Disciples – disciplers. Learners – teachers. Mentees – mentors. We all have these relationships, whether they have been formally declared or not. We all teach many and are taught by many people in life. Those around us display examples before us from the time we are born, and we begin early on to mimic, to follow, to adapt to the ways of these wise, or not so wise teachers, depending upon the family or community into which we were born.
In God’s word we see this concept of discipleship being held up as an appropriate way to live out the Christian life. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….”
He didn’t just instruct us to go share the Gospel, but to go further and to teach and guide. Later in the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy in the same way. He tells him to be both a disciple and a discipler. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes to his young mentee:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
To be able to say those words as Paul did requires that we have learned how to live so that we may honestly and in good conscience say to others in essence, “You can trust what I say. I base it on God’s word. Follow my example.”
As a girl I was blessed to have had this kind of people in my life. I was discipled by many wonderful Christian friends and mentors.
The Kirkleys, a man and wife who were my choir director and Sunday School teacher, taught us more than just music and random Bible stories. They systematically taught us behavior altering principles upon which to base our life, and they lived it out. They weren’t perfect people, but even in the ups and downs they taught us impressionable young people how to walk through even hard things in a godly manner. They showed us what a beautiful marriage was and how to serve humbly and effectively.
Then there was Laura, a generous-hearted older girl in our youth group. She was off in college by the time I was in high school. She was being discipled through the Navigators, a Christian organization active on her college campus. In turn, she chose to invest in us younger girls. She faithfully came home every weekend to attend church and while there would meet with our small group of chatty girls to walk through scripture and help us answer the questions we had and build a foundation for life based on God’s word. Even today some 40 years later, I refer back to those Design for Discipleship books, the verses and illustrations they contained, and the principles they taught me.
Then there was my iron-sharpens-iron friend, Joan, who was, and is still to this day, the godliest woman I know. I was mouthy, flighty, and immature. She was a rock, full of fun, yet grounded in godly wisdom. She walked beside me as a friend my age going through similar circumstances and always shining the spotlight of God’s word on what was going on in life.
There were many others. Mr. D, a favorite school teacher and deacon in our church who opened his classroom each day for Morning Watch and acted as a role model and the Heavenly Father’s guide through those tumultuous high school years. Mrs. Latham who taught me in 3rd grade and started me on the path of scripture memory, and her daughter Fran who invested in us in college and challenged us to live pure, holy lives as she was doing herself. Marcie who challenged this anxiety-filled teenage girl to memorize an important scripture verse with her (Philippians 4:6-7 because we were both worriers.) And there are a string of others too numerous to mention. What would I have turned out to be without their wisdom and guidance? Every teen in our youth group at church was impacted by these people. Today, those grown up youth from the 70s are pastors, teachers, moms and dads, doctors, engineers and god-fearing members of society in many other fields.
You have probably had similar people pour into you. As an adult, you are now aware of and thankful for the impact of these people upon your life. But what are you now doing with what you were given?
As society has progressed the world has changed. Commitments, electronics, busyness, as well as work and hobbies among other distractions have morphed us into people who are less connected and therefore have less influence for good on the world around us. Are you today offering the same kind of discpling and teaching to younger Christians around you that you were given growing up? It is so easy to not get involved, to not teach, not disciple because of our lifestyle, and to choose to leave it up to someone else.
As 2019 is dawning on us, I challenge you today to start fresh and make these words of Paul a cry of your heart this year. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Take what you have been given and pass it on. Invest in the next generation of Christians. Grow. Multiply. Share. Invest. Do it intentionally.
What do we teach them?
How to live it out.
How to study it.
How Jesus would have us treat others in these volatile times.
Open your heart and life to those coming along behind you, and let them learn by watching you live. It is the most generous, life-changing gift you can give. You’ve been issued a challenge. Do you take the challenge?
“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green
We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.