Church-planting residencies should adopt the mantra that discipleship is taught and caught. And it makes sense for making fishers of men.
In part one, we looked at how discipleship and leadership development is more than a bland dissemination of doctrinal information. The best church-planting residencies will put heavy amounts of time into theological clarity, as well as honest relationships. There ought to be invitations into the lives of the pastors—transparency, honesty, and the narrative of God’s mercy upon the pastors.
Residencies can be ecclesial nurseries, a place and a family where “Timothys” and “Tituses” are loved, nourished, and encouraged by a spiritual father on how to navigate the minefield of church planting. In part one, I pointed out the eight things Paul taught Timothy, all from 2 Timothy 3:10–11. Now it’s time to consider Paul’s curriculum.
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” (2 Tim. 3:10-11)
1. My Teaching
Timothy knew Paul’s theology. He would have heard Paul preach the gospel and strengthen the churches (Acts 16:1–5). Timothy was in the room as Paul unraveled his letter to the church at Rome (Rom. 16:21). As Paul talked, and probably dictated the letter, Timothy would have heard about God’s plan to save those who fall short of the glory of God by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
He was there for 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1), Philippians (Phil. 1:1), Colossians (Col. 1:1), 1 and 2 Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1), and Paul’s letter to Philemon (Philem. 1). Timothy knew Paul’s teaching and theology better than anyone.Church-planting residencies should adopt the mantra that discipleship is taught and caught. Click To Tweet
Our residency programs must be filled with teaching that shows how to connect the dots of doctrine to daily life. If you want residents to learn your teaching, take them with you on trips and counseling sessions, show them how you prepare sermons. Find ways to invite them into your theological formation.
2. My Conduct
Timothy saw how Paul carried himself publicly and privately. He traveled with, tended to, and worked alongside Paul on his missionary journeys. Timothy saw how Paul responded to imprisonment (Acts 16:25). Timothy would have caught the great love Paul had for the churches he served. He saw Paul being gentle among the Thessalonians like a nursing mother (1 Thess. 2:7).
There was no bravado or big-dealness in Paul. Paul was the same man preaching at Mars Hill, chained in prison, or ministering in houses. Here’s the point: Timothy saw every side of Paul’s ministry. Ministers of the gospel are not only public servants of a message of grace, they also live out the implications of grace in every sphere of life.
Pastors who lead residency programs should figure out how to open up their lives so the residents can see their conduct while doing ministry, while traveling, while inconvenienced, while in public, and when the shoes are kicked off. The best church-planting residencies are holistic, all-of-life endeavors to raise up faithful disciples who will make disciples.
3. My Aim in Life
Timothy caught what drove Paul. Timothy heard Paul tell the pastors of the Ephesian church, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
How do you think those words landed on Timothy? He saw his spiritual father plow forward in surrender and trust to the risen Christ. Timothy sat in the room as Paul said, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20). Planting churches and preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth would have echoed in Timothy’s heart too. Paul’s aim was exalting Jesus, enjoying Jesus, proclaiming Jesus, and living for Jesus (2 Cor. 5:9).Residencies can be ecclesial nurseries, a place and a family where “Timothys” and “Tituses” are loved, nourished, and encouraged by a spiritual father on how to navigate the minefield of church planting. Click To Tweet
Would the residents in your program catch that Jesus is your aim and that your ambition is to see Christ preached and churches planted? Or would they say you’re really passionate about leadership, strategy, organizational dynamics, systematic theology, preaching, or the Sunday service? I hope we care about all of those things, but they take the obvious place in line behind the risen Christ.
4. My Faith
When Paul says that Timothy followed his faith, he isn’t referring to the doctrinal prepositions that constitute the Christian faith. That would be the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints, but Paul says, “my faith”—the personalization and integration of Paul’s trust in the triune God for all of life and ministry. Timothy would have heard Paul say, as the chains clanged from his wrists in a Roman prison, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10–11).
The apostle Paul was humbled by God’s grace. Paul’s piety led him to consider himself the least of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9), the least of all Christians (Eph. 3:8), and he saw himself as the biggest sinner in the world (1 Tim. 1:15). The reality of grace changed Paul’s perception in profound and practical ways. No swagger, no bragging, no posturing, nothing impressive.
Paul poured more than doctrine into Timothy. Paul shared his life, character, ambitions, and hopes with him. Church-planting residents need to catch the harmonization of doctrine with life. They need to see a leader not just articulate the faith but also live out the faith. Come back for part three as we look at the final four aspects of Paul’s curriculum for church-planting residents: patience, love, steadfastness, and suffering.