Discipleship—Multiplication: 2 Timothy 2.2

These days we’re thinking about discipleship—the business of following JESUS together. We’ve likened the discipleship journey to a pathway: Discipleship consists of people on a pathway and takes place when someone follows Jesus and takes someone else with him, or her. 

Having discussed, in recent weeks, the BEING of discipleship (gospel … God’s Word … our identity), we’re at last thinking about the DOING of discipleship. We’re asking questions like: Whom should you travel with on the discipleship pathway? What do you do in a discipleship-relationship? And how do you get started? 

Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 2.2: … and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Who are these people we’re to be traveling with as we follow Jesus together?

Everybody needs a Paul (1 Cor 4.15; 1 Tim 1.1-2). 

Paul wrote to Timothy: I Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith (1 Tim 1.1-2). He wrote again to the Corinthian believers: For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Cor 4.15).

Paul-like figures are those who are further along on the pathway of discipleship than we are. “Pauls” take us along when we’re young, in life maybe, but certainly in faith. They’re precious figures God provides to us. They’re hard to come by. We pray that we’ll recognize them, until God provides them. Sometimes, we have to ask them to mentor us.

Who is your “Paul”? Do you have someone like that in your life?

Everybody needs a Barnabas (Acts 11.25-26). Barnabases are those who are basically at the same place we are on the discipleship pathway. Acts 11 gives us a good picture of how this got started. The original Barnabas entered the life of the original Paul at a time when Paul (an original opponent of the Way of Jesus) still wasn’t trusted. After a great work of God in the Syrian city of Antioch, we read: So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him too Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people (Acts 11.256-26).

Notice that in Acts 11 Paul wasn’t “Paul” yet. He needed someone to come alongside him on the discipleship-pathway to encourage him—and that’s what Barnabas’ name happens to mean!

I’ve had “Barnabases” in my life. Guys with names like Jim and Jon and Mark; Stefan and Andy. These relationships were friendships, but more than that. These relationships always included the components of WORD … LIFE … and PRAYER. We looked at God’s Word together, often memorizing it. We went life-on-life, talking about how we were struggling to trust Jesus in the moment. And, we prayed with each other. These relationships sometimes involved meeting together formally, but often informally. They were always intentional. In the best way possible, we had an agenda for one  another. We wanted to see each other follow Jesus better!

Who is your Barnabas? Do you have someone in your life with whom you may share WORD … LIFE … and PRAYER?

Finally, everybody needs a Timothy (1 Cor 4.16-17). Timothies are those younger than us on the discipleship-pathway. Paul wrote, once again to the Corinthians: I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church (1 Cor 4.16-17).

Paul sent Timothy to the Corinthians to be a “Paul” for them. Timothy knew how Paul followed Jesus, and Timothy will teach the Corinthians to follow Jesus like Paul. Notice how multiplication will result. As Timothy has grown in the faith, he’s able to disciple others. These, in turn, will disciple others. God’s people will be built up and equipped for service (2 Tim 2.15; Eph 4.12).

Ideally, as we grow in the faith, we’ll have more and more “Timothies”. I’ve found that the ones serious about following Jesus always want more, and they tend to not be afraid to ask for a discipleship-relationship. They respond to the same components of WORD … LIFE … and PRAYER that I’ve found so fruitful with my “Barnabases”. And, they want to disciple others. These relationships, in turn, might be formal or informal, but they’ll certainly be life-on-life and take place in the daily business of life.

That’s what following Jesus together on the discipleship-pathway looks like.

Who’s your Timothy? Do you have one?

It’s been said that all heart change begins with awareness. Awareness in the business of following Jesus starts with our need to BE a disciples first. Then, it continues with our need to take others along. As we travel, we need those who are a little ahead of us, in following Jesus; we need those who are right beside us; and, we need those who are coming behind, but want to follow Jesus too. And, we need to be aware of our need to be in these relationships.

If you don’t have people like this in your life, would you at least commit to asking God to help you recognize them? Then, would you ask the people themselves to follow Jesus with you?

Everybody needs a Paul … everybody needs a Barnabas … everybody needs a Timothy. 

Here’s a few questions to consider with others:

  1. Who have been some “Pauls” you’ve followed Jesus with?
  2. How about “Barnabases”?
  3. And then, “Timothies”. How about them?
  4. What were the components of these relationships? How did you see the basic plan of WORD … LIFE … and PRAYER play out?
  5. Which of these persons to you most feel the need for in your life? Would you commit to ask the Lord to help you recognize people who might travel with you in these roles?

Have a great week in the LORD!

Discipleship—Identity: John 21.15-19

This week we’re continuing to think about discipleship, the business of following Jesus together. Along the way we’re considering the core convictions about GOSPEL … GOD’S WORD … OUR IDENTITY … and MULTIPLICATION that must grow for us to progress in our discipleship relationships.

Today’s thought on IDENTITY is a big one! To make a follower of JESUS you must first BE a follower of JESUS.

Simon Peter, the most colorful of all Jesus’ disciples, illustrates this truth in the Gospel of John. In seven passages that work like windows to the discipleship process, Peter moves from knowledge about Jesus (1.35-42), to commitment to Jesus (2.11; 6.66-69), to seeing his life shaped by Jesus (13.6-8, 14; 18.25-27; 20.1-10; 21.15-17).

Along the way, Peter will enter into Jesus’ mission, fail miserably to follow Jesus, but then be restored FIRST to Jesus Himself, THEN to Jesus’ mission. John 21.15-17 is the critical passage. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks Peter three times. “Feed my sheep … tend my lambs … follow me,” Jesus commands Peter in reaffirming and recommissioning him.

All this leaves us asking the very question Jesus asked Peter: DO I LOVE JESUS? It’s in loving Jesus first for His own sake that I’m made ready to take someone else along in following Jesus.

Get this thought right, and it’s a lights-out, mic-drop moment for each of us as we take seriously Jesus’ mission of bringing others along in our own Woodland culture of discipleship-relationships. Get it wrong, and we’ve taken our eyes from Jesus and endangered others meant to follow Him.

Here’s a few questions to share with others as we think about our IDENTITY as followers of Jesus:

  1. As we survey the career of the Apostle Peter in the passages above, where do we see Peter finally understand that he must first love Jesus before serving Jesus in Jesus’ mission?
  2. What might be the dangers of trying to take someone else along in a discipleship relationship without first loving and following Jesus yourself?
  3. Why is JESUS worth following anyway? Why not just remain respectably detached and make a good “religious” show of following Jesus for others to see?

Discipleship—God’s Word: 2 Timothy 2.15; 3.16-17; Romans 10.17

This week at Woodland we’re continuing our short series on discipleship.

Discipleship, as we’ve drawn up the picture, consists of people on a pathway and takes place when someone follows Jesus and takes someone else with her. And, along the way in our discipling relationships, we will grow in our core convictions about the gospel, God’s Word, our identity, and multiplication.

This week we’re thinking about how God shapes and forms His people by His Word in our disciple-making relationships. We’re asking the question: What is it about God’s Word that make the Word able to form and shape us in our discipling relationships? 

If you’re working through this with a group, you might want to take the four qualities listed below and look up the Scriptures includes. Then, give some thought to the questions at the bottom.

  1. God’s Word is BREATHED OUT by God: 2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 3.16; 1 Pet 1.23; Deut 8.3; Acts 20.32; 1 Thess 2.13; Jn 17.17; Heb 4.12.
  2. God’s Word is UNDERSTANDABLE: 2 Timothy 2.15; 1 Cor 2.14; Ps 19.7; 119.130; Ezra 7.10.
  3. God’s Word is USEFUL: 2 Timothy 3.16-17
  4. God’s Word is EFFECTIVE: Rm 10.17; Is 55.10-11

And, here some thought questions to talk about with others.

  1. How much time are you spending in God’s Word?
  2. What ways of Bible reading and study have been fruitful for you?
  3. How are you sharing God’s Word with other people?
  4. How do you feel about starting over?

*Special appreciation is offered to Mike Bullmore and his talks on discipleship at the EFCA Fall Pastor’s Conference, October 2019. While the message this Sunday is my own, the general contour of these messages and many of the Scriptures cited do reflect these talks that can be heard on Spotify at Forest Lakes District—EFCA.

Discipleship—Gospel: 1 Cor 15.3; Rm 1.16

There’s certain themes every healthy church comes back to, again and again. At Woodland you’ll hear us talk about the Gospel (every week, I hope). You’ll also hear us talk about the place of God’s Word, God’s plan of redemption (creation, fall, cross, consummation), the church as family, and our work as image-bearers in God’s world. You’ll also hear us talk about DISCIPLESHIP.

Discipleship is simply the business of following Jesus together. It’s arguably the main way we glorify God in the Christian life, and it takes place when somebody follows Jesus and takes somebody else with him or her. And, at the beginning of a new year, we need to revisit what this following Jesus together looks like. We need to go over again the core convictions about GOSPEL … GOD’S WORD … OUR IDENTITY …. AND DISCIPLING RELATIONSHIPS that make following Jesus together fruitful.

What the Gospel IS (1 Cor 15.3). In our life of discipleship together we need convictions about the Gospel. Generally speaking, the Gospel is all God’s work in Christ. It includes everything God the Father does through Jesus Christ, from His creation in the past through Jesus to the future rule of Christ. But, the heart of the Gospel is God’s work in Christ at the cross. Consider 1 Cor 15.3:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. 

Did you catch that? Can you count on one hand the words that describe what the Gospel is? CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS. Now, you can memorize that quickly, counting on your fingers maybe. But the challenge in our life together is going to be in how we think carefully about just how the Gospel works in our lives.

Tomorrow at Woodland there’s going to be a 75 pound metal disc on the platform. It’s a fly-wheel from a John Deer tractor, and it’s going to help us understand how the Gospel works in our life of discipleship together. This big metal disc transfers power from the engine to the rest of the vehicle. You can attach other things to it (like the drive-shaft). And, once it gets going, it has momentum, and it’s very hard to stop. In the same way, everything God does in our lives He does through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What the Gospel DOES (Rm 1.16). Consider Romans 1.16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first for the Jew then for the Gentile. 

First, the Gospel changes what I think. This happens when the power of the Gospel is hitched to GOSPEL TRUTHS that take their power from the Gospel. They’re truths that operate in the mind because of the Gospel, and they address our hopes, fears, dreams, and picture of reality that also exist in the mind.

Examples of how this works can be found in Romans 5.1; 8.1, 32; 15.13; and 1 Tim 1.10-11. Take Romans 8.1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What’s true, in this verse? That I’m in Christ Jesus, right? That’s the GOSPEL, the result of the work of Christ in Romans 8. Now, what else is true? That God deals with me according to His loving relationship with Jesus. That’s the TRUTH that Romans 8 hitches to the power of the Gospel.

My growth in the Christian life is largely dependent on my willingness and Spirit-led skill in making these connections. And, what is true of my thinking resulting form the Gospel is also true of my behavior. Examples of how the Gospel changes what I do can be found in 1 Cor 6.18-20; 2 Cor 8.7-9; Gal 2.14; Eph 4.32, 5.25; Phil 1.27; and Titus 2.1. So, in 1 Cor 6.19b:

… You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body

What’s true here? That we were bought with a price. There’s the Gospel, again. What ought to be true because that is true? That I need to glorify God in my body. That’s the Gospel BEHAVIOR that needs to be hitched to power of the Gospel, according to 1 Cor 6.

The Gospel is the power of God and central to following Jesus. And, while we’re learning to follow Jesus together all our thinking and behavior should increasingly flow our of the Gospel. And when we learn this God will start a disciple-making movement for His glory in our churches. It will be less like making snow, more like touching off an avalanche. Less like billowing smoke, more like a hot fire that burns cleanly. And, at the beginning of a busy year, we need to focus our thoughts and energies on disciples-making and the Gospel.


Here’s some questions that will help us measure our present effectiveness as disciples-makers with respect to the Gospel:

  1. How much time have you spent in thinking about how the Gospel actually works in our lives? (Have you ever read helpful contemporary authors like Tim Keller, Paul Tripp, or Jerry Bridges who work hard to apply the Gospel to life?)
  2. What other issues can you list that could be harnessed to the power of the Gospel?
  3. Who are you traveling with in an intentional, disciple-making relationship?

* While these message on discipleship are my own, I offer special appreciation to Mike Bullmore for his talks at the EFCA Forest Lakes District Pastor’s Conference, October 2019. Credit is given for the general contour of the messages, most of the Scripture examples chosen, and for the illustration of the fly-wheel.