Making an eternal investment that keeps on giving
This is exactly what I think investing in multigenerational discipleship is, an eternal investment that keeps on giving. Discipleship is a life-style of obedience as we follow Christ completely and influence others to develop and impact others who are repeating the process. Jesus saw the multiplication of disciples as His strategy for changing the world.
Over thirty years ago at the Baptist Camp in La Tuna, Uruguay I watched a fellow missionary, Dr. Jimmy Bartley plant pecan trees. They were just sticks in my mind. I wondered why he placed them so far apart. Through the years I would see him prune, graft and nourish the trees. Now they are giving harvests of pecans annually and provide awesome shade for the camp goers. I thought many times, as I visited the camp through the years how important it is to have a vision for growth that looks to the future. This principle is even more important as we choose to invest in disciples who continue to pour themselves into others. We must see future generations of disciples being developed, nurtured and sent out to impact their world.
Do you have a spiritual family tree? How many branches? Barnabas knew the importance of nurturing in the discipleship process. He saw the potential in Saul, that others did not see. Saul later became Paul the missionary. In Acts 9, and 11 we see how Barnabas invested in training and modeling for Paul, who later wrote to his disciple Timothy. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2”2 NASV. This verse shows us that disciple making extends into on going generations of learners and followers of Jesus.
Dr. Waylon Moore, a seasoned pastor and author on discipleship, as well as a former International Mission Board trustee asked me once, “Ron, what is the most important verse in the Bible?” Naturally, I had never really thought of trying to drill down to one verse. John 3:16, the gospel in miniature was the first response. But he challenged me, again. I thought some more and said 2 Timothy 2:2 “Why did you choose this verse?” was his response. I shared with him that, Paul’s challenge to his disciple Timothy, was a lifestyle principle that had become a core value in my life, family and ministry. I shared that “the multi-generational disciple making in this verse guarantees that future generations will have a chance to hear and multiply the Gospel because the Great Commission is being lived out.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Ten Important Discoveries in my own disciple making journey are:
- Seeing the potential in future generations while investing in the current one
- Let the disciple begin to pass on what they are learning as they learn it,
- Start where the disciple is, not where you think he/she should be.
- Learning that multiplication means creating a culture of discipleship
- Show the disciple how something is done, not just teach them how to do it
- Disciple making is not a cookie cutter mentality or process. People are different and the pace and method of discipleship needs to be adapted to the disciple.
- Cultivating reproducible relationships can be messy and meaningful at the same time
- One of the best ways to grow as a disciple is learning to disciple someone else at the same time. You learn to seek out counsel from the one disciplining you, so you know best how to influence your own disciple.
- Discipleship is not only about learning, it is about following Christ completely
- Encourage disciples to have a Paul, (a mentor); a Barnabas (an encourager)
and a Timothy (Disciple) in their lives
One of the challenges to multi-generational discipleship making was when I was shown an outline of someone’s discipleship chain of 44 individuals mentioned by name. These were disciples who were continuing to multiply. Wow, that is a vibrant, multiplying, fruitful Spiritual Family Tree!
One time in the Summer Olympics, the 440 USA relay team, dropped the baton, between the third and fourth runners. There was tremendous disappointment for the runners and the nation. The runners had huge potential, they were awesome champions in other events, but by not passing the baton they were disqualified. Our responsibility is to pass the baton of disciple making to future generations. We cannot fail, the consequences are too severe. Don’t drop the baton when it comes to making disciples. The next generation is depending on us and waiting for our example of running a race that passes the discipleship “baton” off successfully.