus set the example in this regard. He spent countless hours with his disciples. He let them see every aspect of how he lived his life, and the normal course of life opened door after door for him to teach truth and to confront their sin and wrong assumptions.
Paul did the same. He reminded the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20 that he hadn’t just taught them “publicly,” but also “from house to house.” And so Paul didn’t merely stand behind the lectern, and do all his discipling in a classroom. And he didn’t just tell them what godliness and ministry is; he showed them. No, he lived among his disciples. His life, not just his words, had a major impact on those he discipled.
And based on this life on life pattern, he is able to give 3 very powerful commands in his epistles. Notice his invitation in Philippians 3:17. The Philippians knew Paul so well, that he could say, “follow my example” or “pattern.” He gives a similar charge in Philippians 4:9. Again, Paul invites them to follow the pattern they “saw” in Paul. And notice finally what he says in 1 Corinthians 11:1.
Again, it’s evident that Paul lived very closely with his disciples. They didn’t just hear him talk about loving God and neighbor, they saw it in how he prayed, how he studied, and how he served others.
And if you want to make disciples and to receive discipleship, it’s going to require that you live life on life with God’s people. You have to invest time and let people into your “safe space,” so that they can see how you live, what you love, and how you serve.
Therefore, get people into your home, because there is nowhere that the real you is clearer. Come to Bible studies, where you can discuss God’s Word and hear others discuss it. Ladies, WOW is a great setting for discipleship, and men the same is true of our men’s Bible study. Come on Sunday nights and rub shoulders with many of our core members. Sit in a circle and pray with them, because I don’t know of any place where life on life happens better than in a prayer circle. Get involved in ministry or come to work days, because those are great contexts to rub shoulders and build connections.
Folks, this setting is obviously very important. The preaching of God’s Word is the central task of the church, but if this is your only connection to Life Point, then you won’t make many disciples, and you will receive limited discipleship. Disciple making requires that we live life on life. Second…
Disciple making is intergenerational (Titus 2:3–5). In other words, the best discipleship doesn’t happen with peers, even though peer relationships are very important. Rather, the best discipleship happens across generational lines. This pattern is clearly in Titus 2:3–5. God says that older women are responsible to disciple younger women in godliness and in practical living.
This principle is everywhere in Scripture. Proverbs talks over and over about how a wise son listens to his father’s instruction. The implication is that wisdom is not just a matter of knowing a lot of stuff; it’s also involves recognizing what you don’t know and where to find it. Therefore, a wise person seeks out wise people so that he can glean from their wisdom.
I actually have a whole lesson I do on intergenerational discipleship, because it is so important but unnatural. This is because we naturally cling to people who are just like us. Kids want to be with kids, teens with teens, young moms with young moms, and seniors with seniors. It’s comfortable.
And again, we need peer relationships, because there’s a lot of value in having a friend who is right where you are. But peer relationships also tend to reinforce our own misconceptions, and they rarely stretch us like we need to be stretched.
Therefore, teens, if you want to be godly, you need to spend time with older adults. Young moms, that older lady who has raised 4 kids is going to help you a lot more than the other mom with whom you love to gripe. And seniors, if you don’t cultivate life on life relationships with younger people, you are disobeying the command of Titus 2:4. God didn’t give you years of wisdom to bury it in the attic or to sit back and criticize the next generation. And you may have retired from your job, but you will never retire from ministry. Be a good steward of everything God has taught you.
If we are going to be a disciple making church, we must actively resist the urge to cluster with peers. All of us need to intentionally move out of our comfort zone and work to relate with every generation. Third…
Disciple making is community based (Eph 4:11–13). I bring this one up, because people often make discipleship out to be a strictly one on one, formal relationship between a disciple maker and a disciple. So you are only a disciple maker if you are leading a disciple through a curriculum, and you are only being discipled if someone is intentionally doing that for you.
And certainly it’s great when those relationships happen, and Jesus and Paul had those kinds of relationship. But that’s not how most discipleship actually takes place (read). Paul is describing how the church grows into maturity, and he says very clearly that it’s a community project based on every believer fulfilling his or her role in the community. Some are teachers, some are encouragers, some are servants, and we all grow in maturity as each person fulfills his role.
I know that’s been true in my life. I’ve never had someone formally disciple me, but I have been deeply impacted by many preachers and teachers, and by hard working servants who mowed the church lawn, replaced the roof, and moved chairs. I’ve been challenged by prayer warriors and encouragers. They all discipled me without ever knowing that’s what they were doing. They just used their gifts and walked in sincere godliness.
That means that you are probably having a lot more impact than you realize, because there are lots of eyes on every one of us. We better make sure that we are setting a good pattern.
And if you want discipleship, then just plug in with the body. Watch people, ask questions, and listen to them pray and talk about the Lord. It’s often said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Nowhere should that be truer than in the church. But maybe all of this sounds great, but you aren’t sure you are equipped, or maybe you don’t know where to start. Let’s talk finally about…
III. The Possibility of Disciple Making
I’d like to offer five simple steps that any Christian can take to participate in making disciples. First…
Be godly and wise (1 Cor 11:1; Prov 27:17; 1 Pet 3:1-2). Did you know that your most valuable discipleship resource is your life? I know that I have been deeply impacted by many people who aren’t eloquent, charismatic or hip. They just love the Lord and love people. I also know that I’ve dismissed the talk of a lot of people, who don’t walk the walk.
Think again of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul’s life gave credibility to everything he said and also provided a concrete example of his teaching. May God help us to be able to say the same thing. I also love the simple truth of Proverbs 27:17. Do you want to sharpen others? Don’t be flimsy; grow into a strong piece of iron that sharpens other pieces of iron. And what’s so great about this is that any Christian can do it. You don’t have to have incredible gifts to set an example; you just have to be godly.
And it’s worth emphasizing that as you grow godliness and wisdom, you will earn the right for impact. I say that because I occasionally hear older people complain that no one comes to them for counsel or discipleship.
But usually it’s obvious why they don’t have disciples. Maybe they carry themselves with a stuffy pride. Maybe they can’t keep their mouth shut about private business. Maybe they are undisciplined in how they live. Their character flaws destroy the possibility for impact. If you want to make disciples, it all begins with cleaning up your own house and earning the right, not demanding it. Second…
Get involved with people. That’s what Jesus and Paul did, and that’s what you need to do too. I can about guarantee that if you pursue people with love and humility and you are open about God’s work in your life, you will very quickly start to hear about needs and opportunities. In fact, you may quickly have more discipleship opportunities than you can manage.
It’s not complicated. If you sit back with your arms crossed waiting for people to realize how much wisdom you have, your line will stay pretty short, and you probably won’t receive much ministry either. But if you aggressively go after people with love and grace, you will make an impact and you will be impacted. Third…
Love sacrificially (2 Cor 12:14–15; Prov 27:5–6). It needs to be said that significant discipleship usually gets sticky really fast, because people have problems and sometimes they don’t drink up everything you have to say as if it’s pure honey.
No, if you want to be a good disciple maker, you must embrace the sacrificial spirit of Paul (2 Cor 12:14–15). Disciple making like parenting, is wonderful and rewarding, but it’s mostly a lot of sweat and tears. And if you want to make disciples, you have to be ready for hard work and heartbreak.
But if you are willing to love sacrificially, God can use you greatly. I promise you that sacrificial love will take you a lot further than talent and charisma. If you stand with people through hard times and gladly spend yourself to serve, you will be a blessing.
And it’s important to add that loving sacrificially will probably require living Proverbs 27:5–6. If you just want to build a following, tell people what they want to hear. If you want to make disciples, get ready to tell people what they need to hear, and to have them not always appreciate it. Fourth…
See people for what they can become. One of the most important attributes of a disciple maker is that he doesn’t see people for who they are but for what they can become. That was so important when I did youth ministry. Very often my biggest junior high knucklehead would become my strongest leader by the time he was a senior.
If you want to make disciples, you have to believe in God’s power to mold people, and like Jesus, you can’t look at a Peter simply for his faults but for what he can become. And then by the grace of God, you have to labor patiently to see that process through.
And so I’d say to all of our children and teen workers and to all of our parents, don’t spend all of your time bemoaning the faults of your kids or of those you serve. No, with eyes of faith anticipate what they can become by the grace of God. Have a vision and pursue it.
And to narrow it in a little more, let’s have a vision for ministry potential. Who out there could become the next pastor of Life Point or the next deacon? Who could become a phenomenal children’s worker? Who could learn to minister mightily through hospitality and encouragement? Have a vision for potential. Fifth…
Pray for laborers (Matt 9:37–38). It ought to grab our attention that when Jesus sees the need his first response is not get busy or to plan but to pray to “the Lord of the harvest.” And we better not miss this step. The work of the church is a deeply spiritual work that involves spiritual forces far beyond any of us. But praise the Lord that we serve “the Lord of the harvest.”
So let’s make sure that we pray to him and pray to him often. Let’s pray that Life Point would grow a culture of disciple making, and let’s pray that God would raise up godly Christians among us who would take his work far beyond our wildest dreams. Let’s do that right now.
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