As a youth pastor in the early 1990's, I was blessed to serve with a lead pastor who was 78 years of age. I was in my first ministry position. He was in his last. Some might have thought our relationship would be a recipe for conflict. After all, he was 55 years older than me. But the opportunity was exactly what I needed.
I was smart enough to respect his 50 plus years of ministry, and he was kind enough to give me a chance to serve when few others would have. We would spend two years together until he retired. Looking back now, I recognize how formative those 24 months were in my life. They were so impactful because of the pastor's intentional discipleship and mentoring of my character and ministry.
I can get emotional thinking about how much he included me in his life and church ministry. Looking back now, I realize just how different those two years could have been. Recognizing his retirement was right around the corner, he could have stayed in his office, ignored the new guy on staff, and rode out his time.
During our short stint together, the pastor intentionally included me in countless opportunities and conversations. Together we traveled, attended denominational meetings, painted walls, raked leaves, went on hospital visits, counseled hurting people, and ate good BBQ. He was available for conversations about sermons, doctrine, church conflict, family, and more.
Today, I recognize his invaluable influence in my life and seek to emulate his character and approach to ministry.
Here's the one big lesson I learned: Discipleship doesn't happen unless we are intentional. The life and character of a disciple are caught as we are in proximity to another disciple.
After the Apostle Paul discipled Timothy, he released him to serve with this instruction.
"The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Tim. 2:2).
Notice several powerful things in this verse.
1) "The things you have heard me say..." Paul had been intentional in his discipleship of Timothy. His influence was memorable.
2) "...in the presence of many witnesses..." Timothy wasn't the only person Paul was discipling. There were many others.
3) "...entrust to reliable people..." The work of discipleship isn't over until the person you are teaching is now discipling others.
4) "...who will be qualified to teach others." This is where discipleship is no longer about addition. The ministry of discipleship is multiplied.
Now imagine with me what would happen if this process occurred in your church and every church. Isn't this really what Jesus had in mind when he called us to "make disciples of all nations?"
Discipleship, the work of helping people become fully devoted followers of Jesus, who, in turn, help others, is not a program. It is our mission.
Imagine what could happen. Imagine if it started with you.
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