After saying these things, he left them. His teachings now burned into their heads, his spirit now resident in their hearts. Finally, they were on their way to becoming deep people.
Discipleship Is Serious Business
Paul is thinking about the rabbinical contract when he writes to Timothy. "What I've taught you… teach others… who will teach others." Do it by being an example, Paul says, "in speech [what and how you say things], in life [the way you live], love [your quality of relationships], faith [how you trust God], and purity [your moral choices]." That's all rabbinical talk, as well as “command, rebuke, exhort.” In short: Timothy's assignment was to grow deep people.
Here's a final thought. We want to be disciples of Jesus, not of someone else. The rabbi's deep people are not his. Disciples are not to be owned, controlled, or misused. They belong to Jesus, and he is free to guide them toward life and leadership in the church but also, possibly, beyond it. The church's greatest treasure—these deep people—must be shared, exported, and sent out.
When Jesus prayed before his arrest in the garden, what did he pray for? He prayed for "those whom you gave me." Hear him: "I have revealed you to them… I have given them your word… they need your protection… they need to be sanctified… I've sent them out."
He prayed not for the crowds he'd preached to, but for the disciples he'd cultivated.
I have known a "rabbi" or two in my life who guided me through the process of emulation, instruction, and examination. Sometimes they were tough, sometimes tender. They believed in the present and future me. They saw what I might become and endeavored to deepen me. They are all gone now, but I have their "word" and am committed to handing their gospel on to others.
Gordon MacDonald is chancellor of Denver Seminary. He is author of numerous books, including Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence. This article is adapted from one that first appeared in Leadership Journal.