Thursday, October 28, 2010

128. Discipleship and II Timothy 2:1-2

The concept of the fourth generation in disciple making is a simple, yet profound principle. It is one of those ideas that is often passed over because of its relative simplicity. But the texts that teach us about the concept of the fourth generation have a lot of meat nestled within them. The most classic text on the concept of the fourth generation is II Timothy 2:1-2. 

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. 

Before we get into the mechanics of disciple making and the fourth generation, I think it is important to notice that Paul leads into the concept of disciple making by encouraging Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This is a critical point to digest because when you start talking about training people to be followers of Jesus Christ, or even use the word discipleship in some circles, it can sometimes conjure up experiences of spiritual abuse, control and manipulation, or just flat out driven personalities who see the concept of multiplication as a way to increase their bragging rights on how much they have been able to "produce" through their discipling efforts. Paul leads into a discussion about disciple making with a word on grace because disciple making is has to be rooted in a healthy understanding of our role in the disciple making process. We do not produce fruit in other people, we do not transform them, we are not the source. the grace of Jesus Christ is the transforming power, we are merely the conduit, the sign and the one who points to the source of power. We are merely a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

This has real implications for discipling relationships and the way we disciple people. When we are weak on grace, we are hard on people. Steve Cockrham with 3DM is fond of saying that you have to calibrate "invitation and challenge" in the discipleship process. This means you have to invite people into relationship, a process that gives them the tools to do what you are challenging them to do. From a theological standpoint, this means modeling the invitation that God gives us through Jesus to enter into Covenant with him to those we are discipling. This is a grace filled invitation that is filled with patience, forgiveness and love. The dynamic of challenge is a part of the equation, but it is in tandem and commensurate with the level of grace and invitation we extend to those we are discipling.

Richard Rohr says that whatever doesn't get transformed, gets transmitted. If discipleship is primarily about imitation, then our capacity to internalize and demonstrate the grace of Jesus Christ in our own lives first will go a long way in shaping the kind of discipling culture you will build through your discipling relationships.

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