Tag Archives: timothy

Discipleship Myth: Age = Ability

This could and might come across like an arrogant young guy (which I can be), but as I have read the scriptures, listened to some consistent complaints, I can’t help but wonder if we are forming our theology of discipleship around scriptural principles or personal preference.  I also want to be quick to say that I value the wisdom of those with more life experience.

I desperately need it and if there were more older men and women who were discipling in the church, my assumption is that we would be better off.  We desperately need men and women who are older to remind us of the truth of God, to disciple us through their wisdom, and continue to guide us with their advice. I absolutely believe that multiple generations of God-centered people in community with one another truly embody God’s design of the body of Christ.

I’ve heard this complaint so many times that we can’t really have discipleship happening because we lack older men and women to do it. It also seems impossible to avoid in church planting circles when the average age seems to be early to mid-30s. Not exactly seasoned veterans right?

It seems that people have an idolatry of the aged thinking that an individual must be above a certain age to be listened to, to be followed. The scriptures and church history tell us another story. Psalm 119 declares that observing the precepts and scriptures of God makes one wiser than the aged. John Calvin, who is arguably one of the best teachers in church history, was 27 when he wrote his Institutes. Martin Luther was 34 when he nailed the Ninety-Five Thesis to the front of the Cathedral. Charles Spurgeon started preaching the largest Baptist church in London at 20. It wasn’t their age that qualified them for leadership in the church nor was it their age that disqualified them.

Are we looking for the wrong things when it comes to who can or should disciple us?

Again, there is nothing wrong with seeking the wisdom of older men and women. In fact, it is greatly needed, but to claim that a church is lacking discipleship because of lack of these older men and women is incorrect. It’s a myth.

So what should we look for in someone to disciple us?

Follow Christ-Like Character at any age

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he anticipates the pushback that Timothy will give him about stepping into leadership. Timothy knows his age will be a question mark, but Paul’s charge to him in 1 Timothy 4 is to not let anyone look down on his age, but in all areas to set a Christ-like example.

When the same letter from Paul asks Timothy (a young guy remember) to appoint elders and deacons the bulk of the criteria is character that displays Christ to the world. In discipleship, we aren’t merely looking for people with more years than us; we’re looking for people with godly character and wisdom from the scriptures.

Follow Sound Teaching & Life Combined

In addition to character, Paul turns Timothy’s attention to his doctrine as well for a reason for leadership. If the word of God is truly the authority for the Christian, than discipleship is a leader who teaches the truths of the word of God and not merely worldly wisdom and advice. It doesn’t neglect wisdom and advice, but its emphasis is on sound theology.

Why is this?

Theology and behavior are forever linked. When we understand who God is and what He values, we learn what we should value. The scriptures also indicate that until we love God and His ways, we won’t live for them; if God captures our attention, our lives will be shaped by His will and His ways.

Follow Someone Who Recognizes and Repents of Their Sin

Discipleship that involves life and doctrine will inevitable reveal where the leader is falling short in one of these categories. As I was discipled, I learned a lot of doctrine, but I can attest to being most impacted by the humility of those who have led me to acknowledge the areas of their life where God is asking them to repent and change.

My aim in discipling other men is to model for them this idea. Truth learned is essential and valuable, but truth applied in repentance is worth following because it points to Christ as the only perfect one.

Discipleship Implications

This has massive implications for discipleship.

The value a single man or young married brings to the table for an older father can be immense if his character is embodying godliness. The authority that younger and older men or women stand on is their life experience (which varies) but on the Word of God (which doesn’t vary).

This will force us to confront the preference of learning from someone in or above our life stage. This is hard for us, but it is good for us to acknowledge that it’s hard for us to learn from those younger, but we need it since we are unable to be right in every circumstance.  They may not be able to help us in a specific situation we face, but they may be most valuable in pointing us to the truth that ultimately guides that specific situation.

The gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God have the ability to make one wiser than the aged. If we believe the word of God, then we have to deal with discipleship myths that don’t match up with scripture and embrace God’s ideas over our own.

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Discipleship Myth: You should always have a Paul

I remember being taught about discipleship in the church during college. I was told “You should always have a Paul in your life, you should always have a Timothy, and you should always have peers alongside of you.”

The intent was good. It was building on Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 “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.”

The idea sounds great. You always have someone investing in you, you are always investing in someone else and the process repeats. But what happens when there’s not a Paul in your life? Do you wait for one to come around or do you keep investing in the Timothys of the world while you wait?

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this in regards to creating a discipleship culture in a community of Christ-followers. If it’s the mission of the church to develop disciples of Christ, it’s essential we understand the nature of discipleship.

Timothy Didn’t Always Have Paul

Timothy was discipled by Paul and then commissioned to develop elders and create a discipleship culture. But Paul wasn’t always in close proximity to Timothy.

Timothy had letters from Paul, he didn’t even have Skype-Coaching Paul. He was invested in for a time, but then it was his turn. That can be scary so Paul’s letters are incredibly encouraging to him to live out his calling with confidence in God’s work in him through the gospel.

Timothy had Paul as a loving consultant reminding him of his calling and guiding him toward right action, but he wasn’t present consistently investing in Timothy on a weekly basis going through Grudem’s Systematic Theology and asking about his sin. There were surely men that challenged him, held him accountable, but he did not always have a Paul present.

The Need to Be Discipled

This does not neglect the reality that we need to be discipled and discipling. We need more men and women who are pursuing Christ and investing their doctrine and their lives into other men and women.

But our discipleship begins at conversion in being discipled through the scriptures. If we make it our aim to be intimate in knowledge with the God of the bible, we are already being discipled by God. The example of Paul’s own discipleship from Barnabas or Apollos discipleship from Priscilla and Aquila was of men giving themselves to the knowledge of and mission of God. Then they were invited into relationships to gain a more accurate representation of Christ to the world.

This type of discipleship is Jesus’ method of discipleship. Reaching the many by spending time with the few and letting the few replicate the process. We have the great opportunity of recapturing Jesus’ vision for ministry through discipleship instead of programs. It will take longer to implement starting with a few, but it will always get better results than mass discipleship.

The Danger of Always Wanting Paul

But we must always be careful to guard ourselves from demanding a Paul in our lives. There will be a time when discipleship happens if we pursue the Lord, but after we have had that period of discipleship under a Paul-type figure, there is danger in looking for the next Paul in our lives.

This danger will lead you to bitterness toward those you place expectations on to be the Paul in your life. This type of self-righteousness declares that people don’t understand their responsibility to invest in people (me) and is always looking for someone else to teach them how to live.

All of us must eventually become big kids and stop being little kids waiting for the big brother to show us the way. This is what God has been impressing upon me. There comes a time when you’ve been invested in and sent, when it’s your turn to be the big kid, figure out some of your life challenges on your own and stop demanding that there be a Paul to show you the way.

We have to step away from discipleship myths that sound wise, but are foolish in application. We must look to Christ as our primary discipler through the work of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures, then trust that God has brought a community of Christ followers to teach us, whether young in their faith or seasoned.

We don’t move on from being learners, but eventually we must step into the discipler role. Jesus promises to always be with His disciples, but that doesn’t stop Him from sending them to be His disciplers of all peoples.

Let’s become a community of Christ followers who understand a disciple is also a disciple-maker.

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