The Disciple-Maker: First and Foremost Grounded on the Word
Before anything else, I just want to thank the people who have viewed my previous blogs, Should We Disciple Older People? and What If I’m Being Discipled by A Younger Person? Some have even approached me to say that they were blessed by it, while some gave their comments and made me think.
A friend, who happens to be a campus missionary, aired his thoughts, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of my arguments. He said that he longs to see people disciple others, basing it on the Word of God rather than experience. What a powerful thought!
I have to admit that, in the previous discussions on disciple-making and age, I overlooked an important component of disciple-making—the Word of God (I can’t believe myself!). I believe that a disciple-maker should first and foremost be grounded on the Word. He is called to teach and live out the Scripture. I’ll present my case.
Teaching the Word is Part of the Great Commission
Let’s go to Matthew 28:19-20:
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Emphasis added)
Every disciple-maker is also a teacher. He is to primarily teach (and equally important, live out [James 1:22]) “all that [Jesus] have commanded [us].” His final authority in making judgments and decisions is the Word. He may teach from experience or give his opinions (as long as it is in submission to the whole counsel of God), but only secondarily and not as final authority.
Timothy: Young, Pastor, and Teacher
In my recent blogs on disciple-making and age, I have always quoted 1 Timothy 4:12. I’ll do it again here. This time, I’ll point something else.
12Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
But let’s consider the immediate context first:
11Command and teach these things…13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (vv.11,13)
In verse 11, the apostle Paul commands Timothy to teach the Word, and does it again in verse 13. Timothy was a teacher of the Word.
Now, let’s turn back to verse 12. Here, Timothy, who pastors the church in Ephesus, is described as young. (Commentators say he’s in his late thirties. In the Greek culture, one is considered young up to 40). Definitely, there are people older than him (see 1 Timothy 5:1-2).These older people may despise him or look down on him because of his age. Consequently, they will dismiss his ministry and ultimately, the message of his teaching ministry.
That’s why Paul is exhorting Timothy to win the believers by setting them an example. The young pastor simply cannot afford to let the believers dismiss him and his ministry, for the message of his teaching ministry is simply too important to be dismissed easily. The Word is simply too important to be dismissed.
Here’s what I think. Timothy’s success in pastoral, teaching, or should I say disciple-making, ministries will not be determined by his age or his experience (or the lack thereof). Rather, it will be determined by his groundedness on the Word: His ability to handle it (teaching the Word), as upheld by his exemplary living (living the Word).
I still believe that age doesn’t matter in disciple-making, but example does. I still believe that experience may greatly help in disciple-making (though I also believe that the lack of it does not disqualify a disciple-maker). But I now want to make clear that the main qualifier for a disciple-maker is his groundedness on the Word—his ability to handle it as upheld by his exemplary living.