At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:19-20 says,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture.
Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. Let’s break it down. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.
Looking at the verbs individually we can see that they all are dependent off the one previous to them. We can’t make disciples without going! After we make disciples we baptize, then we walk alongside a new believer in their faith and teach them! It is a perfect process! In this commission Jesus is telling us that His church is meant to be a disciple-making body first and foremost.
So… what is a disciple?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher. What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.”
A disciple is a learner. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and our relationships within the body of Christ should be geared so that all of us learn more and more about and from Jesus.
It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done.
I was once advised by a professor to find a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy for my own life. At first I had no idea what that even meant. I knew a person or two-named Timothy… but finding someone named Barnabas was obviously going to be more difficult in my mind.
But… as time went on it clicked.
Each of these well-known New Testament figures represents a type of relationship that is essential in the discipleship process. This discipleship isn’t just for others! Discipleship is foundational to our own personal growth in faith. Having a spiritual advisor, an encouraging peer, and a new believer whom we mentor is crucial to a Believer’s spiritual health. Each of these three characters is important to nurture and mature us as followers of Jesus. That’s why we must cultivate these types of relationships. Let’s discuss them together.
The privilege of sitting under a believer who is far wiser than us in spiritual matters is a mighty blessing. Ultimately, God is our counselor, and the Holy Spirit will always teach, guide, and direct us. But a person who has gained knowledge and insight through personal trials and victories is also crucial to our spiritual health. This person is definitely a tool that God uses to help us persevere in our faith.
A “Paul” is someone who will lovingly speak the truth to you, even at the cost of hurt feelings. We see that displayed in his letters to the different churches in the New Testament. Paul calls them out on things that they are doing that aren’t reflecting the attributes of the Savior who saved them. He does this with authority… but gentleness. In a way that builds up and enables Believers to pursue the purpose and calling that God has for them and the church. Paul was a spiritual father to many believers.
A “Paul” is a mentor, a guide, and a sounding board. We even see this type of relationship displayed in the secular world. We have counselors, trainers, and coaches who push us to achieve certain things and hold us accountable to that. They provide insight and encouragement while instructing us along whatever route we are on.
The thing we must understand about this relationship is that a “Paul” in our life will be a teacher first and a friend second. They are a mentor, and sometimes that means they have to say things to us that we don’t like.
First and foremost we have to find someone who will pour his or her life into us.
Barnabas was a companion of Paul on his first missionary journey after Pentecost. Paul and Barnabas were peers, and sent out from the same church ministry in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas walked through life and served God together. They were friends and without a doubt, they were mutually edified by each other.
Do you have a companion? A partner? A personal support system?
We even see that when Jesus sent out His disciples throughout the Gospels, He sent them out two by two and not alone! It is commonly explained that Jesus knew they needed fellowship and protection. He wanted His disciples to have fellowship because He knew that they were created for relationships.
We aren’t meant to do life alone! We aren’t meant to do ministry alone!
So… we all need a “Barnabas.” We need to be able to share our lives with others in friendship. Biblical Christian friendship. Do be a lone ranger! When we are alone, we are more vulnerable in so many ways, but when we are in relationship, someone has our back. Many of us have seen an action movie where the main character looks at someone and says, “Watch my six.”
Find someone to do life with! To do ministry with! Somebody has got to watch your spiritual “six.”
We must challenge ourselves to find someone we can count on. Not only do we need a Paul, someone who will pour into us, but we also need a Barnabas, with whom we will walk through this life of faith. A “Barnabas” is our spiritual peer, a friend in the faith, someone we co-labor with and someone who will be a source of fellowship and protection. They will encourage us in the faith, and we will do the same for them.
After we have established the above relationships and are living alongside them we must look to the future and find a “Timothy.”
Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God. So not only do we need a “Paul” in our lives to pour into us, not only do we need a “Barnabas” to walk alongside us, but we also need a “Timothy” as well.
We must become someone else’s “Paul!”
What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself previously you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual investment in their lives.
If we all grasp this concept then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole in the years to come.
Finding a “Timothy” somewhat serves or can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and encouraged by our “Barnabas,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.
Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into?
Let’s concern ourselves with creating and developing healthy Christian relationships that encourage and push us on in our faith while we in turn pour into others.