The author of today's essay is Earl Creps. Earl is an Assemblies of God pastor who lives in Berkeley, CA and serves as the lead pastor of 360church. Earl has a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, and has served as a university and seminary professor.
We recently hosted a special webcast for the Mission of God Study Bible. Steve Gladen, Philip Nation, and Dave Ferguson joined me for the show, and we had a great time talking Bible and mission. In case you missed the show, here is the video:
Passing on the Mission by Earl Creps
God entrusts an eternal mission to temporary human beings. Every generation of believers faces the challenge of transmitting these redemptive purposes to the next. In 2 Timothy 2:2, the Apostle Paul instructs his protégé to make their relationship a pattern for passing on the mission of God. Paul's writings depict four kinds or relationship between current and future leaders that are essential to this transition.
Paternal relationship: "my dearly loved son" (2 Tm 1:2)
The nature of the bond between the two men is evident in the five times the Apostle refers to Timothy as his son. Paul loves this younger man, who may have grown up without a father, as if he were his own child. Timothy responds with missionary sacrifices, as exemplified in being circumcised to avoid offending their Jewish audiences (Ac 16:3). Passing on the mission begins with older leaders becoming spiritual parents to their successors.
Fraternal relationship: "our brother" (Col 1:1)
The Apostle speaks of Timothy three times as "our brother," part of the household of faith, and of equal value with all of the other members-- including Paul himself. In fact, the Apostle refers to himself and Timothy together simply as "slaves of Christ Jesus" (Php 1:1). No one can feel superior when all of us humble ourselves before the same God. Treating the next generation with the respect due to members of the same family helps form the bonds through which the mission can be transmitted.
Ministerial relationship: "my coworker" (Rm 16:21)
Paul developed Timothy into a fully functioning minister of the gospel, traveling with him, serving as an emissary, leading the Ephesian church Paul founded, and enduring hardship for the faith. To the Thessalonians, Paul described him as "our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ" (1Th 3:2). Timothy learned the ministry by sharing Paul's life and teaching as they traveled the roads and oceans of the Roman Empire. Mission legacies are formed as future leaders share in real apostolic responsibilities right now.
Supernatural relationship: "man of God" (1Tm 6:11)
The Apostle recognized that God will work in a unique way in this younger minister, reminding him of the prophetic basis of his ministry (1Tm 1:18) and encouraging him to "keep ablaze" the gift within him (2Tm 1:6). As a "man of God," Timothy will have to find God's plan for his own times, as Paul did for his. We cannot foresee the conditions our successors will encounter any more than Paul and Timothy could have anticipated the Internet. The Lord we trust in our generation will have to be the Lord disciples trust for the next generation as men and women of the everlasting God.
Timothy grew into a seasoned leader who extended the mission of God long after the Apostle's passing. When future leaders begin as sons, become brothers, develop into coworkers, and are recognized as real men and women of God, they don't just own the mission, the mission owns them.