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iRelate - Making the Choice to Commit to Community - Week Three

Rod MacIlvaine 09/23/2012 (1239)

Making Disciples Is Essential to Community
2 Timothy 2:2

Announcement: Elmo Joseph's meeting is in E-5 both services. CR video. Talk about dates questions.

Introduction: This is week three in our series called iRelate. In this series we've been discussing why community is so vital to spiritual growth.

Over the past two weeks I've laid the foundation for this. ON WEEK ONE I argued that community is founded on the fact that we're made in the image of God; therefore, we're hardwired for relationships. We can't live without people in our lives.

AND THEN LAST WEEK I said that Jesus is our prime example for how to act in community. The relational style Jesus manifested during his ministry was that he was full of grace and truth. This combination of grace and truth allowed his followers to see God's glory.

We see that same dynamic today. When you enter grace/truth relationships with friends, you open the door to experience the supernatural in those relationships. God takes your grace/truth interactions, and he energizes them so that people experience God.

NOW THIS WEEK, I want to begin to apply what I've said so far. And I want to apply it first to one-on-one discipleship.

*****
I want to remind you about my story when it comes to discipleship, because my story is very typical of how God uses discipleship.

When I was in high school I struck out in my first opportunity to get discipled. I was a sophomore. The high school Campus Life director offered to disciple me. And something inside me wanted to say, "Yes." But I was unfamiliar with the religious terms he was using, and I didn't know exactly what he was talking about. So, he thought I was disinterested.

Later that year, we moved to Milwaukee, and I started hearing that term discipleship again. And this time, something clicked. It was as if the Lord said to me, "If someone offers to disciple you say, ‘Yes!'" Well…I didn't have long to wait.

The first week of classes my freshman year at Southern Methodist University, Pat Dillon, the director of Young Life offered to meet with me. He asked if I wanted to learn how to study the Bible and then teach a Bible study. This time I said, "Yes." And I ate it up.

After several months he issued a challenge. I want you to take what I've taught, and I want you and teach others. I pushed back, "Can't do it. I don't know enough." "Don't worry," he said, "all you need is to be one step ahead of the person you're discipling." So I gave it a try. And I was hooked. And truly, I felt the pleasure of God upon me as I began meeting with younger believers, helping them grow.

But by the end of my freshman year, I knew I wanted to be committed to multiplying my faith into the lives of others. In the years since then, I've noticed a consistent pattern.

This pattern is transcultural. It operates in a similar way in every culture around the world. And the pattern is this: Men and women who've been discipled have a common configuration of character qualities.

• For starters, they've personalized their faith. In addition to that…
• They know how to feed themselves from God's Word.
• They know their purpose in life, and they seek to fulfill it.
• They know how to spend time in the presence of God.
• They have a concrete vision for how grow their marriage and raise their kids.
• They want to be wise stewards of their finances.

Those qualities grew because one person offered help another person grow.

Do you need to be a superstar Christian in order to disciple someone else? Do you need to have arrived in your faith?

That's where we come to the supernatural component of discipleship. God has the power to take an imperfect disciplemaker and an imperfect new believer, and God can energize the process so that the result is greater than all the efforts invested.

Let me say that again: God has the power to take an imperfect disciplemaker and God energizes the process so the results are much greater than the efforts invested.

I know that doesn't happen 100% of the time. Paul good friend Demas had been faithful, but he Demas bailed on the Christian faith. So, there are exceptions! But the supernatural factor is so common in discipleship that it's a well-known pattern. Discipleship, generally, facilitates a transformation that goes way beyond the natural expectations of the process.

My purpose this morning is to encourage you to get in on this incredibly satisfying experience. If you will just take a step…a risk…to disciple a new believer, there is a strong potential for God to do way beyond what you might expect.

The primary passage we're going to look at today is 2 Timothy 1:15—2:2. And we're going to look at three things:

• The biblical motivation for discipleship.
• Your personal strategy for discipleship.
• And what happens when you meet with someone one on one.

Let's begin with motivation. Please turn to 2 Tim. 1:15.

1. MOTIVATION - Disciple-makers get motivated to do discipleship as they remember they're in a spiritual battle. 2 Tim. 1:15-18

A. While you're turning to 2 Timothy 1:15, let me refresh your memory about this book.

This is Paul's last letter. He's penning this letter from a Roman dungeon in the fall of 67 AD.

The letter is addressed to Paul's young associate Timothy who is ministering in the city of Ephesus.

In Paul's day, Ephesus had a population of 51,000, and was one of the 30 most prominent cities in the ancient word. It was also one of the darkest. The temple of Diana was there. It was one of the 7-wonders of the ancient world, and it made the city of hotbed of sensuality, spiritual warfare and occultism.

But Paul had used this city to train up a new generation of church planters who would plant churches all over the Anatolian Peninsula which we know today as modern Turkey. Most people believe that the 7-churches of revelation were likely planted through Paul's church-planter training school.

As Paul writes to Timothy, Paul knows he's about to die, and he has some very important things to say to Timothy. But the topic that gets first priority is personal discipleship. The book of 2 Timothy emphasizes the importance of pouring into people one-on-one.

And why is one-on-one discipleship so important?

B. We live in an environment where spiritual warfare makes it hard for new believers to grow.

Verse 15: "You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." That's a shocking statement!

You'll remember that in Acts 19:10 the situation was reversed. Acts 19:10 informs us that all who were in Asia heard the word of the Lord. Paul's equipping ministry to church planters in Ephesus was so powerful that God's word penetrated every major city in Asia Minor. The gospel was a movement spreading through the entire region.

But less than a decade later, Paul's name is mud. They can't stand him.

It's so bad that two men…men who were rock solid in the faith…even they deserted Paul: Their names were Phygelus and Hermogenes.

To feel the impact of this, pick out names of two leaders that you respect and insert their names into 2 Timothy 1:15 and you'll get the picture: "Even Kay Arthur and Beth Moore…even Billy Graham and Greg Laurie…even they've thrown in the towel."

Last week I called my daughter Sarah and told her I wanted to meet with a well-known leader in the U.K. next summer who is doing some great work north of London. Sarah got very serious. "Dad, he's left his wife. He's left his ministry. He's not even talking to his kids. No one knows where he is."

That news sent a shudder through my system. I resonated with what Timothy must've felt.

When the gospel is effective spiritual warfare ramps up, and there will be casualties. We need to take discipleship seriously.

Now Paul turns from the negative example to the positive example.

C. Paul now tells the story of Onesiphorus. (On*E*Sephoris)

While some are casualties of spiritual warfare; Onesiphorus is winning. Onesiphorus remains faithful.

Here's how Paul describes him in verse 16: "The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me."

Please notice Paul's literary strategy here. Paul first describes a big group falling away (all in Asia). Then he describes a smaller group falling away (Phygelus and Hermogenes). And now he describes a single believer not falling away.

This little literary device is intentional on Paul's part. Paul reminds us that there's always a remnant. There will always a minority of faithful believers who remain radical, even when others compromise.

People of the remnant are all over the world today.

• They're in every major city.
• They're in every persecuted country.
• They're in North Korea, Cuba and Colombia.
• We have people of the remnant here in Bartlesville.

These are the people who've said, "I don't care what happens! Come hell or high water, I'm sticking with Jesus no matter what."

Onesiphorus is part of the remnant. And Paul describes him as a spiritual warrior.

Verse 17: He "was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me." Look searching for a prisoner in the Mamertine prison where Paul was enchained was dangerous. If the authorities discovered you were visiting a prisoner in chains for treason, you too were suspected of treason.

Onesiphorus isn't phased by this at all. He's like a warrior engaged in an active search.

Onesiphorus is also like a spiritual warrior in the way he encourages Paul.

The Mamertine prison had no running water and no sanitation. Paul's body and clothes were filthy, stained by his own blood and grime. Nevertheless, Onesiphorus refreshes Paul. Can't you imagine Onesiphorus giving Paul a big bear hug? He didn't care about the filth. He's a warrior, and he's going to encourage his friend.

Discipleship is crucial because we're in a spiritual battle. New believers need what you have. They need the wisdom gleaned from your growth.

And you actively engaging in one-on-one, discipleship is a way that you, personally, fight and win spiritual battles.

D. Quick application: Do you believe you are in a spiritual battle right now in the year 2012?

Spiritual battles always exist on two levels: personal and cultural.

WE FACE A BATTLE IN OUR CULTURE IN A BIG WAY. In the past ten years, basic moral values have been openly rejected and ridiculed in mainstream culture.

• There are active efforts to reject sexual morality.

• There are active efforts to remove the name of God from our national cultural conversation…even national monuments.

• There are active efforts in our culture to reject the 10 Commandments as the intellectual foundation for law.

• Leading thinkers in our country seek to eradicate the very notion of natural law, even though it's a 3,000 year old tradition in philosophy. They do this because natural law implies an infinite personal God.

There are many people who would love for us have a society devoid of God at the public level.

And new believers desperately need to grasp the Judeo-Christian worldview as they grow in Christ. They need biblical perspectives on culture, life and morality. They need a wise disciplemaker as they face spiritual warfare.

WE ALSO FACE SPIRITUAL BATTLES ON THE PERSONAL LEVEL. The availability of addictive behaviors is quicker and easier than ever before.

With just a few clicks pornography, debt, gaming, illicit relationships in chat rooms all await. And it's super easy to fall into a web of bad habits that take you into very bad places.

When a person comes to Christ in this culture, the warfare grows. That warfare expresses itself in doubts, temptations, anxieties, trials, and out-and-out evil that spews from the enemy toward the new believer.

SO WHAT'S THE MOST LOVING THING YOU CAN DO FOR A YOUNGER BELIEVER IN THE MIDST OF THE BATTLE? Offer to come alongside that person with intent to disciple him or her into a deeper experience in Christ. That, in itself, is a form of spiritual warfare for you and for him.

So that's our motivation. Paul models a basic reality. We're in a battle! Now, let's look at the strategy.

2. STRATEGY - Disciple-makers multiply their influence through one-on-one meetings. 2 Timothy 2:1-2

A. The most effective discipleship takes place in one-on-one or in very small group meetings.

And these meetings can happen anywhere.

• They take place in coffee shops, and restaurants and over kitchen tables.

• They take place in living rooms, break-rooms and conference rooms.

• They take place in student centers at universities and small pods in jails. Any secular space can be transformed into an arena for discipleship.

Paul held a discipleship meeting at the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19. Paul held a very different sort of discipleship meeting in his own rented quarters in Acts 28.

Sometimes Paul's discipleship meetings were very spontaneous. Paul and Silas singing songs of praise in a jail was most definitely a discipleship event. Silas never forgot that…I promise you.

When you sit down with someone to begin a discipleship experience, it's probably going to be an ordinary public place. But God will sanctify that place with his presence.

But where do you start when you sit down to disciple someone? Look at 2 Timothy 2:1: "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

B. When you start discipling someone, you begin by seeking the filling of the Spirit.

PAUL SAYS, "BE STRONG IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST JESUS." Timothy would have notice that the wording in this command is identical to God's command in Joshua 1:6.

When God commissions Joshua to enter the Promised Land, God tells him that they're going to take the land through warfare. And God says, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them."

What did it mean to be strong? It meant go forth by faith in God's power. God is the one who is going to do this.

So we need the Spirit's power because God is the one who is going to make our way prosperous.

WE NEED THE SPIRIT'S POWER FOR ANOTHER REASON. God will leverage our meetings beyond what we intend. Here's a case in point: you might share the simplest thing with the person you're discipling. And they'll come back weeks later, or maybe months later, and they tell you, "Remember what you said, over coffee back then? That comment was so powerful! It changed my life."

Here's the ironic thing: You can't remember the comment. Or maybe you remember the comment, but the way they reported it back to you was different than you intended."

What's going on in times like that? God is supernaturally energizing the discipleship process so that it becomes effective in his hands. Just like Israel had to swing the sword for God to give victory…all you have to do is disciple someone in his power, and God will engineer his victory.

So the first thing you do is you pray for the fullness of the Spirit.

Then, here's the next thing you do.

C. You entrust God's word to the person you're discipling. 2:2

Paul says, "And [the things] you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses [these things] entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

We start with the verb entrust. This Greek word literally means to set something before someone, as when you cook a delicious meal and set it before a guest. At other times, it means to set financial resources before someone so that they can invest it. When Jesus was on the cross he used this term when he said, "Father, into your hands I set, or I commit, my spirit."

If you put these ideas together, a picture emerges. The word entrust means to set something of value before someone else as an act of love and service. And you do this with the hope they'll do something with it.

When Jared got married, I entrusted a good bit of my backpacking equipment to him. Some of my best times as a father were spent backpacking with my two boys. Jared loves doing this. He likes doing this with his new wife. And they live in a great place for it: the Pacific Northwest. So, I gave something of value to Jared with the hope that he'll use it for his benefit.

That's what we're doing in discipleship. We are setting God's word before another believer in the context of our relationship with him. We're doing it with the hope that they, then, will take God's word do something with it.

What specifically are we hoping they'll do with it?

• We want them to seize God's promises.
• We want them to accept the reality of their position in Christ.
• We want them to obey his commands.
• We want them to develop biblical convictions.
• And we're hoping that they'll go on an entrust God's word to someone else.

QUICK APPLICATION: One of the things this means is that we should proactively seek people to disciple.

I just want to ask you right now…do you have a vision for this?

Look, this is a basic command of the Christian life. Jesus told us, "Make disciples." Are you actively praying for someone that you could disciple? The way Jesus states this command in Matthew 28 is that you would be seeking people through the natural webs of relationships that flow through your life. This should be a high priority. In reality, this is basic Christianity.

I want to encourage you to ask God to impress on you someone that he'd like you to disciple.

Now, at this point, Paul gives us a vision for how this is to progress.

D. The vision is multiplication. Notice verse two again: "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."

I want you to notice there are four generations in this verse:

• Paul is generation number one.

When Paul came to the city of Lystra on his first missionary journey he led Timothy (along with his mother and grandmother) to Christ. Paul briefly follow Timothy up with some basic concepts of spiritual growth. Paul is generation number one.

Then we come to generation number two, and generation number two is Timothy.

• When Paul returned to the city of Lystra on his second missionary journey, he began teaching the new believers, and establishing elders for church.

One of the young men in his discipleship group was Timothy. As Paul taught, Timothy is hugely fired up. He's not only passionate about Christ, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to advance the cause of Christ. Timothy is the second generation.

• The third generation includes the "faithful men and women."

These are the people whom Timothy is going to disciple. And Paul is saying to Timothy, "Look Tim if you're going to take the time to invest God's word in someone's life, make sure that this person is going to be faithful with what you share and pass it on."

It's like running a relay race. In a relay race you have team members who each run a leg of the race, but you have to successfully pass the baton. And a huge part of training for the relay is skillfully passing the baton to the runner with speed and accuracy. If you drop the baton, you lose the race.

If you invest God's word in someone's life, you need to make sure they're going to take seriously passing the baton of discipleship on to someone else.

And that leads us to the fourth generation.

• Paul says, "Those who will be able to teach others also."

The essence of the faithful person is that he or she is one who will take what you share with them and share it with still another generation.

I love seeing second and third generation influence. When someone whom you have discipled turns around and then disciples someone else…it's a privilege that is amazing. And then, when that person disciples still someone else, you realize you're part of a movement that is way beyond you. It's then you realize that you're making an influence that's going to last on into eternity.

• Now I just want you to step back for a moment and see the broad sweep of Paul's vision.

His vision for Timothy (and for us) is a ministry of multiplication that stretches into eternity.
NOW LET ME SHOW YOU THE POWER OF MULTIPLICATION. Let's say you have two people with two ministry strategies. One is thinking about a ministry of addition. The other is thinking about a ministry of multiplication.
Mr. Addition decides he's going to reach the world through big numbers. So he says, "I'm going to start this new church growth ministry that's going to equip 10,000 churches per year to be more effective. I'm going to do this every year until every church in North America is equipped to reach the world, and then I'm going to start reaching churches in other continents.
Then Mr. Multiplication comes along. And he says to himself, "I want to reach the world too, but I'm going to take the 2 Timothy 2:2 approach." Mr. Multiplication leads one person to Christ each year, and he trains that person to lead someone else to Christ and disciple them in the faith.
Who is going to win the world fastest? You might be thinking, "No contest! Hands down, Mr. Addition!" Its sounds logical until you do the math. With the addition strategy, as impressive as it looks on the surface, it's going to take 600 years to reach the world, assuming a zero population-growth rate.
But since we're currently adding something like 135 million to the world's population each year, the followers of the addition strategy are never going to reach the finish line.
But look at Mr. Multiplication: he starts slow, but then there is explosive growth.
• After one year, there are only two disciples.
• At the end of the second year, four.
• Third year, there are eight followers of Jesus.
• Fourth year, 16 . . .
• However, by year 33, you could theoretically have more than 8.5 billion Christians.
Can you see the powerful potential of a ministry of multiplication, compared to one of addition? It starts with you just asking one person if you can meet with them for spiritual growth.
E. This is not the only place in the Bible where this one on one ministry is taught. This is the pattern.

LET'S THINK OF SOME EXAMPLES IN THE BIBLE.

• Moses and Joshua
• Elijah and Elisha
• Samuel and David
• David and Jonathan
• Jesus and the twelve
• Barnabas and Paul
• Barnabas and John Mark
• Peter and John Mark
• Paul and Silas
• Paul and Titus
• Paul and Timothy
• Paul and Luke
• The list could go on.

THIS IS ALSO THE PATTERN THROUGHOUT THE EARLY CHURCH.

• The apostle John disciples a man names Polycarp. He was the 2nd century leader of the church at Smyrna.

• Polycarp disciples a man by the name of Irenaeus. He's the leader of the church of Lug*DUN*um in what today is southern France.

• Fast forward a thousand years. The discipleship process continues. Martin Luther disciples Philip Melancthon. Melancthon disciples many other who fan out and spread the Protestant Reformation.

• Two hundred years after that John Wesley comes to America. Wesley has a very clear discipleship process based on holiness and the multiplication of small groups.

And Wesley discipled a huge group of followers including a man named Francis Asbury who disciples others.

AND I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT WHERE WE ARE TODAY WHEN IT COMES TO DISCIPLESHIP.

It used to be that Christianity was primarily centered in a main geographical location that changed from place to place. First it was Jerusalem, then Rome. Eventually the center was in London, then New York…then all over the U.S. In other words, the faith went from somewhere to somewhere else.

Not today! The Christian faith went from somewhere to everywhere! It has no geographic center because it's evenly dispersed around the globe. And it's multi-centric. How did this happen?

It happened through the power of multiplication-discipleship. One person sits down with another person and equips him or her for spiritual growth.

AS I'VE MENTIONED MANY TIMES, THIS VISION HAS PROFOUNDLY MARKED OUR FAMILY.

Both my daughters experienced discipleship in their respective colleges: Sarah at Baylor and Kristin at OSU. My son Jared experienced discipleship right here at Grace through Ken Dossett (On the Rock) Rob Nyhof and others, and then separately through the ministry of Celebrate Recovery.

Three of our four kids have taken their discipleship experience and passed it on. They're now involved in their own discipleship ministries. My daughter discipled my daughter-in-law for two years before Jared even met her.

This culture of discipleship has marked our family, because God in his goodness led them to the right people, to offer the right leadership, at the right time.

So let me recap: The motivation for discipleship comes when we remember we're in a spiritual battle. But the strategy for discipleship is multiplying our ministry in the Spirit's power.

Now, before I press on to the end, I want to say something very briefly about format. How do you structure a discipleship session?

3. FORMAT - The one thing I want to stress for just a moment is that good disciple-makers balance structure and flexibility.

A. This follows the example of Jesus; Jesus had both structure and flexibility.

LET'S THINK FIRST ABOUT THE STRUCTURE. Jesus' ministry seems to have had a high level of structure. He had 12 disciples. Those disciples followed the Old Testament leadership structure of the twelve tribes of Israel. That's structure!

Jesus also had another group of 70 disciples. Since there are seventy nations mentioned in the table of nations in Genesis, this number seventy suggests the gospel will extend to the Gentile world as well. Again, that's structure!

Jesus also had a parallel collection of women who were following him; that's clear from Luke 8:1-3. This structure was unprecedented in the ancient world, but it was structure nonetheless, and Jesus was very intentional about this.

Then there was structure within the structure. The twelve disicples are further divided up into three groups of four. We know this by comparing the various lists of disciples in the New Testament.

The point is that Jesus led a very structured ministry.

Jesus was also very structured in his teaching.

Jesus would introduce concepts, and guess what? He would repeat his sermons on various occasions. People didn't have podcasts back then, so Jesus had no problem with re-teaching the same things in slightly different ways so that people really got it. He had a plan.

NOW, WAS JESUS A SLAVE TO STRUCTURE? NO WAY! Jesus used structure. But the goal is life-change. Consequently, Jesus was flexible with the structure so that the real needs of the disciples could be met. Many times Jesus changed the structure for the purpose of the main goal which was changed lives.

B. When you pour into others, you also need flexibility. In other words, you need to balance structure and flexibility. Here's how you do that.

WHEN YOU APPROACH SOMEONE FOR DISCIPLESHIP PROPOSE A CLEAR STRUCTURE. For starters propose an end point. It might be eight weeks. It might be three months. Suggest a clear ending point so there's an exit clause if it doesn't work out.

And then, make sure your meetings are regular. Get them into your smartphone calendar. If every week is too intense, make it every other week. In my opinion, once a month is probably not often enough.

When you meet, follow a regular plan. Go through a discipleship study. Go through a book of the Bible. Or, go through a section of the Bible, like the Sermon on the Mount. You need to have a track to run on with some sort of biblical content.

Make sure you structure times for prayer. And it's really important that you prayer each other's family and friends…especially non-Christian friends.

SO YOU PROPOSE A CLEAR STRUCTURE, AND YOU USE THE STRUCTURE. BUT DON'T BE A SLAVE TO STRUCTURE. People you disciple will periodically encounter crises. That's to be expected. Life happens. Crises happen! Abandon the structure.

These times can actually be very strategic in personal discipleship. As they see your love and guidance in the midst of that crisis, it has the potential to leverage your spiritual leadership and make the Bible come alive.

C. Now, what happens as you are faithful, like Jesus, to balance structure and flexibility? You're going to (again) experience the supernatural factor.

FIRST, YOU ARE GOING TO EXPERIENCE THE JOY THAT COMES FROM DISCIPLESHIP. This is the joy that John captured in 1 John 4: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." That was my verse as a parent when my kids were in college. That's a verse that you can claim as a disciple-maker. God will give you supernatural joy as you see people progressing in the faith…people you are discipling.

AND SECONDLY, YOU'RE GOING TO EXPERIENCE SURPRISING RESULTS. From time-to-time you'll see the person you are discipling do things that go beyond the influence you provided. In other words, you'll see God leverage your influence so that the person you disciple does more than you and goes beyond you.

Are you ready for that?

Barnabas disicpled Paul way back when he was still named Saul. On their first missionary journey, Barnabas starts off as the leader, but not for long.

Paul exceeds Barnabas in his leadership and teaching, and does Barnabas get all huffy and jealous? No! Barnabas revels in the joy of being used beyond his abilities.

Here's the key: If you balance structure and flexibility in the Spirit's power, and you trust him to energize the process, he'll do it. And you will find great joy in the process.

Conclusion:

So how do we move forward from here? Let me give you three quick ways you can get started. Take a look at the materials in your update.

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