June 14, 2015
Every generation of Christians gets to disciple the next.
II. Followers forming followers (2nd Timothy 2:1-2)
III. The character of the disciple maker (2nd Timothy 2:3-6)
In the 1930’s a radically committed square jawed young Christian named Dawson Trotman began to disciple sailors in Long Beach, California. He relentlessly evangelized, but just as relentlessly innovated ways to get new believers to grow, to apply the Word to life, to invest in prayer, Bible Study and Scripture memory. He invented an illustration we still use at Trinity. ‘The wheel’ pictures a Christian life in terms of learning and obeying the Word, depending on God in prayer, loving one another and sharing God’s love with others.
As the war approached, these Navy Christians, who called themselves Navigators, were dispersed into the growing U.S. fleet. Many inevitably ended up at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Navigator number 6, Jim Downing, is now the oldest living veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack. With his wife Morena, he worked for the Navigators for 70 years. At 101 years old he is still proclaiming Christ.
As we begin a series on discipleship, being disciples, growing as disciples, and making disciples, I want to share the vision of God’s heart that was lived out by Dawson Trotman and the Navigators. Trotman invested in individuals, and encouraged others to do the same. He taught these disciples many things, but especially the Wheel, and Bible Memorization, and 2 Tim 2 2.
2nd Timothy 2:2 says “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This verse teaches a principle of personal discipleship and spiritual multiplication. Someone leads you to Christ and disciples you. You disciple others. And they disciple others. Navigators staffer Scott Morton summarizes it this way: “We talk about Dawson today because of the values he taught us. Follow up, discipling, spiritual mentoring. The wheel illustration, the hand illustration, the bridge illustration. We still use them today. But most of all Dawson taught us about spiritual reproduction. Today we call it generations. One person helping another find Christ who can help another who can help another.” My big idea as we begin this series is that every generation of Christians gets to disciple the next generation. Let’s see how this played out for the Navigators.
Dawson Trotman led Jim Downing to faith. Jim Downing led a number of sailors on the battleship U.S.S. West Virginian to faith prior to Pearl Harbor. One of those was a man named Kenny Watters. Watters, in turn discipled a man named Don Rosenberger, whose picture I cannot find. But after the war, like many of these early Navigators, Rosenberger lived in the Navigator home in Long Beach. He edited the early editions of the Navigator newsletter, the Log.
Then in 1949 Rosenberger moved to Northwestern University in Minneapolis to help Billy Graham teach principles of discipleship to Bible College and Seminary students. While there he discipled an Army Air Corps veteran named Waldron Scott. “Scotty” was challenged when Dawson Trotman spoke from Luke 9. “Ninety percent of you won't be around in five to ten years. You'll wash out, join the ranks of the also-rans. You make big promises, but you're not willing to pay the price to follow through." Three years later Scotty became one of the earliest Navigators to go overseas. At the American Academy on Cyprus he discipled Greek, Turkish and Armenian students. Then in 1960 he moved to Lebanon as the leader of Navigator ministries in the Middle East.
Meanwhile Nate Mirza, an Iranian, went to study in the United States, at San Luis Obispo University in California. During Freshman Orientation he was visited by two Navigators. He committed his life to Christ and was discipled. After college he served a while in the U. S., but then returned to the Middle East, where he was mentored by Waldron Scott. When Scott moved on, Mirza took over, discipling believers to maturity in Christ. A few years ago he spoke to international students at Biola, and his heart hadn’t changed. “When we lived in Iran, in 1974, our house collapsed. And the reason it collapsed was that it had no foundation. The contractor was cheating. . . . the one who comes to me and does not do what I say is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. That’s the Luke version. And of course when the storms came, it was destroyed. So foundations are really important.”
One of the people Nate Mirza discipled was a young man from Armenia named Varoujan Mazmanian, who embraced and was transformed by the Navigator disciplines of Bible Study and prayer and memorization. He later had to serve his mandatory two years in the Lebanese Army and he tells a great story about being bored during the lectures on tank maintenance. He slipped his memory verse cards from his pocket and began to review verses. The lecturer caught him out, and made him do fifty push-ups with his hands and arms in a bucket of liquid tar, then sent him to report to the Lieutenant. But the officer asked what he had been doing, and he told him he’d been memorizing Scripture.
The lieutenant took one of the verses and said ‘quote this,’ and Maz did. He then said ‘go continue memorizing but don’t make it too obvious.’ I’ll let Maz finish the story. “I went out of that tent flying on air, so to speak. So the next day without any fear I had my verse pack in my hand and I’m memorizing, when the guy next to me sort of prodded I looked at him and he said “if you finish with one give it to me and let me also memorize because I am bored too.’ In three days there were nine of us out of eighteen standing, looking to the guy, and memorizing Scripture. And some of them were not believers.”
That’s Mazmanian’s heart for spiritual multiplication. But do you see this the generations here? Dawson Trotman; Jim Downing; Kenny Waters; Don Rosenberger, Waldron Scott, Nate Mirza, Var Mazmanian. Every generation of Christians gets the opportunity to disciple the next.
Let’s put this truth in context. 2nd Timothy 2:1-6 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits; his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
In Paul’s first letter to his disciple, Timothy, he had outlined the things needed to bring order and godliness to the church at Ephesus. The second letter written some months or years later is much more personal, written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, probably close to death. Yet, because Timothy was his disciple, one he described as his own son, Paul continues to provide guidance, comfort, and encouragement as Timothy disciples those in Ephesus.
How is Timothy to do it? First, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul isn’t asking Timothy to make himself strong. It’s a passive verb, “Be made strong.” John Stott says: “Paul’s call to fortitude, is not a summons to Timothy to be strong in himself - to set his jaw and grit his teeth - but to ‘be inwardly strengthened’ by God’s grace. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that while salvation is by grace, living the Christian life is by works, by our own strength. No so, according to Paul: live by grace, be strengthened by grace, become a disciple by grace, make disciples by grace.
Dependence on Christ is the starting point, but the mechanism of discipleship is the one so famously described in verse 2: ‘what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’ ‘What you have heard’ is the truth of the Gospel, the transmission of the whole gospel message from generation to generation of believers.
In chapter 1 Paul prepared Timothy for this instruction. He says “share in the suffering of the Gospel,” and “life and immortality” are brought to light through the gospel,” so 13Follow the pattern of the sound words you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Timothy knows that his task is to guard the gospel that has been entrusted to him as Paul’s disciple. This began no doubt, in Lystra, where Timothy as a young man became a believer in Jesus during Paul’s first visit there.
The discipling process continued throughout Timothy’s life. Traveling with Paul gave him the opportunity not only to hear Paul’s teaching but to see his way of life. So the first generation of discipleship in this verse is from Paul to Timothy. The second generation comes when Timothy passes on the same message and way of life to faithful people. The word faithful implies saving faith, but more directly, faithfulness, living out the responsibilities of the Christian life. Timothy is to find people who have this potential and disciple them, passing along the teaching, discipline, and dynamic of the Christian life. But it can’t end there: if the process of spiritual multiplication is to continue these faithful people need to gain disciples of their own and mentor them and pass on the faith. There are three full generations of discipleship here: Paul to Timothy, Timothy to faithful men, and then faithful men to other faithful men.
Don’t miss the obvious application of this truth: you and I should see ourselves everywhere in this process. We should be seeking to be discipled by a Paul, seeking to be a disciple like Timothy, and seeking to be a disciple-maker, just as Timothy who discipled the faithful men who in turn discipled others. This is the key to generations of discipleship and spiritual multiplication work: you multiply what you’ve been given by giving it to two or more others. In modern terminology this means you should be looking to ask a mature believer to be a mentor, to guide you in the practice of disciples, and looking at young believers to find someone you might build into. It means forming relationships with non-believers whom God may be drawing to faith and discipleship. It may meal looking for peers in the faith with whom you can walk this road and share mutual accountability. I’ve said before that these have been some of the most powerful relationships in my life.
But discipling is not easy. In verses 3 to 6 Paul illustrates three more characteristics of disciples, and they are exactly the characteristic we sometimes wish we didn’t have to have: endurance of suffering, an unstinting Godward focus, a willingness to do things right and to work hard. Paul says “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” The soldier, the athlete, the farmer: each is a model of discipleship and from them we can discern at least three challenging characteristics of Christian disciples.
We start with the soldier: “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” One of the things we need to model as mentors and to learn as disciples is endurance. We need to be able to stick with the Christian life when trials and difficulties and hardships come.
This military image is one of Paul’s favorites. In his first letter, Paul had told Timothy to ‘fight the good fight.’ He frequently calls his co-workers ‘fellow soldiers’. In Ephesians he compares living the Christian life to ‘putting on the full armor of God’. Here he cites the endurance of a soldier as a quality to be modeled and emulated. Whether it’s the endurance of the Roman legions, or of the 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge, soldiers make a name for themselves by enduring. So do disciples, and disciple makers.
This image of the soldier is so compelling that Paul actually draws two conclusions from it. Verse 4: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” A disciple is single-minded. A Roman soldier was forbidden from engaging in civilian occupations. In the same way, a good soldier of Jesus has single-minded devotion to Christ, not distracted by worldly concerns. He is in the world but he does not get “entangled” in it. Paul put it this way to the Philippians: “but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”
It shouldn’t surprise us that a soldier who endured hardship and has single-minded devotion to his commanding officer is also a great mentor. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson, 45, of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 101st Airborne Division, a native of Thomson, Georgia died November 23, 2003 during the Iraq war. I found the following tributes to the Command Sgt. Major on a memorial web site. By the way, Command Sgt. Major is about the highest rank a noncommissioned officer or NCO can reach in the U. S. Army.
"I am MSG Lon Kindler, I served under CSM Wilson at Ft. Campbell Ky. I will never forget the mentorship that CSM Wilson provided to every soldier, NCO, and officer. In my many years serving in the military, I have had great mentors that I have worked under, but CSM Wilson was the best. The one thing you could expect from him daily was that he would let you know the Army has a standard, and this was his standard; he would not accept anything less.”
"I first met him as Sergeant First Class Wilson 14 years ago. He was my military science instructor in ROTC at Central State University. I was an 18 year old college student on ROTC scholarship with no real interest or connection to the military. For a young kid from California, ROTC just wasn't "cool". Wake up too early, work too late. Missed parties, you name it. Try as I might, CSM Wilson would not let me fail. In fact, through the next 4 years CSM Wilson was somehow able to instill in me pride in something I had nothing but disdain for – the army. He taught me leadership, responsibility, and dedication.”
Do you want to be a good disciple? Do you want to be a good disciple maker? Be single minded, and endure. Paul goes on to another illustration, from athletics: “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Paul likes illustrations from athletics as much as military ones. At the end of this letter he will say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” The quality of athletics Paul highlights here is the discipline to train by the rules. A Greek athlete who wanted to compete in the Olympics had to embark on a rigorous training program, and had to swear he had done so. Those were the rules. In the same way those who want to be disciples have to be willing to accept the ethical and moral and lifestyle implications of living for Jesus. And those who want to be disciple makers need to communicate these values.
Unfortunately in our day and age the athletes who make the headlines are those who refuse to play by the rules. Lance Armstrong, with his assertion that you can’t win the Tour de France without doping. Johnny Manziel, who just wanted to get out of College Station, but ended up in rehab. Tom Brady, who doesn’t know a thing about how those playoff footballs got deflated. For some athletes the sin of pride kicks in and you feel too big for the rules. But most athletes don’t make headlines because they do play by the rules. And their coaches teach them to play by the rules. I’ve always admired Tony Dungy, partially because of his Christian stance, but partially because of the way he carried those values into his coaching. As he said “Our goal was to win, to win a Super Bowl, but also to win in the right way, to be role models to our community, to represent Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and the National Football League.” And on of the things a good coach does is mentor other coaches. Tony Dungy has one of the most well known coaching trees in the NFL. At least four of his assistant coaches have become head coaches in the league, and in 2007 Dungy won the Superbowl against his good friend and protégé Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears. That’s generational discipleship.
The last model for disciple making is a farmer. Verse 6: “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” Farming is hard work today and it was especially hard in Paul’s day. The farmer’s life involved early, long hours and constant toil: plowing, sowing, tending, weeding, reaping, storing; battling frost, pests, and disease. Learning patience, as everything happened in less than slow motion. Being a disciple and making disciples is hard work, and often seems to happen in less than slow motion. But notice that the hard worker will be first in line for the reward, which will far outweigh the toil. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Is farming really a picture of disciple making? Yes, because in farming knowledge and example are passed from generation to generation. Blueberry farmer Barbara Norman owns a small 53 acre farm in the southwestern Michigan town of Covert. She’s lived there all her life on a farm her grandfather passed to her. One of the largest farms in the area is owned by “Doc” Anderson. “Doc” has taken Barbara under his wing, passing along his knowhow and experience. But Barbara is not only a pupil, she is a teacher as well. She speaks at schools and advises other farmers. She recently won an award for her efforts to communicate the principles of sustainable agriculture to small, marginal and under-served farmers. She is a disciple and a disciple-make.
So what have we seen? That the strength to be a disciple or a discipler comes from God’s grace; that it is an essential, generational ministry by which the truth of the gospel and the living of the Christian life are passed from one believer to another over time; and that you can and should be involved in discipling relationships whether as the mentor, a protege, or as a peer. Some of the character qualities you want to develop both to be a disciple and to make disciples are the endurance and single mindedness of a soldier, the moral commitment of an athlete and the hard work of a farmer. It’s not an easy job description - but your sold out attitude as you live for Jesus and learn the truths of the faith and pass them on can make a difference, one person at a time.
I left my opening story at seven generations of disciple-makers: Dawson Trotman, Don Rosenberger, Waldron Scott, Nate Mirza and Varoujan Mazmanian. What many of you will have figured out or remembered is that one of the many members of the eigth generation of that coaching tree is me. After Varoujan Mazmanian was discipled by Nate Mirza, he came to the United States and began to teach mathematics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He also became faculty advisor to the Stevens Christian Fellowship, the only Christian group on campus. Molded along Navigator lines, one-on-one discipleship, Scripture Memory, serious Bible study and deep fellowship were its hallmarks. That was the organization I stepped into in 1974 when I went to college, and it changed my life forever. My love for Scripture and desire to say again what God has said are directly due to Varoujan Mazmanian. And thus to Nate Mirza. And so on up the tree, so t that I’m a direct spiritual descendant of Dawson Trotman.
Is there a ninth generation? I hope so. I know that others Var discipled have had fruitful discipling ministries, including my friend George Brown who is now the executive director of European Christian Missions International. And I’d know I’ve invested in people here, especially one on one with guys, and I have to believe that God will honor that investment by raising up disciple-makers.
But I still stand in awe of what Var Mazmanian has been doing at Stevens Institute these last forty years. When I e-mailed him this week he gave me part of the list of generations I’ve worked from, but also a snapshot of current ministry at Stevens: The Team (discipleship) ministry is the backbone. This academic year, there were 47 people on teams; 2 teams for the ladies, & 5 for the gentlemen. There are 7 "trainees" living in 800 Garden Street with me. This is a great opportunity for training & discipleship. Many are involved in short term & long term missions. We have sent people to all areas of the world. And we have evangelistic outreach on campus that often yields fruit. Praise God!
Two other faculty members are involved in a Chinese Graduate Christian Fellowship on Campus. A 3rd fellowship, is for International students. They average about 60 graduate students. Recently, they had a baptismal service, in which 10 graduate students shared their testimonies, & were baptized. Praise God! What really thrills me about this ministry , is that many who attend, have not heard of the Lord Jesus prior to their coming to the United States!
Every generation of Christians gets to disciple the next. This summer we want to help you have a vision and some tools so that you can take a step. Maybe it’s becoming a disciple by taking hold of faith in Jesus for the first time. Or maybe you are a needy believer who needs to place yourself under a mentor. Maybe it’s growing as a disciple, placing yourself into community with others who are also growing. Maybe it’s being a mentor, helping others to walk the walk of faith, to live out daily the Christian life and to tell others about Jesus. We need to embrace the God given plan, to be a generation that disciples.