Generational Discipleship

2 Timothy 2:1–7

Perhaps there are very few words more appropriate to bring up on Father’s Day than the word legacy. In my experience, it seems that many people are concerned about their legacy. They want their time in this life to matter. They want lasting effects of their labor and impact. They want to be remembered.

I believe this passage helps to give us a Biblical understanding of what it means to have a godly legacy.

The Too Long Didn’t Read version: "This kind of legacy isn’t about you.”

In the first few words of our passage we have such a weighty word pregnant with paternal implications. “My son.”

Our passage today gives us this concept of generational discipleship. One generation disciples another. And the next, and the next, and the next. To be clear, these generations may or may not line up with physical generations. These generations are spiritual generations, but often, the spiritually older is physically older than the spiritually younger.

Paul charges Timothy to a life of discipling others, but this challenge is given in the context of this term of endearment. Paul’s discipleship of Timothy is couched in this deep relationship that he had with him. I believe it is important that we let the significance of that sink in for a moment. Paul’s legacy was people. And in Timothy’s case, he was to him as a father.

No matter your parental status, whether  you have children or you do not. Whether your relationship to your children is what you want or not, God calls each of us to spend our lives parenting spiritual children. For Paul it seems, he gained an adopted son so to speak. While this may not be the case for everyone that follows Christ by making disciples, this morning I want to look at the godly legacy that Christians are called to in generation discipleship.

Every conversion is the result of a chain of Gospel witnesses.
How did you get here? Why are you at Brookdale Baptist Church? Maybe you are visiting today and you just found us on the internet, but even then, someone posted that on the internet. But for most of us, we are here as the result of a connection to someone else. Look back in 2 Timothy 1.

...When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5

Paul reminds Timothy that his life is the way it is because of the connection to his mother and grandmother. They passed something down to Timothy. Look at this "inheritance" that Paul refers to here. What first dwelt in his ancestors? Not just information, doctrines and teachings. They passed down their genuine faith. They raised Timothy up that he might have the same beliefs, the same way of life.

Timothy didn't just come out of nowhere with a developed belief system and a personal faith. He was taught. He was DISCIPLED by his mother and grandmother. People invested in him. They took an interest in him and then took ownership of his spiritual walk. This is far more than sticking Sunday school information into a child's brain. This is something far more.

Look at the next verse in 2 Timothy 1.

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

Timothy was not just the product of his mother and grandmother's mentoring. Paul himself had been directly involved in his development as a follower of Jesus and as a minister of the Gospel. This "laying on of hands" makes it clear that Timothy's calling as a pastor of God's people was not some kind of individual project that resulted from some introspective phenomenon. His calling was confirmed and validated by Paul, and maybe others too! Following Jesus is a group project!

The same is true for anyone here today who has a developed walk with Christ as it was for Timothy.  Someone or maybe multiple people did far more than just throw theological data at you hoping something would stick. Somebody did more than throw pizza parties or discuss if Adam had a belly button. Talk about navel gazing. Ha!

And this has been true down through the ages of the Christian faith, even to the beginning.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him. Mark 1:16–20

Jesus noticed these men; He recognized where they were spiritually. He knew them and their needs. And He invited them to grow to be something more. Not merely an invitation to escape hell and be another notch on His belt. He desired that they take the next steps in their walk with God.

And think about how Jesus taught these men. Was it in a few one hour sessions each week? No, it was life-on-life partnership for their growth. They would experience life alongside Jesus and see Him model the life He called them to.

And as we see from Scripture frequently, Jesus’ process of discipleship always included teaching his disciples to reproduce themselves. The chain of discipleship will not end until His return. His final charge to his disciples was to go and make disciples.

In this verse we see multiple generations. Paul. Timothy.  God’s plan for believers is that they transmit the Gospel to someone else. Disciples disciple. To follow Jesus is to imitate Him not just in His character and His compassion, but also in His mentorship of other people.

And we see in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that there are multiple generations. Paul (and Jesus) would not be satisfied with Timothy making disciples. Timothy must make disciples who will make disciples.

Now, it is important to note here that there is a special emphasis on training pastors. I believe that Paul is here telling Timothy not just to disciple people but also to uncover leaders amongst the church at Ephesus who will help Timothy and one day carry on his work of shepherding the flock.

A helpful question to ask is, how then is Timothy to find these faithful men who can become pastors and elders in the church? How would we go about uncovering leadership potential at Brookdale?

Should Timothy create a pastoral aptitude test? Should it be open to everyone to apply for? Should the young men be put in preaching contests to decide who the best is?

Maybe there are some helpful aspects of those things, but ultimately, the Timothy figured out who to invest in, is the same way that pastors and even other believers do the same today: by investing in people and discerning who responds to that.

What does Brookdale need as a church? What do we need to do to become the kind of body of believers that God has called us to be?

Brookdale’s goal as a growing church is to have a diverse group of men who complement each other well shepherding this flock together. I am so privileged to have the opportunity to shepherd along with Thomas and grow in that role as a younger man. But it must not stop there. Shepherding Gods church is a huge and weighty task. And our church grows by Gods grace the needs will grow.

As a church, we must prioritize developing people for the future otherwise we set ourselves up to be the last link in our chains of spiritual succession. While God will expand His kingdom with or without us, it is up to us to be faithful to him.

The life of teaching others requires a commitment to a life of suffering.

Soldiers endure hardness, or better translated suffering. Not only do soldiers experience the stress of battle but they must also prepare for battle. The military takes control of every area of their lives and every aspect is designed to test them and harden them to be the best soldiers they can be. Signing up to be a solider is signing up to be constantly uncomfortable. Understatement, right?

And Paul uses this picture of a soldier enduring suffering for the sake of his cause to show Timothy what this life of teaching others will be.

Paul knew that what was best for Timothy, as a follower of Jesus, was for Timothy  to make sacrifices to teach others. He didn't desire that Timothy have a comfortable life. HIs goal was not to make things easier for Timothy. This process takes time. It takes emotional investment. It takes resources, and Paul knew that!

In order to disciple someone, you must love them. You must not just give things or just love them in a generic sense. You must give of yourself if you will be an effective disciple maker.

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. 1 Thessalonians 2:7–9

And if we will give of ourselves in this way, we must accept this reality: that sometimes people do not reciprocate, and sometimes people leave Christ. Sometimes people leave the faith.

And all of this takes time. You may not have time for other pursuits or vacations. Your schedule will be more full than others and your life will look different. These are some of the things Jesus referred to when He told His disciples that they needed to count the cost.

A disciple-maker embraces a lifestyle of intentionality, self-discipline, and exertion.

Here, Paul zooms in with metaphors for three different aspects of the difficulty of being a disciple maker.

The soldier’s intentionality
‌War consumes the lives of the combatants. Can a father be a good father when he is at war? Can a husband be a good husband when he has been deployed to the battlefield? Can a soldier have a part time job to make ends meet on the weekends?

No. All there is is the war. Victory is more important than anything else. He must totally devote himself to the cause. It is literally a matter of life and death. Paul reminds Timothy that believers are solely focused on the cause of making disciples.

Does this mean that believers should never own a house, not pursue professional excellence, etc.?Should Christians avoid any entanglements with the  world at all times? No!

There is nothing intrinsically wrong, in other words, about civilian affairs until they entangle. - Donald Guthrie

God calls us to glorify Him in many of those areas because they are good things He has given to us. However, believers must order their lives so that they can prioritize teaching others.

A disciple maker has to give up other pursuits so that he might devote the time and other resources to making disciples.

The athlete’s self-discipline
‌In ancient athletic competitions of Paul’s day it was common knowledge that in order to enter a given competition, there were some requirements for preparation. You had to prepare a certain way to gain entry. And this is what Paul is referencing here, in my humble opinion, based upon the context.

The athlete had to be self-disciplined to train. One who would disciple others must first have the character of a disciple themselves. He must have a degree of consistency in service, reputation, and spiritual disciplines.

For many of us, the interpersonal skills to deal with sensitive issues or to confront someone about their sin do not come easy. It takes preparation to deal with people in a firm but kind way.

Furthermore, the best teachers are lifetime learners. They grow very strong at self-educating, even in the art of teaching. Making disciples is an art, empowered by the Holy Spirit, but even Jesus grew in wisdom and in favor with man. Like an athlete whose training is just a part of his life, the disciple maker is always learning, growing, and studying to be a better servant.

The farmer’s exertion‌
Lastly, and very much related to the former metaphors, Paul brings up a picture of a hard-working farmer. For some in our church, this picture may be the most personal one. City boys like me don’t know much about farming, though I can say I admire the occupation tremendously. Let alone the inherent strength and grit, but there are so many agricultural analogies in the Bible! What city boys do know however, is that it takes a great deal of diligence and hard work to make a living on a farm.

Paul tells Timothy that if he will commit to this lifelong project of making disciple-making disciples, then it will be a life of fruitful but arduous labor.

As we have unpacked this text this morning, I think we’ve come face to face with this reality: making disciples is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy. It is messy. It hurts. It’s slow.

Is that something you are ready for?

I am not trying to scare you. In fact, my goal is the opposite. My goal is to empower you and equip you to do this.

I believe an illustration will help us understand. A father’s day illustration.

I have become a father relatively recently. Our first daughter was born late 2021. Our second daughter was born late 2022. I know their birthdays, this is just going on the internet.

As young parents, we have some concept of the task ahead. Right? If we stop and think about it, the immensity of raising human beings can be overwhelming… But also as a young parent, do you have time or the mental bandwidth to really ponder the existential aspects of parenting?

No! We are putting out fires so to speak. And there is a nostalgic beauty to this, we get caught up in the daily grind and one day, your daughter knows how to play hide and seek and ask for high fives all of a sudden.

Making disciples normally isn’t an urgent fire to put out like a dirty diaper or a hungry mouth crying for a bottle. There is much less natural compulsion to engage in “spiritual parenting” or making disciples. But God calls us to take ownership of the spiritual growth of the people in our church community. In much the same way as parenting, the task is daunting, but there is such beauty in a life where we plan our days with committing this glorious faith to other faithful men and women.

Disciple-making occurs both in occasional encounters in the life of the church and in focused, mentoring partnerships.
So we have thought through the theology and philosophy of a disciple-making culture. We understand why it is so significant in the life of a healthy church. And perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that this is something that you need to do. But you just have no idea where to start.

Well, as I have said, this is an area that we spend our lives learning about and improving in, but to whet your appetite, and to give you some food for thought, I would like to share with you some practical ways that you can start this process.

First of all, an overarching thought that I would like to share. Disciple-making occurs both in occasional encounters in the life of the church and in focused, mentoring partnerships. In a healthy church, these things happen in “one-off” situations where the whole church is together or maybe even groups within the church gather, and that is such a good thing. But the best way to help someone take their next steps in following Jesus is to engage with them one on one or in similar type interactions.

It is in this context that you can develop the kind of mentoring relationship that is required to have deep influence in someone’s life. Here are some tips for starting this process with someone else:
  • Find a learner  you can connect and meet with
  • Establish goals (metrics)
  • Study the Word together
  • Bring up your own and ask about their Gospel outreach
  • Ask specific questions about spiritual health
  • Lovingly correct sin
  • Train for ministry
  • Invite your partner into your life

"Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you." - Bill Bryson

If life really does end when we breathe our last, if we cease... Then these words are vaguely comforting. Might make us feel thankful or connected to our ancestors.

But let us think along these same lines with a Gospel perspective.

Consider the fact that for two thousand years believers have crossed perilous deserts and seas, gone to sleep with no food for the next morning, been disowned by their families, been fed to lions for the entertainment of the masses, been tortured, and so much more that they might proclaim the Gospel to the nations. What about your spiritual family tree? Maybe we can't know for sure but did someone give their life years ago that you might become a follower of Jesus?

The chain does not exist for the purpose of any of the links. Do not let it end with you.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
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