by Preston Rhodes, Resonate U of I student
I grew up in a small town in Idaho north of Coeur d’Alene called Spirit Lake. With a population of just over 2000 people, what Spirit Lake lacked in adventure and nightlife, it made up for in Friday night football. Timberlake High School, nestled into the woods behind Spirit Lake, boasted a football team with 10 straight league titles by the time I was in high school. As I grew up going to these games, I began to idolize the players on the field. By the time I was a sophomore, I was preparing to be one.
The varsity class before me was extremely talented. They had been playing together since elementary, and I had always looked to them as young men worth emulating. As a running back, I most intently watched the guy who was our best varsity running back, Forrest. Forrest loved football, and he loved Timberlake football. Since he knew that he would be graduating in the coming year, and his beloved team would be in the hands of some goofy sophomores, Forrest began spending time after every practice working with me. We would go over my footwork, reading the defense, predicting running lanes, and audible calls. Forrest taught me all the tips and tricks he had learned because he not only wanted me to succeed, but he wanted the entire team to succeed.
In my next two years as the varsity running back, I used all that Forrest had taught me, and the program was hugely successful. But the one thing about Forrest that I did not replicate was his decision to pass on his wisdom to the next generation. I knew that our JV running back, Josh, would soon be leading the team. Sadly, my love for Preston football was greater than my love for Timberlake football. I didn’t want Josh to be better than me. I cared about praise and admiration more than team success. The next year, as Josh stepped onto varsity, he struggled not only in his skill as a running back but also in his ability to pass down his knowledge to the younger class. After four years of this cycle, as of 2017, Timberlake is no longer the reigning Intermountain League champions.
In this last year, some of my close friends and I have spent time studying 2 Timothy. As we worked through chapter two, we were struck by Paul’s declaration of the cost of disciple-making. Here are three realizations, or Kairos moments, I’ve had from verses 1-4 of 2 Timothy 2.
In verse three, immediately after Paul exhorts Timothy to make disciples, he proclaims “Share in suffering.” Initially, this statement seemed disconnected and out of place. As I processed this verse with my huddle however, it became clear. Paul is writing this letter to Timothy from prison, which he had been thrown into because he was making disciples. Paul was not in prison for being a disciple of Jesus. No one would go to that trouble if he kept to himself. Paul was in prison because he was changing the landscape of culture by making disciples who were making disciples.
In verse four, after Paul tells Timothy to share in suffering, he encourages him to keep focused on the task our enlisting officer has given us: namely, to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18-20). Here in Moscow, I am frequently having conversations with leaders who feel defeated because we aren’t hosting enough events, we aren’t bringing enough people to church, and we aren’t meeting enough people on campus. Through this text, I realized that we have taken our eyes off of Christ’s command to make disciples, and instead have gotten entangled in the things we feel are important. We are bombarded by good initiatives that, if we are not careful, will supplant our efforts of disciple-making.
Now we circle around to verse two, the sentence on which all of Paul’s statements hinge. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
You (Timothy, second-generation)
Me (Paul, first-generation)
Faithful men (third-generation disciples)
Others also (fourth-generation disciples)
Paul’s message here is the key to true disciple-making: get out of the way. When Paul came to Ephesus in Acts 19 and started the church there, he had a few options. He could have stayed and pastored the church, he could have been the local hero for founding Christianity in their city, he could have bolstered his own reputation by remaining the face of the Christian operation. Instead, he found Timothy, discipled Timothy, and then turned over everything in Ephesus to Timothy’s care. Paul was not a hero; he was a hero-maker.
Paul’s message here is the key to true disciple-making: get out of the way.
When I was playing football in high school, I had no interest in making my successor into a hero. My only interest was in being a hero; therefore, the cause that I fought so hard for died out right when I left. The ultimate cost of disciple-making is sacrificing your pride to let someone else be the big deal.
In your life, what system or effort or area are you leading that would come to a halt if you disappeared? Where can you turn over responsibility and position to someone you disciple? They don’t have to be ready; they just have to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop serving or innovating or working hard; it means you dedicate your effort toward turning people’s eyes to Jesus and not to yourself. In everything you do, aim not to be a hero but to make a hero.