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:
- Who have been some “Pauls” you’ve followed Jesus with?
- How about “Barnabases”?
- And then, “Timothies”. How about them?
- What were the components of these relationships? How did you see the basic plan of WORD … LIFE … and PRAYER play out?
- 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!