The following article was written by Dr. Robert Blaylock, a charter member of Timothy Network’s Board of Accountability. mls

Jesus, the master teacher, often used metaphors, similes, and parables to communicate truths about His kingdom. A recent conversation with Mike surfaced a useful metaphor for the Timothy Network-that of an incubator.

The most common answer I got when I asked people for a definition of an incubator was a device that keeps eggs warm before they hatch. American Heritage dictionary helps out with two other definitions of incubation: “The development of an infection from the time the pathogen enters the body until signs or symptoms appear” and “The maintenance of an infant, especially a premature infant, in an environment of controlled temperature, humidity, and oxygen concentration in order to provide optimal conditions for growth and development.” All three definitions of incubation provide valuable insights into Timothy Network’s mission of discipleship formation.

The first and second definitions remind us that much work occurs on the inside before we see the fruit of that work on the outside. This is true whether it is a chick developing, a virus replicating, or God’s Spirit growing inside of us. The other definition provides a wonderful word picture about the care and the investment of time and energy that is necessary to grow from a fragile infant in Christ into a mature adult. None of us expects an infant to jump out of the incubator into his first job overnight. True discipleship takes time and effort.

The Timothy Network is an “incubator” providing a safe place for optimal growth and development of faith for a variety of people. Some have not yet been born (again) like a chick in an egg. Some are babes in Christ needing protection to grow. Others just need some additional time and investment for their relationship with God to develop to the point where the “signs and symptoms” of discipling others appear.

Incubation is a universal need for Christians to develop, yet it is an organic process that takes different amounts of time and different conditions for each person. We see this truth in the different incubation times of different viruses, the different hospital stays for different infants, and the different time invested in different disciples in the Bible (from a few months in some cases to three years for the apostles).

The Timothy Network has necessarily been focusing much effort on the process of incubation over these first four years. I am so thankful that Mike listened to God four years ago and that he has persevered through these years of incubation. He has never lost faith that the Biblical model of discipleship works.

Now, after four years of loving incubation, we can begin to raise our sights and dream about what more God has planned. We are seeing individual lives transformed, communities of disciples being formed and replicated, and the very idea of true discipleship rediscovered. Mike is starting to be asked to share the insights he has gained with churches both near and far. And just as it only takes one person to bring a virus from one country to another, the transforming power of the gospel truly lived out in the life of even one disciple incubated by the Timothy Network can influence an entire family, congregation, or community. Let us continue to pray that God uses us and the investment that is being made to spread His kingdom throughout the world.

For the Kingdom,

Bobby Blaylock