Paul’s Plan to make disciples

time-management-imageI love to study and teach on the vibrant life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. He was a man who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles. I am a benefactor of his life and ministry. Paul was a disciple making machine and I want to examine his methods to see what I can learn from him about ministry and fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples over the course of my lifetime. 

I. Paul was a good planner

One of the best courses that I took at the Inductive Bible study institute of Eurasia was “The importance of planning your time”. This session is based on the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the church in Thessalonica. Paul was an expert at planning his time and his activities according to the high calling that he received from the Lord of making disciples of all the nations.

2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17)

Paul knew that there were Jews all over Asia Minor and Macedonia (modern day Turkey and Greece). Anytime he arrived in a new city, he inquired where the Jews of the city held their synagogue meetings. As a trained Rabbi, when Paul visited a synagogue, he would be invited to read Scripture and teach from the Scriptures. He planned on using this custom to his advantage. This plan involved meeting people on common ground, seeking people who were seeking for God, going to the people where they were, and using the common ground to teach Jesus from the Scriptures.

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19)

In Acts 17, Paul visited Thessalonica and Berea. In Acts 19, Paul visited Ephesus. All three of these cities had synagogues and Paul was able to work according to his plan to make disciples. Are you a good planner. Do you sit and think of common ground that you can meet people on, where they are,  in order to share the Word of God and teach Jesus Christ from the Scriptures? As the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail”. Planning ministry is vital. We follow God’s lead as we minister but that does not mean that we do not plan.

II. Paul emphasized the Scriptures

For years, the Apostle Paul, before he became a born again disciple of Jesus Christ, was a man who sat in a position of authority over the Word of God. He gave the interpretation. He used the Word of God to justify his actions. He also added the traditions of men to his teachings and ended up contradicting the Bible. Jesus reveals this truth to us in Mark 7. After encountering Jesus Christ, Paul was changed. He came under the authority of the Word of God and began to emphasize the Scriptures over his “explanations” of the Scriptures. It changed everything for Paul and his ministry. He went from being the center of attention as the teacher, to pointing everyone’s attention to the Scriptures. When he began to do that, people’s lives began to become transformed. As a spiritual leader, do you keep the center of attention on you as the one who “explains” the Scriptures or, do you place the center of attention on the Scriptures and make yourself a simple conduit? What does this look like practically?

2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (Acts 17)

In order to understand this concept, we must understand the meaning of the verb “to reason” as used in the Biblical text. It means to converse in the form of question and answer. The teacher asks the questions and the students respond with answers from the text. This is not a lecture or a sermon. This is not an argument over the meaning of words and phrases. This is a form of inductive Bible study, a method that means “going into the text to find the answers”. This method places the speaker and the audience under the authority of the text. Based on Acts 17, this is a very effective tool for making disciples. We see evangelism and equipping happening almost at the same time. This is the same method that Jesus used when He made disciples and called the crowds to follow Him.

9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily  in the school of Tyrannus. 1

0 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19)

In Acts 19, Paul is in Ephesus, a place where Paul spent 2 years and 3 months, and we see that he not only proclaimed Christ, he also equipped the saints to take the touch of discipleship and pass it on to others. The Ephesians had the same view of the Word of God that Paul did. They came under the authority of the Word of God. Reasoning through the Scriptures with others is what causes lives to be changed. This is what every follower of Jesus Christ should be doing. If you are in a church or a Bible study group where the leaders do not challenge you by placing the center of attention on the Word of God, and they do not teach you to reason through the Scriptures, you need to ask God to show you a place that does this. Challenge the leaders to use this method. Many evangelical Bible study groups end up being times of argument to wrangle about terms and the meaning of words instead of simply reasoning together from the Scriptures. It is so simple. Learn to ask questions and answer those questions from the text.

III. Paul trained leaders

I have noticed in the evangelical world of today that there are many leaders who do not do a very good job of raising up new leaders. While studying this phenomenon, I noticed a pattern. One of two things was happening. The first one is that they did not know how to train leaders because they had never been trained themselves. The second was, raising up new leaders can create competition in the ministry and it is better to keep the competition at bay. The Apostle Paul was not like this. He always sought to be a part of a team. While working in the team, he built up the other leaders to the point that they could lead their own teams and ministries. Timothy is a prime example of this. When Paul led people to Christ, he always sought to train and equip them so that they could join him in this great calling of making disciples of all nations.

9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily  in the school of Tyrannus.

10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19)

Based on Acts 19, the Ephesian disciples were so well trained that they spread the Word of God to all of Asia Minor. Many of the churches that Paul planted ended up planting other churches. One example is this church in Ephesus. This church plant by Paul planted the other 6 churches that the Apostle John wrote to in the book of Revelation. These churches were planted when disciples were made via the proclaiming of the Word of God. Leaders are not competition. Leaders are needed to help carry out the amazing calling of making disciples of all the nations. In fact, this is the model that Paul sets for one of his leaders, Timothy.

2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2)

Paul –> Timothy –> Faithful men –> others. There are 4 generations of leaders mentioned in this one verse. Leaders need to be raising up leaders who will raise up more leaders.

21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, (Acts 14)

This is what Jesus calls the process of disciple making. As Christians, we are all commanded to make more disciples. Are you planning your days so that you can invest the Word of God into the lives of others, raising up leaders who will raise up more leaders? If you are not doing this, why not? May the Lord help us keep our priorities straight!

One comment on “Paul’s Plan to make disciples

  1. Pingback: Paul making disciples in Rome | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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