In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy, “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What a great summary of a spiritual legacy!
Paul describes four generations of discipleship in this verse. He starts with himself (what you have heard from me) and continues to Timothy. Next, he instructs Timothy to disciple the next generation (entrust to faithful men). But Paul doesn’t stop there. He actually has an eye to the fourth generation (who will be able to teach others also.)
Here we see the progression of discipleship. 1) Be a disciple, 2) train a disciple, 3) train the disciple to make disciples, 4) ensure the disciple is training disciples to make disciples.
Discipleship is God’s plan to reach the world. If it doesn’t continue, it isn’t discipleship. Many times people ask, “how do I know when a disciple has ‘got it’?” The best answer is a disciple has “got it” when they have made disciples to the fourth generation. That’s when you know that they really have a Great commission vision to see disciples multiplied to the nations! In other words, you haven’t made a disciple until they’re a disciple-maker!
How do you help a disciple become a disciple-maker? By entrusting. What does “entrust” mean? Think about a parent with a newborn baby. They don’t just sling their infant around to other people. Instead, they carefully entrust their child into the arms of a someone they are confident in. And they don’t let go until they know the other person has the baby secured. Entrusted means you don’t let go until they’ve “got it.”
That’s why its important to not look at discipleship as a set of lessons that you move through from week to week. Discipleship is not a program. No, it is a process of principles you are passing along. And you don’t move from one to another until your disciple has “got it.”
This also highlights the importance of Paul’s phrase “faithful men.” Paul was telling Timothy –“Don’t just disciple anyone –make sure they will be faithful to disciple others.” In other words, before you choose who you will disciple, ask yourself, “Can I picture this person discipling someone else?” You must have the fourth generation in mind before you even get started. Your goal is to disciple disciple-makers.
Remember when Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”? He was teaching the fourth generation principle. Christ wasn’t saying “ignore the harvest,” but instead, don’t just settle for the harvest you can gather –but leverage your ministry to multiply laborers for an exponentially greater harvest. Interpretation: don’t just make disciples, make disciple-makers.
In Acts 4:13, the rulers and elders of Jerusalem saw what Jesus had seen all along. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
We must choose our disciples carefully, asking the Holy Spirit to help us select men whom God can shape into disciple-makers.
The most effective way for a couple to influence their grandchildren and great-grandchildren is to carefully parent their children. That’s the power of leverage through multiplication. When you have a spiritual legacy, every act of spiritual growth in your life and in the life of your disciples is multiplied to those following you.
Perhaps the most powerful time of parenting is the last stage where the children have become parents and are asking a multitude of “how-to’s” and opinions. It is at this point that they have training, experience, and meaningful questions all at the same time. It’s the same phenomena that makes a teacher the best learner. They are now in a position to be accountable for their training.
Can you look forward to the day your disciples are training your spiritual grandchildren? It may be your most exciting days as a disciple-maker. Just like a grandparent goes crazy for his grandkids, you will be rejoicing over the way God continues your discipling to the next generation.