Our work launched in August 2005. The mission involves a focused attempt to make multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. Anybody paying attention can see a gap between “theory and practice” when it comes to evangelism in America in the 21st century. There’s a divide between the church’s desire to be evangelistic and what is actually getting done. We’d like to help congregations bridge the chasm by equipping believers in a “Jesus-style” of disciple making – one that centers on relationally investing in a few people at a time. Disciple making should be reproducible from generation to generation. That said, our efforts are specifically aimed at preparing men and women in the practice of making disciples who are, in turn, capable of multiplying by discipling others. (See blog post citing Phil Downer on “Start a Chain Reaction.”)
It is also our quest to foster authentic discipleship through purposeful teaching and training within small discipling networks. We hope to develop a base of Christ-followers who authentically answer the call to be a “cross shaped” people. As men and women are nurtured to grow in Christ, it’s our aim to equip them in becoming disciple makers. Every mature believer should be involved in some aspect of making disciples, but they must be intentionally equipped for the mission. Just like healthy adults naturally reproduce in the physical realm, every mature believer should be able to reproduce spiritually by making other disciples.
Discipleship has too often been reduced to a set of steps, rules, formulas, and rituals. Consequently, much of the emphasis can get placed on what happens during the worship hour on Sunday mornings. When this happens Christianity becomes “a religion.” Instead of training and encouraging one another in obedience to the kingdom ethic of Jesus (loving enemies, practicing forgiveness, trusting God, etc.), we get bogged down within the walls of our church buildings. The main goals and core values of The Timothy Network are predicated on the conviction that discipleship is a day-by-day, life-long process of patient endurance and obedience. We want to help Christ-followers be a real salt and light influence in the world – not just people who espouse “religious belief.”
While disciple-making is reduced to canned one-shot approaches by some, experience shows hurried-up evangelism doesn’t always produce long lasting results. Focused teaching on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, intentional/relational investment in a few at a time, and training in spiritual reproduction (multiplying) is the missional focus of our work.
The Timothy Network is a disciple making project aimed at tapping into God’s design for human beings. God “hard-wired” us need to one another. We were meant to grow and thrive within community. We’re intellectual, emotional and social beings. Each of these aspects of our nature working in tandem is how healthy discipleship takes form and is lived out. Understanding and knowing the Word is crucial, but filling our heads with knowledge isn’t enough. Information without transformation leads to legalism and hypocrisy. Knowing God has to become an ingrained part of our spiritual DNA. This happens slowly and within the context of accountable relationships. The writer of Proverbs spokes to the importance of relationships in saying, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
The core building block of our ministry is the “equipping cell,” a small group of three – five people that meets weekly for focused Bible study, prayer and transparent interaction. These groups “live life together” and encourage one another in their walk with God. Equipping cells are training / discipling groups designed to mature believers and prepare them for the work of reproduction (i.e. making other disciples).
Mike Stroud, Director / Discipling Minister