Publication:Pastoral Letter,June 2017
I pray you are having a great Summer thus far! Whatever time or season we are in, I’m thankful for God’s Sovereign grace and the leadership of His Holy Spirit, and also for your friendship to this ministry.
You are unique; the Lord Himself created you with specific gifts for specific purpose. But I want to give a word this month about something that all of us as followers of Jesus share in common. We will look at several Scriptures, and I pray that you will be encouraged and inspired.
One of the blessings of being a believer in God and His Word is the understanding that we are born for a reason. No one is an “accident”. Psalm 139 is a beautiful picture of how the Creator of the universe personally formed each one of us in the womb; He knew us before the dawn of time, and we are “wonderfully made”.
Therefore, one of the most important questions we can ask is, “Why?” An oft-quoted note from author Mark Twain puts it so well:
The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day when you find out why. The day you plant your feet into this world, and the day you find out why you should use them to walk, and maybe—walk far. These are two of the four milestones of your life, they are the most important of the four because the others can’t happen without them, and every day in between is just about learning and building yourself up to these.
The other two milestones are farther down; the third milestone is the day you accomplish your why, and the fourth when you help someone else find theirs.
I do not know if Mark Twain had the apostle Paul in mind when he wrote these thoughts, but I think Paul would certainly appreciate what Twain said. These were principles that operated in Paul’s life and moved him; it was his passion to fulfill God’s call on his own life and to equip and encourage others to do the same.
PAUL AND TIMOTHY
One of Paul’s sons in the Lord was Timothy. The Lord connected them and Paul invested his life, wisdom, care, and resources into raising up Timothy as a strong, godly young man. It would be worth reading both of Paul’s letters to Timothy in their entirety, but I want to focus on just one brief passage.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. (2 Timothy 2:1-7).
In this short note, we see several truths in action. First, we see four generations of spiritual family:
- Paul, apostolic father
- Timothy, his spiritual son
- Timothy’s disciples
- Their disciples
We see that the reason and the power for discipleship comes from the grace that is in Christ Jesus. We see that the goal of discipleship is to make disciples who can make disciples who can make disciples of Jesus. As Paul notes, discipleship is not easy; it requires work and sacrifice on behalf of the disciple and the one who is doing the discipling.
I believe there are some specific functional differences between pastoring and discipling, though, of course, there are certainly areas that overlap as well. Pastoring is an ongoing care function: feeding, nurturing, leading, protecting, challenging, pruning, disciplining, vision casting, shepherding, and loving commitment in good times and in bad. A particular individual pastoral relationship may be for a season or it may be for a lifetime.
GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES
Discipleship, on the other hand, is usually much more focused for a limited season and a specific purpose or specialty. It’s like school, or apprenticeship: there is a time of teaching and equipping and then a time of graduation and release.
Certainly, Paul cared for Timothy in a fatherly and pastoral way. But he also discipled and exhorted Timothy to go and make disciples who could make disciples. Of course, Jesus did the same with His disciples.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Any disciple of Jesus, from that moment on, was personally called to declare the Kingdom of God according to the Gospel and to demonstrate the compassion and power of the Gospel. When believers are baptized, they are making the bold declaration that their old life and old ways have passed away and that they are raised into new life with Christ, led and discipled by Christ, for the purpose of His glory. Part of glorifying Him—an act of our worship to Him—is that we now participate in His mission of equipping others to go and do the same.
If you want to make disciples, you’ve got to be a disciple. Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, not random rogues. They could be commissioned because they had been discipled.
If you want to teach and lead, you have to be able to be teachable and led…on purpose and for purpose.
Jesus showed all of His disciples how to live by personally relating to them. He cared for them and for those they were sent to reach. He knew them and they knew Him personally, as we see in John 10.
- His sheep know and recognize His voice above all other voices.
- His sheep listen to His voice; they are attentive to His Word.
- His sheep obey His voice; just as Jesus delights to do Father’s will, so too will the disciples of Jesus delight to do Father’s will.
- His sheep follow Him, which means that Jesus is on the move; He calls us to move with Him voluntarily, consistently, and enthusiastically.
When we make disciples of Jesus, this is the fruit we are seeking in their lives. We seek to draw His people into closer relationship with Him. The word “Disciple” (from mathetes) means “learner” or student. It is someone who doesn’t simply collect trivial knowledge, but comes to an understanding of the truth, and walks it out in personal relationship with a mentor. The process isn’t complete until the disciple is discipling others.
I once heard my Dad say, “Discipling is training a follower who has come under discipline for the purpose of instruction to produce maturity and ministry.” This speaks to issues such as trust, integrity, and accountability, which in turn produce good fruit in and through our lives. Discipleship is not haphazard. It is strategic (even in spontaneity), consistent, and requires a willing heart.
And, before you can demand accountability from a disciple, you must know to whom you are accountable. We must be true disciples of Jesus, and we must reckon with the issue of our own discipleship. Have we been discipled personally? God is calling us personally to be better disciples. Jesus tells us what this looks like:
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
The Church and the world need more disciples of Jesus and less fans of Jesus. Disciples are participators, not spectators. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had more doers of the Word and less connoisseurs?
Not everyone may be called to the title or office of apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, or pastor, but all of us as believers are called to go and make disciples. Who are the people that God has placed in your life? Perhaps they are family, friends, co-workers, neighbors … even those “Divine appointments” when the Lord unexpectedly places people in your path, and you suddenly sense His love for them welling up in your heart.
Let me urge you especially to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit about being a mentor to young people. We all must make a priority out of reaching and discipling this emerging generation, one person at a time. It’s not just the “job” of the youth pastor or church staff to or school teachers to disciple young people. You can be a friend to a young person. You can listen. You can offer unconditional love. You can build a relationship of trust. You can model the love of Jesus and godly behaviors and attitudes. You can pray for and with them. What might come out of that? Another question: what is going to happen to this generation if you don’t do something?
BLESSING OR CURSING?
You can mock and curse Millennials; you can send funny e-mails and memes; you can complain; you can fret; you can be negative and fearful. OR … you can take up the mantle of discipleship, to which you have been called, and get into the arena where the battle is. And, where the life is; where the anointing is; where the harvest is!
We make disciples because that’s what we’ve been discipled by Jesus to do. It’s in our spiritual DNA, implanted in us from the moment we were born again. Sometimes, to our own detriment and to the detriment of others, we have hesitated. We have worried about the high cost of discipleship. But time is moving forward quickly; the clock is ticking. God is still calling you! Your race is not finished yet.
These are urgent times. As part of my appeal, let me also ask you to please pray with us at CSM, and please consider a very special financial gift this month to assist us in spreading the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom among the nations. For more information, visit us online at csmpublishing.org or on our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page. You can even follow us on Twitter @CSMinPublishing. Thanks so much!
SCRIPTURE REFERENCE: PSALM 139; 2 TIMOTHY 2:1-7; JOHN 10; MATTHEW 28:18-20; MARK 8:34-35