By Tom Virtue
If possible, give these instructions before you meet. If that’s not possible, read through the short passages together.
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and 2 Timothy 2:1-7.
- Reflect for 10-15 minutes and journal using these prompts:
- What phrases and ideas were significant to you or impacted you as you read these passages?
- What are the biggest questions that come to your mind after reading?
We in Epic talk about building holistic multiplying disciples. What we mean by that is raising up followers of Jesus who are aware of and affirmed in their identity and story and become intentionally engaged in Jesus’ model of incarnational ministry themselves. These followers invite others to follow Jesus, affirm them in their own God-given identity and story, and encourage them to do the same with others – becoming a part of God’s redemptive story that runs throughout all of history through all the pages of the Bible (2 Corinthians 5:16–21).
Read and discuss together:
Incarnation is defined as “a person who embodies in flesh a deity, spirit, or abstract quality” (Merriam-Webster).
- Talk about a personal experience with someone who “embodied” a quality of God (e.g., love, grace, loving discipline, etc.). Think of a specific instance when you needed love or whatever quality you described in a way that met you, made a real difference for you, and influenced you. Describe what the value of that “incarnation” experience was to you.
Jesus lived the incarnation simply by being who He was. He became God in flesh when He came to be one of us (John 1:14).
When we think about incarnational ministry, we’re talking about Jesus living His life in and through us by the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). What flows out of you in ministry comes from God using who you are with His life infused. What you do, and what you bring flows out of who you are. Transformational power takes place when God uses all He has built into one life to serve the life of another individual or group. All ministry is incarnational, like Jesus’ ministry was. That means that our identity is foundational to all ministry because God uses us in the fullness of our identity (this is the holistic part of building multiplying disciples). This is why we spend time talking about our story and our identity.
- Where have you seen Jesus live His life through you? What did that produce in you? What feelings or realizations came to you?
- Is there a cost that comes along with allowing Jesus to live through you? What cost comes to your mind?
An implication of these thoughts on the incarnation means every dimension of your life is a forum for ministry: friendships, family, recreation, academics, work, social media, finances, you name it. Ministry isn’t a separate slice of life. It is all of life!
Making Deposits (Teaching Others)
When it comes to the practicalities of making holistic multiplying disciples it’s helpful to have a couple of images that guide your thinking. We’ll use the picture of an “ambassador” (2 Cor 5:16-21) and the picture of “entrusting” (2 Tim 2:1-7).
Ask: What does an ambassador do?
- Represents the interests of a country to a foreign government
- Lives in foreign territory. Life experience is completely immersed in the foreign land but maintains the priorities of their home country.
Paul’s implication is that in our case we are seeking to influence everyone around us on behalf of our “home” country to recruit them.
Ask: What do you do when you “entrust” something?
Picture someone making a “deposit” in another person’s bank account. You don’t know what they’ll do with it. It becomes theirs. Paul in 2 Timothy 2 implies the same idea when you teach something, pass along an insight, or allow someone into your life and share part of your life with them. You don’t know what they will do with it.
That’s why you look for “faithful people.” Entrusting what you have to other people isn’t always easy; it requires the focus and lasting power of a soldier at war, the discipline of a world class athlete, the hard work of a farmer.
For better or for worse, you never know where these people will go or what God will do in them. You entrust the future impact of your ministry to them. Your deposit becomes one part of God’s story in their life, not the whole story as there will be others making deposits as well.
Ask: Putting these two images together, how do you practically go about “making holistic multiplying disciples?”
Some suggestions include:
- Have life on life time with others. Intentionally expose them to how you respond in real life situations.
- Set aside intentional times of discussion and learning on topics related to following Christ (like this one 😀).
- Pray together about things that cause you to need God.
- Laugh together and with other friends.
- Have regular discussions about why you want to make deposits in others – that you believe it’s on God’s heart to do that for life.
- Intentionally get them together with other people who will point them toward Christ and what is on the heart of Christ.
- Avoid getting into a rut in how you spend your time together.
- Show your weaknesses and your insecurities to them.
- Think about a plan of content you want to go over together but don’t make that the central point.
You Have A Place
The best news of all this is that it means you have a place in God’s big plan for the world. This is how God wants to see His love and grace taken to every people group in the world!
- What have you taken in that’s a part of you now as a Christ follower (disciple)? What do you possess?
- Who is already in your life to whom you can pass that along?
- Who else comes to your mind that isn’t as close to you right now?
- Do you need help in figuring out how to pass it along? If so, where can you get that help?
- What steps do you want to take in the next couple of weeks to pass along what you have in Christ?
Close this time by reading the two passages of scripture with which we started:
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (ESV):
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV):
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 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. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”