The Stewardship of Discipleship
II Timothy 2:2—And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
The authority and reality of Christ becomes clearly focused when we count the cost and make a choice. Our stewardship is to disciple the faithful who will teach others.
By grace, through faith, in worship and in warfare, you should now begin to identify those who are being faithful in attitude and actions. They are to be discipled, trained, and commissioned. This is where we begin to multiply shepherds. When I started ministry, discipleship was not emphasized, but I had a sense that new converts needed to be “followed up,” and in a short time, there was not enough of “me” to go around. I started discipling in random manner just to survive. Now it’s my way of life for ministry, and I find it delightful to watch the multiplication process take place. Making disciples is not a cookie-cutter process. Some grow faster than others. Different backgrounds will require varying approaches etc., but the principle is the same; that is, train the faithful in ministry that are suited for their personality and calling. If your ministry is to stay healthy, while you grow in numbers, then you must grow in good shepherds amongst the flock.
Any reviving can experience some “fall out” which can be discouraging to you and disheartening to those who watch. The timid ones as well as the skeptics may try to discredit what God is doing, but you can be strong in grace and commit to the faithful your philosophy and approach to ministry. Their growth and passion will be a securing factor for the long haul and lay to rest the fear of others. For the most part, I have found that the “net” result of revival in a local ministry is a faithful remnant who have had their awareness of the crucified life and the filling of the Spirit raised. They have counted the cost and made the choice to follow Jesus at any cost. With no hidden expectations, no personal agenda, and no double mindedness, they follow. They are rewarded with a growing reality in their relationship with Him which only serves to cause them to hunger for more. These deserve our priority attention. For years I tried to keep the unfaithful in church while neglecting those faithful ones who always stayed by the Lord. Multiply the faithful, and you will multiply your ministry.
There are many good resources today on how to do discipleship. You can research them and decide what approach best fits your situation. Just know that it’s God’s instruction to us and then get at it. There is no perfect, end-all method. Start doing life together and talk as you go along. Hands-on training coupled with Bible examination is great at any level, and there are many levels. Some disciples can hardly unpack John 3:16 while others are well advanced in information but simply lacking in application. You will have to sort out where you start and stop with each one. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and don’t be intimidated by those smarter than you. A great teacher makes the student think he knows more than the teacher.
Don’t forget that older teaching the younger is a very natural and effective way of commissioning the faithful and multiplying shepherds. Older, Spirit-filled believers who have weathered the storm of life make tremendous mentors. With the breakdown of the family, these folks provide surrogate dads and moms for the young who are raising their children. My dad’s advice to me has paid immeasurable dividends in ministry. He told me again and again, “Joe, respect your elders; you will be old someday.” I have heeded his advice, which is Scriptural, and have treated the older men as fathers and the older women as mothers. They have not only encouraged my life and family but have participated in ministry as well. It is my practice to give value to all ages which, in turn, opens their hearts to learning and growing. With this attitude on your part, you will discover the wisdom of the sage who has the freshness of youth. The key is discerning Spirit-filledness.
Paul was very bold to make this idea of the older teaching the younger a part of sound doctrine as well as a practical training dynamic which protects the Word of God from being blasphemed (Titus 2:1-5). The reviving life of Christ is well-served by these aging friends. This encouragement goes far deeper than slapping backs and goofy cliché talk. This is wisdom with “skin on,” reaching out in loving relationships. Your discipleship role here is to help each one to identify the gifts he or she owns that will well serve the younger part of the block. This will give them dignity and fresh purpose. You may have to craft a ministry vehicle to get them started.
Teach your congregation to live in a II Timothy 2:2 sandwich like Timothy. He was to be accountable to Paul and responsible for faithful men. If everyone will align themselves under a faithful person to whom they are accountable and pray to find God’s person for whom they are responsible, disciples will multiply exponentially. I love to watch it happen.
It may help us to observe the Lord’s sanctification process as He transformed Saul the terrorist into Paul the evangelist and church planter. It was not a straight line, nor a gentle slope upward. Every discipleship effort has some surprises. Notice these classic stages in Paul’s life on the road to becoming God’s apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).
Stage 1—Repentance and Faith (Acts 9:1-17)
First, there is a changed life. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin, and they both become the lifestyle of the Kingdom. Someone who is not willing to change cannot be discipled.
Stage 2—Enlightenment (Acts 9:17-18)
This is where the disciple learns about the One who made the change. Because Paul learned this so well up front, he was able to boldly say throughout his ministry, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Stage 3—Ministry Training (Acts 9:19-20)
This is basic involvement when the disciple observes and participates in a limited way with others in kingdom work. Various servant roles provide a good entry level for learning.
Stage 4—Leadership Development (Acts 9:21-22)
During this stage, participation in ministry becomes consistent, and leadership qualities and giftedness begin to surface. People around them begin to comment on the difference. This was especially true in Saul’s case (v. 21). Saul’s increased strength, his conviction about Christ coupled, and his reasoning mind made him a ready defender, confounding the Jews and proving that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ. This was happening without a lot of coaching from others. A good point to be made here is that when people are truly convicted by God and saved by God and are counting the cost of following God, and are hearing from God, they will increase with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). They are a joy to watch. Love, encourage, and protect them because the next stage may not be so easy.
Stage 5—Separation and Re-evaluation (Acts 9:23-31)
Leadership in God’s work demands time and testing to prove authenticity and breaking of the vessel. The making of a minister is like the making of a ministry. Both are branch-like, abiding in the Vine, to be purged by the husbandman Father (John 15:2). Saul was a “hot potato” and needed some time to find his balance. The Jews were trying to kill him (v. 23), and the disciples were afraid of him (v. 26). Barnabas became his advocate before the apostles (v. 27). While with the apostles in Jerusalem, he began disputing against the Grecians who in turn tried to slay him (v. 29). The brethren finally brought him down to Caesarea and sent him forth to Tarsus (v. 30). At this point, Paul disappeared from prominent ministry for several years, although he possibly founded some churches around Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21).
Depending on the circumstances, God knows how to move His disciple around for their ongoing growth and refinement.
Stage 6—Leadership in Ministry (Acts 11:25-26)
Here the leader leads. It is now time for the disciple-in-progress to practice the decisions he made in his time of testing. By now, he can teach from both knowledge and experience. He now relates with the attitude of brokenness and dependence.
Stage 7—World Vision (Acts 13:1-3)
This is now a maturity that is open to God’s sovereign placement. I love this moment described here. “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” (v. 2-3).
The reward of disciple-making is the call of God. Some are called to stay with us, and some are called to go elsewhere. Either way, we are multiplying ministry and building His church. Steward well. Like the apostle Paul, growing disciples often get their start within.