Disciplemaking is a living interaction between Christ and the members of Christ’s body. —Marty Voltz
Having stepped back from full time ministry only a year and a half ago, my wife and I have enjoyed taking up the role of laity in a solid, Bible based Evangelical fellowship. The mission is unapologetically the making of disciples. From our new perspective we are more than ever aware of the need for relationships in the church which provide friendship as a platform for disciplemaking.
I think it would be hard to find a single serious student of the Scriptures who would argue that the making of disciples is not the bottom-line mandate that Christ gave his church. We know this both by example and by precept. Christ made this abundantly and unmistakably clear to his disciples and to us by means of His Word.
Yet, relatively few churches, even Evangelical Gospel-preaching churches, are teaching their people to understand and foster the kinds of relationships in which disciplemaking takes place. Instead, we have all too often given God's people the impression that disciplemaking is the result of listening to pastors’ sermons. Listening to sermons is a great thing to do, but it doesn’t make disciples.
We've given people the idea that disciplemaking is the result of attending seminars and Bible classes. That it's the result of filling out workbooks and journals. That it's the result of following prescribed disciplines and patterns in the regiment of spiritual life. We've assigned readings, and we’ve held classes, and we’ve taught the spiritual disciplines. And at the end of the year, we’ve pronounced our students ‘disciples.’
As valuable as those practices are, not one, nor all of them put together, can create a single disciple of Jesus Christ. Why is that? It is because disciplemaking is essentially and fundamentally a matter of relationship: relationship with God, and relationship with His people, His body. Disciplemaking is a living interaction between Christ and the members of his body.
I became convinced of the necessity of godly relationships in fostering disciples in my over twenty-four years pastoring a church just a few miles from a leading Evangelical Seminary. I had the blessing of having scores of young men coming to the church where I pastored and asking to be mentored; asking to be discipled so that they would be more prepared to go out and proclaim the Word.
Over the course of those years there must have been a couple hundred with whom our staff and I spent a significant amount of time.
Now, all those who came to me had notebooks full of teachings on discipleship. They had pretty good theology. Some of them had very good theology, probably better than mine. They had extensive Bible knowledge. They knew the original languages, or at least they were starting to learn them. Most of them possessed the gifts that are important to pastoral ministry. But at the end of their years of theological training, some of these men and women left and entered ministry as disciplemaking pastors, while others left knowing neither what it meant to be a disciple, nor how to disciple anyone else.
The difference between those in each group was this: whether or not they had learned and experienced the transforming impact of disciplemaking relationships. Whether they understood theology in terms of daily input with one another in the body of Jesus Christ. Simply put: Those who experience disciplemaking friendships understand disciplemaking. Those who read about it and ace tests on it, but don’t experience it––don’t.
Three Disciplemaking Relationships (Acts 16:1-2)
Let’s open our Bibles and grow our understanding of making disciples, starting with a few verses as a backdrop. First, I’d like to take a look at Acts 16:1-2: "Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him," that is, of Timothy. "Paul wanted to take him along on the journey.”
Next, let’s move twenty-two years into the future to Second Timothy, where we learn more about the relationship between the Apostle Paul and his friend Timothy.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus. To Timothy, my dear son. Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day, I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” —2 Timothy 1:1-5
Throughout this letter we observe the warmth of this relationship, which I invite you to see as evidence of a fruitful disciplemaking friendship.
At the close of the fourth chapter, we can tell how much Paul longs to be with Timothy:
“Timothy, please come as soon as you can.” —2 Timothy 4:9
“Do your best to get here before winter.” —2 Timothy 4:21-22
Additionally, there are no less than 22 first names cited in this little epistle. Every one of them is someone with whom Paul and Timothy have come into contact during their life and ministry. Each of these individuals are ones from whom they have learned important lessons which were necessary for their life of disciplemaking. We’ll see more of this as we journey together with Paul and Timothy.
In Acts 16:1-2, the apostle Paul highlights three relationships that foster the making of a disciple. The disciple in question, of course, is Timothy, and the disciplemaking relationships Paul highlights are the same relationships God still uses to raise up disciplemakers today.
Here are the three relationships:
Relationships with family in the home
Relationships with friends and younger believers
Relationships with brothers and sisters in local churches
It is significant that as Paul writes Timothy, he begins and ends his second letter by focusing attention on these same three relationships. These are relationships in which and through which our Lord calls on His church to foster disciplemaking.
End of Part 1.
BONUS: For those who stay with us through Part 4 we'll provide you a free digital copy of Disciplemaking: Biblical Insights from My Fifty Years as a Local Church Pastor to share with friends.
This series was originally a local church message I shared in early 2021. My friends at Cadre Missionaries encouraged me to release this in written format so that you could share in the joy of disciplemaking friendships. I go into more detail on each of these relationships in the next parts of this series: DISCIPLEMAKING: Biblical Insights from My Fifty Years as a Local Church Pastor. —Pastor Marty