Some Parallels Between Discipleship and Nursing

A few months ago, my wife Stephane came up with some parallels between discipleship and nursing. I thought they were insightful and decided to pass them along to you.
1. Both must take place often.
Mothers know that every few hours, her baby must be fed. The baby only has a small stomach and therefore needs regular feedings to continue growing and maturing. The same could be said of the disciple. Ideally, the growing Christian will meet regularly with a spiritual mother or father who will guide them in understanding God’s Word and following Jesus. The Bible tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
2. Both require the right kind of nutrition.
Stephane quickly learned during her time of nursing that it is important to eat the right kinds of food. For example, oatmeal increases the milk supply, while cabbage decreases milk supply. The most obvious parallel to discipleship would be reading the right kinds of literature. For example, the Bible = oatmeal while a Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer book = cabbage. I can almost assure you that a steady diet of God’s Word will result in a growing Christian. In contrast, a steady diet of your token pop-Christian book will result in a stagnant Christian at best.
3. In both, the relationship will eventually change.
Eventually, the mother will take steps to get her child off of the breast and onto solid food. We would be a little alarmed in a child was still nursing at 4 or 5 years of age. Unfortunately, many professing believers don’t grow up to Christian maturity (check out Hebrews 5:12-14). Many people who populate our churches today don’t want to leave behind their comfortable Christianity to take up their cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24-26).
4. In both, the ultimate result is multiplication.
Years later, every parent has the hope that their child will eventually “be fruitful and multiply” and make them grandparents. In the same way, Christian parents want their children to grow up to be disciple-making-disciples. This is where the snowball effect kicks into play – disciples of Jesus Christ are being multiplied left and right as God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6) and that’s exciting!
What about you?
Are you involved in an intentional, one-to-one discipling relationship? If you are not, let me encourage you in that direction.

A Multiplying Ministry

A key element in the apostle Paul’s ministry strategy was to reproduce himself in others. Perhaps this strategy is most clearly seen in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul writes, “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.” This process started with Paul investing himself in Timothy, but it was not to stop there. As Timothy grew and matured, he was to commit himself to the training of other “faithful men.” This is where the multiplying effect really kicked into gear. These men were expected to “teach others also,” who would teach others also, and on an on it goes. This is nothing new – Paul simply followed the ministry strategy of Jesus in His training of the Twelve. What his Savior modeled and taught, Paul modeled and taught. This worked very effectively as the early church grew and flourished. The same is true over the past two thousand years – when this ministry strategy was followed, the church (in a particular context) experienced growth and health.

Today this standard still applies. If pastors and leaders are not working and planning with the aim of raising up other leaders for tomorrow’s church, they are falling short of our Lord’s commands. As Bill Hull explains in his book The Disciple-Making Church, “The communication and reproduction of the Gospel must become the criteria for leadership. A candidate (for leadership) must be spiritually motivated and propagating the Gospel must become his ultimate objective.” The goal for the pastor is not simply to build a big church with lots of attenders, but to build a healthy church that is filled with disciples. In Luke 6:40 Jesus explained that, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Faithful Bible teachers all look the same and sound the same. Of course, they all have their own unique personality, but down through the ages as disciples have been reproduced, they bear a striking similarity to their teacher, who is ultimately…Jesus.

As we recognize individuals who are in love with Jesus and who have the right character and giftedness for leadership, we must not fail to invest, train and mentor them, and raise them up so that they can do the same for others and lead the church into the future. To be sure, this process takes time. As Oswald Sanders reminds us in his classic book Spiritual Leadership, “Leadership training cannot be done on a mass scale. It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time. Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train.”

In conclusion, pastors and leaders must be intentional about training up “faithful men” in their ministry strategy. It doesn’t just happen without careful planning, implementing and investing. This is going to take a lot of time and effort, but as the multiplying effect gains momentum, the fruit of this ministry strategy will be evident.

Teaching and Modeling in Ministry

In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, the apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and suffering that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra – which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” Having spent much time with Paul, Timothy knew he was the real deal.  Time and time again, the Lord rescued and sustained Paul and no doubt Timothy as well. For years, Timothy watched as Paul modeled a life of faith and the power of God over every obstacle.

The point I want to make is that effective teachers will “practice what they preach” and inspire students through their life and example. Good teaching can only go so far. However, good teaching coupled with a godly example will be much more effective. In 1 Corinthians 4:16-17, Paul writes, “I urge you then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Paul knew that sending Timothy was the same as going himself. Having observed Paul over and over, Timothy was essentially a duplicate of his mentor. He knew the man. He knew his ways. He knew His Lord. We might say that teaching and modeling go hand in hand. Paul writes later on in 1 Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The only reason Paul could say with credibility “imitate me” is because he was following Christ. If a Christian leader or teacher is not following Christ, how can he expect that of his students?

Paul’s instructions for Titus were much the same. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). Paul makes sure to mention the core pastoral component of teaching, but it is stated in tandem with being “a model of good works.” The teacher’s credibility to teach and lead always correlates to his life and example. Paul lived and modeled a gospel-centered life and expected Titus and Timothy to do the same. If you are a pastor or a Christian leader, let’s remember that God expects the same of us today.

“The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon-makers but men-makers, and saint-makers. Only he who has made himself a man and a saint is well trained for this business. God does not need great talents, great learning, or great preachers, but great men in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God. He needs men who are always preaching holy sermons in the pulpit, and living holy lives out of it. These can mold a great generation for God.” E.M. Bounds

Training up the Next Generation of Christ-Followers

In my estimation, evangelical churches today are failing when it comes to training up the next generation of men and women. We are not mentoring and discipling younger Christians the way we should be. Discipleship happens in a number of different ways and contexts, but an important component of that is in person-to-person relationships. While giving some instructions to his young apprentice Titus, Paul makes it clear that older men and women must be willing to mentor and teach younger men and women (same gender). In other words, those with life experience and Christian maturity should desire to impart their wisdom to the next generation. And those who are young and lacking in maturity must demonstrate a submissive spirit and be willing to learn.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:1-4).

In some churches, these types of relationships are common and they are reaping the benefits. But I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that those churches are not the norm. I say that for three simple reasons. Older Christian men and women don’t feel like they have anything to offer the next generation. Secondly, the younger generation is too proud to admit they need godly counsel. Third, those in church leadership are not encouraging and facilitating Titus 2 mentoring relationships. Thus our churches lack depth and maturity – something that is essential for healthy and flourishing churches.

We need one another as Christians. As Paul Tripp has said before, God designed our spiritual growth to be a community project. We need the church and we need one another. The local church offers a way for older and wiser Christians to connect with younger, less mature Christians. It is also important to mention that age doesn’t matter when it comes to having Titus 2 relationships.  We all need a Paul (a mentor), a Silas or a Barnabas (an associate) and a Titus or Timothy (an apprentice) in our Christian walk. Even if you are younger (I’m around 30), God can still use you to mentor and disciple teens and young adults.

This brings up another important question. What about older believers who are new to faith? Is it all right to seek out someone younger, but more mature as a Christian? The answer is yes! It will take some humility, but both parties will be blessed from that type of relationship, as the Holy Spirit works in their lives.

If this is where your heart is, but you don’t know where to start, a simple place to begin is by praying. Ask the Lord to put someone in your life for you to mentor or for you to be mentored by. Sometimes finding a good match is the hardest part, but that is certainly not beyond the ability of the Creator God. So trust God in this whole process and then intentionally seek out Titus 2 relationships. Perhaps you already have someone in mind that would be a good fit.

I often remind our church of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the need to “make disciples.” There is no question that Titus 2 relationships are an important part of the disciple-making process. Let’s ensure that we are doing all we can to make this happen in our own lives and in our churches.

The Difference Between Mentoring and Discipleship

“What’s the difference between mentoring and discipleship?  They are closely related, but not exactly the same.  Both involve instruction based on a relationship.  But discipleship involves a call, a direct invitation from the teacher that borders on a command.  Jesus told the fishermen Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me,” and “at once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19-20).  Then he ran into their colleagues, James and John.  Again, “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and followed him” (4:21-22).  The same pattern was repeated with the rest of the Twelve.

The word disciple means “learner.”  In Jesus’ day, teachers roamed the ancient world recruiting bands of “learners” who then followed these masters and adopted their teaching.  Sometimes the disciples became masters themselves and developed their own followings.  But Jesus’ command to His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) is distinctive in that Jesus remains ‘the’ Master and ‘the’ Discipler.  He wants people who are recruited to the faith to remain His disciples and His learners.

Discipleship, as we know it today, tends to narrow its focus to the spiritual dimension.  Ideally, it should touch on every area of life – our personal life and lifestyle, our work, our relationships.  But discipleship always looks at these areas by asking the question, how do they relate to Christ?  How does following Christ affect my personal life, my work, my relationships, and so on?

Mentoring, at least when practiced by Christians, certainly ought to center everything on Christ.  But mentoring is less about instruction than it is about initiation – about bringing young men into maturity.  Whereas the word for disciple means learner, the word ‘protégé’ comes from a Latin word meaning “to protect.”  The mentor aims to protect his young charge as he crosses the frontier into manhood.

For my own part, I do not make a hard and fast distinction between discipleship and mentoring.  There is a great deal of overlap.  But I like the concept of mentoring because it focuses on relationships.  That is what we are missing in education today, whether we are talking about formal instruction in schools and universities, or informal instruction at home, in the church, and in the community.”

Excerpted from “As Iron Sharpens Iron” by Howard and William Hendricks (p. 182-183)

Catching Men

“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11)

Every time I read this verse, it always hits me hard. Here you have a total identity transformation. Simon Peter, James and John (and the other disciples) left everything to follow Jesus. It’s not that they would never fish again, it’s just that their new business was the Master’s business. And the Master’s men were in the business of catching men.

So how do you go about catching men? Obviously, salvation is totally a work of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), but God still uses us (His people) to reach others as we faithfully proclaim the gospel. When God graciously grants salvation, a remarkable transformation takes place. As Paul tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away;  behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God catches a man or woman, they inherit a new identity. The focus of their past life (whatever it was) will not be the focus of their future life. Now, a new agenda will govern their lives. In short, that agenda is other people. This is where “catching men” comes into play.

Before he left them, Jesus reminded his disciples of this. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus ends Matthew’s gospel.

To summarize, the disciples were to make more disciples. The Master’s men were to catch other men and women, baptize them, and teach them the whole counsel of God. This is pretty simple, especially when it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Even today, our mission remains the same. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in the business of making more disciples. Modern day Christianity often tries to take a simple thing and make it complicated. The so-called “church growth” experts will give you 100 different ways to build a church. But Jesus only taught us one way. He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). How? One disciple at a time.

Everyone Needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy

Everyone needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in life. This saying carries a pretty simple meaning, but when applied, it can be transformative. One way of explaining this would be to say, everyone needs a mentor, an associate, and an apprentice. We all need someone to build into our lives and mentor us, we all need someone who can labor and work alongside us, and we need someone to whom we can pass on the wisdom and knowledge God has given us. And we probably need more than just one person in each of these categories in our lives.

Yesterday was a significant milestone in my life as I was ordained in the gospel ministry. Getting to this point has no doubt been massive act of God’s grace. I am the man I am today because of God’s amazing work in my life – molding me, shaping me, prodding me, and forming me on a daily basis. However, there is no question that God has used other people in this process. I was grateful yesterday during the ordination service to have two of my mentors in attendance – David Klinsing and Bill Strader. These are men who over the past 3 years have made a point of building into my life and ministry.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 2:2. “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.” Paul invested a significant amount of time and energy into young Timothy, and now Timothy was instructed to do the same with other men. The bible is also full of gospel partnerships. In Acts, we see how Paul teamed up with Barnabas, and then later on with Silas and others. As gifted Paul was, he was never a one-man show. He worked side by side with hundreds of people, like Barnabas.

Do you have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in your life? If you don’t, there is no reason to get discouraged. Start praying about it and ask the Lord to send the right person(s) into your life. But let me clear – don’t let your search end with prayer. Be intentional about it. If God lays a person on your heart, then ask them. You might just find that the type of relationship you had in mind was exactly what they were looking for.