Just Between Us

Just Between Us

Blog 2 in the series “Obeying Jesus 1st Century Command in the 21st Century.”
Blogs two through five address what needs to be done and how to do it in four scenes.

Pastor Pete is visiting his missionary friend Jerry who is back on furlough. While their wives are shopping and Pete is showing Jerry some of the sights of their town, the men talk shop. We pick up their conversation somewhere in the middle.

Jerry: We are so excited about what God is doing in raising up leaders in our church.

Pete: Really? Great. Tell me about what you’re doing to develop your people and how you got started.

Jerry: I’d love to. Some time ago I did some study in the life of Paul, looking principally at his leadership style and practice. Twenty leadership principles surfaced. I saw that when these principles show up in the lives of people, it is a good indicator they are ready for level three discipleship.

Pete: Level three discipleship? What’s that?

Jerry: Well, level one is what we consider simple follow-up after salvation. For example, we use The Way to Joy booklet from Good Soil. With it we deal with ten important “first steps” discipleship issues like assurance of salvation, the importance of Bible study and prayer, the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives, witnessing, and so forth.

Level two is more intense, building the believer into a fruitful member of the church. Many times we use the Chronological Bible Teaching method to help new believers effectively learn and tell God’s story. We like to use some kind of a personal growth journal, also, to help the disciple with a quiet time. In level one we are making disciples, while in level two we are beginning to develop disciple-makers. Level three discipleship looks for and develops key partners: ones who may become leaders and deacons in our church plant, and pastors and missionaries in our church or other churches.

Pete: Whoa! You do all that?

Jerry: Well, sure. We’re just trying to make disciples as Jesus commanded when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Pete: So you take that literally, huh? Don’t you think you can disciple people through your preaching?

Jerry: Oh yes, preaching is a great opportunity to disciple. But there’s more to it than that. As I began to look at the principles in the life of Paul, I came across what I believe to be the overriding principle in Paul’s life. I believe this is what he was about: mentoring, or in other words, on-the-job training.

I know that mentoring is popular today, almost a buzzword for the last decade of the 20###sup/sup### century and the beginning of the 21st. People preach about it, write books about it—but it is an old concept. You see, although Jesus didn’t use the word or even talk about it much, he actually modeled mentoring for us.

Pete: He certainly picked out key men and spent time with them.

Jerry: He did! Jesus poured His life into them and then asked them to carry out a task for Him. Mark 3:14 says, “…he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” Later he said they were to “make disciples.” They were to develop followers in much the same way He did. As a friend of mine[7] says, “being with Him” is the power of proximity and “sending them forth” is the purpose of proximity.

Pete: That’s interesting. I never noticed before that Jesus had a dual purpose for the twelve—first that they should simply be with Him, and secondly, to be sent out.

Jerry: That’s right, and being with Him is what made a difference in their lives. That’s what discipleship is all about, too, not just teaching, but spending time with people and letting life on life change their lives.[8]

Pete: And Jesus’ life sure did affect theirs! Later people noted that some of those same disciples—common, uneducated men—“had been with” Jesus.[9]

Jerry: Good point. Now whether the Twelve picked up on this methodology, taught it, and carried it out well or not, we can’t say with certainty. But we know that one caught the vision.

Pete: Who?

Jerry: Barnabas. We don’t know if he got it directly from Jesus or put it together from the teaching of the other apostles, but he got it one way or another.

Pete: How do you figure?

Jerry: Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the apostles (Acts 11) to find out what was going on there. Apparently, believing Jews scattered by the persecution were sharing Jesus with Gentiles!

Pete: (Sarcastically.) How terrible!

Jerry: I know, right? But apparently, the apostles were not happy (kind of like when they were upset with Peter for going to Cornelius’ house). Barnabas was the apostles’ man to check it out. When he arrived, he saw evidence of the grace of God. He was excited about what God was doing and encouraged them to grow and stay strong in the Lord.[10] So what did he do? Being the good man that he was, led by God, he went to work and many more people trusted in Christ.[11] He had a good ministry started and could make a name for himself—maybe even be promoted to ‘apostle’!

Pete: Hmm. Interesting.

Jerry: But the next verse tells us that he left.

Pete: He had a good thing going there. Why would he leave?

Jerry: He left the work and went looking for Saul. Barnabas had met him earlier (Acts 9) and was even quite instrumental in Saul’s acceptance by the believing community. So now he remembered Saul and the potential he had to serve God, and Barnabas wanted him for this work.

Pete: I see. Barnabas saw the importance of working alongside someone with potential.

Jerry: (Interrupting) of pouring his life into someone that could multiply his own ministry. And he did it so well that Paul would go on to do the same thing and teach men to train others.


Pete: So Barnabas really did get catch on to Jesus’ concept of spending time with people and investing in their lives.

Jerry: Oh yeah. And when Paul and Barnabas split up, what happened?

Pete: You tell me.

Jerry: Barnabas, convinced that on-the-job training was still the ticket to develop someone who had bailed on them earlier, took John Mark with him on another journey.[12] Although we don’t hear more about Barnabas after this, we know he was committed to mentoring. Later we find that John Mark—the deserter—is valuable to Paul.[13]

Pete: Way to go, Barney! But what about the other half of the split-up duo? Paul “chose Silas.”[14]

Jerry: Yep. And we know that Barnabas trained Paul well in this principle of discipling people on the job, because we see that he continued to take people alongside for training. All through the next chapters of Acts he is “accompanied by” Timothy,[15] and “taking along” Priscila and Aquila,[16] until in Acts 20 he has at least eight different men with him from four different churches.[17]

Pete: Wow. They really did spend time with people, training them “on the job” so to speak.

Jerry: When we move to the epistles, we see that the theme continues. There, he “sends” and “brings” and “leaves” people in various places where they can be used by God. Whether one calls it on-the-job training, or mentoring . . .

Pete: . . . or discipling . . .


Jerry: . . . or whatever—Paul did it and he taught it. A friend of mine wrote on level three discipleship and devoted an entire section to this idea.[18] But, let me simply mention one of the key verses he cites here: 2 Timothy 2:2. Addressing Timothy, ‘his son’ (a phrase that illustrates the mentoring idea) Paul says “. . . the things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Pass it on! Keep it going! Share it with others who will keep passing it on!

Pete: You know, I’ve always heard that there are four generations of passing it on in that verse.

Jerry: That’s right. We should be able to see this happening not only in our lives, but in the lives of our disciples as well. Jurandir, one of my disciples, illustrates this well. A prostitute’s son, he struggled to get out of a difficult lifestyle. When he trusted Christ as Savior, his life was radically changed. I went to his house for his first discipleship Bible study and there sat Zé Felício. I shared the Gospel, and he trusted Christ that night.

Pete: Praise the Lord!


Jerry: The next week I went back for discipleship, and Jurandir had another friend there. He prayed to receive Christ as Savior that night! The bigger thrill came a couple weeks later when Cebola told me that he trusted Christ after Jurandir shared with him! Jurandir became an evangelist and disciple-maker. In one year, 10 people came to know Christ through his influence . . . and last I knew, he was still passing it on.[19]

Pete: I never knew you were doing all this, Jerry! (Suddenly downcast.) I guess I never realized I should be discipling; spending time with men, teaching them and helping them grow in Christ.

Jerry: Randy Faulkner tells the story of how Howard Hendricks asked him, “Where is your man? Your church building is nice, but I’m more concerned about the men in whom you are investing your life!” Faulkner goes on to say that “Hendricks was thrilled when he encountered a young pastor who was making the Lord’s last command his first priority.”[20] (Emphasis added.)

Pete: Now he was referring not only to evangelism there, but to this discipleship idea, right?

Jerry: That’s right, and I think he got the idea of building into new believers from Paul. Life on life discipleship was crucial to his ministry. Apart from the mystery of the church that is possible through the wondrous grace of God, I believe this type of ministry to be Paul’s most important contribution to us for two reasons:

First, Because of the sheer amount of material that deals with it. At least 128 verses in Acts and Paul’s Epistles deal with on-the-job training or discipleship in some way. And, secondly, because without this basic concept functioning, the communication of the mystery, grace, and mercy of God could not have reached to people in the 21st century. This on-the-job training, or discipleship, was Paul’s way to pass the message of the Gospel not only from one person to another, but from generation to generation.

Pete: So without discipling, there’s no growth?

Jerry: Well, at least it is stilted. Listen, James Engel wrote that “the Great Commission contains three related but distinctly different mandates: (1) to proclaim the message; (2) to persuade the unbeliever; and (3) to cultivate the believer.”[21] Our task isn’t finished by simply proclaiming the good news. Diana Tillman, a fictional character in Gaining Ground with Good Soil, said, “I really liked what Engel said about proclaiming, persuading, and cultivating. I’m beginning to understand that we, the human communicators, are to proclaim the gospel while the Holy Spirit convicts. Then we are to persuade once sufficient biblical awareness and . . . recognition (of the sin problem) have been achieved. Then, of course, when a new believer trusts Christ as Savior, he must be followed up, or cultivated. I mean, after all, he is a new creature; his life has just begun; he must be cared for so that the new life is not snuffed out.”[22]

Pete: All right, I get it. Without “on-the-job-training,” the communication of the grace of God will not reach the next generation. I need to do what Paul did. I have got to seek out, choose, and disciple men and women and train them to disciple others. If I don’t, I’ll be dropping the baton.

Jerry: We all need to do it.

What about you?

Are you involved personally in making disciples, first by bringing people to Christ and then teaching them?

What steps will you take today to begin to develop disciple-makers in your church?

If you are not really involved on a personal level fulfilling Jesus’ first century command in the 21st century, will you repent and ask God to help you start making disciples?

What priorities do you need to change to make disciple-making a major part of your ministry?

If don’t feel comfortable starting a discipleship group yet, will you commit to reading the following blogs to learn more about how you can do so?

[1] David Kinnaman, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . And Why It Matters (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 82.

[2] In personal conversations with pastors and in formal seminar settings, I have found that few pastors have been discipled nor are they are involved in systematic discipleship.

[3] Randy Faulkner, Meeting the Dawn at Jimmy’s Egg, (Oklahoma City: R & R Publishing, 2009), 7.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, pages 7-8.

[6] Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps, Training Ain’t Performance, (Alexandria: ASTD Press, 2004), 100.

[7] That friend is Ron Berrus, pastor of many years and ABWE board member. Ron presently pastors Bible Baptist Church in Mechanicsburg, PA.

[8] I am indebted to Ron Berrus for this “life on life” concept which he calls “Life in Tandem.”

[9] Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

[10] “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” Acts 11:23.

[11] “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Acts 11:24.

[12] Barnabas and Saul had taken John Mark with them when they were first sent out as missionaries, but John Mark quit and went home. See Acts 15:3-40.

[13] “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11.

[14] “But Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” Acts 15:40.

[15] “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Acts 16:3.

[16] “After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchrea he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” Acts 18:18-19.

[17] “Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.” Acts 20:4-8. The reader may count only seven name in these verses, but in verse 6 Dr. Luke says, “. . . we sailed away” which indicates that he was with them. Dr. Luke was the eighth person.

[18] See “Level Three Discipleship—Training Leaders within the Local Church through Mentoring,” Essential Mission Components. Essential Mission Components is a cross-cultural church planting class developed by the Center for Excellence in Ministry, the training division of ABWE. Much of the text in this article is an adaptation of that more extensive article.

[19] This illustration is taken from actual ministry in Portugal.

[20] Randy Faulkner, Meeting the Dawn at Jimmy’s Egg, (Oklahoma City: R & R Publishing, 2009), 34.

[21] James F. Engel, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 44. On pages 44 to 56 Engel develops not only these ideas of proclaiming, persuading and cultivating, but he also shares his now well-known scale (page 45) which Good Soil has adapted and developed in much more detail in their training resources.

[22] Gil Thomas, Gaining Ground with Good Soil, (Harrisburg: Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship, 2009, 2015), 37.

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