2 Timothy 2:2 – What you heard from me [Paul] in the presence of others pass on to faithful men who in turn can teach others.
I love this verse! If someone was to ask me what is my favorite verse I don’t know if this is it, but it is close. I love the idea of 4 generations of believers! 4G discipleship! Paul who trained Timothy who was charged with training faithful men who would train others. Paul >Timothy>Faithful>Others.
Can I be honest though? Sometimes I find myself pushing for 2 generation discipleship. 2 Clayton 2:2 goes something like this: “Now that you’ve heard from me in the presence of others go and invite your friends and family and anyone you can to come back next week to hear more.” 2G discipleship. Come, hear me teach, and be fed. I tend to make discipleship more and more about attendance to something where I can teach them, rather than radical obedience to Jesus’ call to make disciples. I mean, if I am gathering them to listen to me teach but don’t launch them to go and make their own disciples am I really making disciples or just feeding consumers? When I just expect people to come and listen then I am producing a sterile 2nd generation that will never reproduce.
This isn’t a post against large group teaching sessions. This is more about placing the emphasis on producing faithful men and women who in turn can teach others. Spiritual Multiplication. If mass preaching could make disciples then Jesus would have done it, but guess what? The greatest communicator in the world chose to invest in a faithful few who could in turn teach others. Not only that but his teachings inspired thousands during his time on earth and only a handful of them actually became followers. Pulpiteering doesn’t make disciples. Wordsmithing is pivotal for inspiring and communicating truth, but it will never do the hard, intentional work of life on life training and disciplemaking. Jesus saw this and he focused on generational discipleship and multiplication rather than a crowd of consumers. He wanted to build faithful men who would teach others who would teach others, etc. The gospel came to them on its way to others.
I fight this because generational discipleship doesn’t scratch where I itched, you know? I naturally feel valued when I’m in control and when more people show up. I can count the people in the room and I can control what they hear. I know what to expect. Each month I have reports to fill out that want to know who is showing up to stuff. As a staff we plan what we will teach on. Easy to count, easy to control. Viola! I have managed to take the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit and I’ve shrunken them down to my size. The problem is that the gospel of the Clayton isn’t that impactful. No wonder we have to have a killer band and flawless production in order to keep people coming!
But I digress…
How would our ministry look different if each one of our students took their spiritual growth seriously – not just theirs, but someone else’s as well? What could God do if we as leaders expected those who sit under out teaching (both large group and 1on1) to reproduce and make disciples in small batches, just like it was done with them? Our time with them each week became more about equipping them for the people they are meeting with instead of babysitting them by feeding their intellect but not expecting obedience to God’s word? Could it be possible for us to see 4 generations of believers on our campuses? Seniors who’ve led Juniors who’ve led Sophomores who are leading freshmen to Christ?
In order to do this I think we’ve got to let go of 2 things: control and counting.
When other leaders hear we’ve got students involved in a 1on1 discipleship network the first two questions they ask are, “so what curriculum do you use?” and “how do you maintain doctrinal purity?” Its seems like our biggest fear is that someone will go crazy and start a cult if we don’t micromanage our groups. Honest question: How many Christian leaders have you known who have started a cult or led people into false teaching? You might have a few, I don’t know. I can’t think of more a handful. Now, how many Christian leaders do you know who have left the ministry because of moral failure? A bajillion! Ladies and gentlemen we don’t have a theology problem, we have an obedience problem.
We don’t use curriculum to disciple people we use people to disciple people. If someone can read God’s word, hear from God, obey, and debrief with someone in discipleship then discipleship is working. We don’t control curriculum because we’re not the experts in each of those 1on1s – the students involved are. We trust the Holy Spirit and corporate identity and vision of our network to help steer away from heresy, but at the end of the day, the things we try to control don’t multiply and the things we release multiply.
2 generation consumers are easier to control and the ministry is cleaner, but they don’t multiply and therefore, won’t change the world with the gospel.
So how big is your ministry? I had another minister at a denominational gathering ask me that question last month. Here is the run down of the convo: “Well, we’ve got about XX in our discipleship network”. He wasn’t impressed. “No, but how many people does your ministry touch?” “Oh, well we have contact with about half the campus each year.” No, how many are involved in your ministry?” “We’ve got about XX in our discipleship network. That’s the most important thing we do so that’s what we count.” “NO, HOW MANY COME TO YOUR WORSHIP SERVICE?” “Oh…. I don’t know.”
You could have heard a pin drop. He wanted to compare numbers. It was a pissing contest. He was fishing for me to ask him how many they have, so I played along, “how many come to YOUR worship service?” He gave me the answer and it was a nice number. It was bigger than the number I gave. He smiled trying to act humble and I was tired of playing the game and so I started playing dirty.
“How many of the students that come to your meeting are involved in discipling someone? How many generations of discipleship are you seeing?” He didn’t know. I wish I could tell you that I patted him on the back and said something wise and encouraging, using the moment as a teaching moment, but in reality I think I just shook my head and walked away.
You see friends, THERE’S THE RUB! We count and then we pitch the HIGH number to make ourselves feel better. The problem is that we count things that Jesus didn’t! Jesus counted the number of people fed, the number of missionaries he sent out and the number of disciples! We count sermon-sitters and feel good. 4 generational discipleship forces us to stop counting people who are showing up and start counting the ones who are multiplying. And guess what? That is a smaller, less impressive number. BUT that is the number that multiplies exponentially if we will tend to it!
In order to see 4G discipleship we will have to stop playing the numbers game and loosen our grip on ministry and trust the Holy Spirit to work in the life of our students. Who leads most of the new believers to Christ? Who has to disciple new believers? Who choses what your groups go through? Who meets with your leaders? Who leads the Bible study? If the answer to most of the questions is you then you are probably a 2G ministry. You’re the bottleneck. You can have a good ministry that appears pretty from the outside but it will never multiply and see generational conversions and discipleships.
2G ministry is cleaner and easier to run but it won’t change your campus or impact the world like Jesus intended.
4G will require us to change our success paradigm, but I think it’s the only way we are all going to see the gospel interrupt the lives of every college student on our campuses.
What are your thoughts?