We have the privilege of reading some of the Apostle Paul’s strategic thinking for accomplishing the mission of God—reproducing apprentices of Jesus. Paul, who literally gave his life for the mission of Jesus, was motivated by Jesus’ call to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) and to see them reproduced from “Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Ac 1:8). Though not present when the Great Commission was given, Paul received his own commission (Ac 9) and it inspired him to bring alongside himself a young apprentice in the faith, Timothy. Paul apprenticed Timothy as a follower of Jesus and laid out a strategy of reproducing apprentices of Jesus that could catalyze a movement.
Reproducing was not a new idea to Paul. The Bible shows reproduction as God’s creative intention that everything living would reproduce. In Genesis God instructed all creatures to be fruitful and multiply (Gn 1:28). Jesus gave that same message of reproducing to His followers (Mt 28:19) and the challenge to reproduce disciples to the ends of the earth (Ac 1:8). Responding to Jesus’ commission the church grew to at least 3,000 on Pentecost (2:41), more than 5,000 a short time later (4:4), and was clearly a movement as “believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers” (5:14). This first century movement of reproducing apprentices of Jesus moved beyond Jerusalem and started multiplying churches in Samaria (8:5,12-13); took the gospel to Africa (8:26-28); to the Gentile world (chap. 10) and beyond.
Reproducing apprentices of Jesus requires intentional relationship building. Right after Jesus calls His first followers, John 3:22 tell us, “After this, Jesus and His disciples went to the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them and baptized.” The word for “spend time” is the Greek word diatribo which is a composite of two words: dia which means “through,” and tribo which means “to rub.” So diatribo may imply that they spent time rubbing through to each other, meaning they influenced one another. Diatribo occurs in an apprenticeship. Paul was apprenticing Timothy the same way that Jesus did His followers: through intentional relationship building.
Reproducing apprentices of Jesus means passing on the profound and simple truth of the gospel. Paul passed on to Timothy gospel truths that were so profound that he would never forget them. They gripped Timothy’s heart and mind forever. But at the same time, these truths were so simple that Timothy could in turn pass them on to others who could then pass them on to others. Reproducing apprentices of Jesus results in generations of changed lives. Paul was clear with Timothy that if he were successful at apprenticing other followers of Jesus it would not end with him or the next generation or even the following. Paul challenges Timothy with a vision of four generations of reproduction: from Paul to Timothy; from Timothy to reliable men; and then from reliable men to others. Through reproducing apprentices of Jesus, generations of lives would be changed, accomplishing the mission of God.
Dave Ferguson is Lead Pastor at Community Christian Church and Movement Leader of NewThing
This essay is taken from the Mission of God Study Bible, Copyright 2012 by Holman Bible Publishers