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What is your Discipling ROI?

John A. Baugh
July, 2008

In the world of corporate business, we are constantly (or at least at the end of each month) examining how well our investments are performing. We have products that determine our current profits and potential products that will determine our future success as a business. This success is measured by bottom line results. We know what investments in equipment, facilities and the amount of R&D and engineering effort measured in man hours that will be needed to bring a product to market and what market success we hope to achieve, measured in terms of % of market captured and the profit margin realized. 

With our personal finances, we spend hours in study and thought, attempting to understand the uncertainties of our personal stock portfolio and our investment funds. We respect the volatility of the stock market and try to make our investment decisions by considering the damage we may sustain in a short term market, balanced against the uncertainty of holding on to our investments for the long term.

Both in business and with our personal finances, we ask, “Where should we invest? What is a smart investment? Did we succeed or fail?” 

 

In the end, everything is decided by the “Return on Investment” we achieve.

 

 ROI Defined:

This seems to be a reasonable definition of ROI: “In finance, return on investment (ROI), or sometimes just return, is the ratio of gains or losses on an investment relative to the amount invested. The amount of gain or loss may be stated as interest, profit/loss, gain/loss, or net income/loss. The investment may be referred to as the asset, capital, principal, or the cost basis of the investment. ROI is also known as rate of profit.”

With any investment, a reasonable assumption would be that the investment, would, should or is expected to return a profit. It is that way in business. It is that way with personal financial investments and it is that way with our personal investments in God’s Kingdom, such as when we invest in another person to disciple them to Christ.

It is a given that when we disciple someone to a closer relationship with Christ that we are making an investment. In fact, we are investing:

·        Our time, efforts, emotions, resources, capacity (Galatians 4:11-12).

·        Because we love the Lord and want to serve Him (Luke 10:27, 1 Thessalonians 1:3).

·        In our relationship with other believers (1Thessalonians 5:11)

·        In our commitment to the Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

·        In generations of believers we may never meet (2 Timothy 2:2)

·        In others (Matthew 5:19, Acts15:35, Romans1:11-12, 1 Corinthians 14:19, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:9, 1 Peter 4:10)

·        In God’s Kingdom (James 2:5)

·        As part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)

·        As laborers in the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38 & Luke 10:2)

·        As branches of the vine, producing much fruit (John 15:5)

·        As true servants (Greek = Huperetes = Under Rowers) of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1)

As servants of the Master, we invest in order to profit God’s Kingdom, to honor and glorify God. So, what should we expect to see from our investment?

·        That the student will become like the teacher. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

·        That others would benefit from our efforts (2 Timothy 2:2)

·        That those we disciple would honor Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23, John 5:22-23, John 12:26)

·        That the Great Commission of Christ would be fulfilled by our actions. (Matthew 28:18-20) 

·        That there would be a positive discipling impact in Jerusalem (those we know), Judea (those close by), Samaria (those we may not especially like, and who may not especially like us) and to the ends of the earth (across geography and time)  (Acts 1:8)

Examples of Discipling in the New Testament

Among many things, the New Testament is an incredible primer on discipling.

·        First and most of all, it contains the Master’s Plan on “How To Disciple” (Christ Jesus and the Twelve)

·        Other examples of the discipling process include:

Paul, with Luke

Paul with Timothy

Paul with Titus

Paul with Aquila and Priscilla

John the Baptist with his disciples

A Quick Look At Paul and Luke

One good New Testament example of discipling is the relationship between Paul and Dr. Luke. This discipling relationship which began at Troas, when the “Beloved Physician” joined Paul’s missionary team, and ended many years later with the death of Paul in Rome, led to the Doctor’s writing of two books, that we know as the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. These two books, written by the only Gentile writer in the Bible, make up over 24% of the New Testament (a higher content percentage than any other NT writer).

Why was Dr. Luke led to write these two masterpieces of Gospel and early Church History? The first (Luke’s Gospel) was written to bring a Roman Nobleman “Most Excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1: 3) to a knowledge of Christ

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
(Luke 1:1-4)

The second book, known as Acts was written to disciple a brother in Christ “Theophilus”.

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach,” (Acts 1:1)

 “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4 NIV)

Many years have passed since Dr. Luke decided to write his Gospel for Theophilus’ benefit. Only God knows how many lives have been touched (The ROI) across the centuries by Luke’s work discipling investment in Theophilus.

A Look At Paul and Timothy.

Paul met the young man we know as Timothy in the town of Lystra. Timothy was the son of a Jewess Mother (Eunice) and a Greek Father.

He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
(Acts 16:1-3 NIV)

Impressed, with what he saw in this young man, Paul invited him to accompany the missionary team in their work. The result (ROI) of this invitation was a discipling relationship that lasted until Paul’s death. Timothy became a very special person to Paul, who referred to the young man as “My fellow worker” (Romans 16:21) “My son, whom I love” (1 Corinthians 4:17) and “My true son in the Faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy eventually became the pastor of the Church in Ephesus.

Paul wrote “like a banker” when he addressed his ROI expectations in 2 Timothy 2:2

·        And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

·        And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (NIV)

·        You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. (Contemporary English)

·        And the instructions which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust as a deposit to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also. (Amplified Bible)

In the various translations shown above, Paul uses banker’s terms like “commit”, “entrust”, “transmit”, “faithful”, “trustworthy”, reliable”, “deposit”, “competent” and “qualified” to make it clear what he wants Timothy to understand regarding the discipling process.

What was the real ROI that Paul looked to as wanted from his investment in Timothy?

Greek tense and usage indicate importance, emphasis and stress in sentence structure. A Greek word may have minor emphasis (normal stress), or Major emphasis (as if the writer were SHOUTING the word). Only one of the words in 2 Timothy 2:2 has major emphasis.

There are several good candidate words for this MAJOR emphasis. They are worthy words, like:  

1.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

2.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

3.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

4.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

5.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

6.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

7.      And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

All of these possibilities are reasonable. Most are worthy, but none of them are correct. Paul had only one goal in mind as he wrote the letter we know as 2 Timothy to his “Son in the Faith” from his prison cell in Rome. The ROI he wanted was clear. He expressed his desire in the wording emphasis he used in 2 Timothy 2:2

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  (KJV)

The ROI Paul sought was not to benefit himself. The ROI was not to benefit Timothy. It was not to benefit the Faithful Men. In Paul’s mind, The ROI was to come from people he would never meet this side of heaven. He was interested in three generations of disciples removed from his Timothy relationship.

You see, Paul had a very impressive Return On Investment in his mind.

                                           >>>>>>Others Also

>>>>Faithful Men >>>>>>Others Also

                                                       >>>>>>Others Also

Paul >>>>>>Timothy >>>>Faithful Men>>>>>>Others Also

                                                       >>>>>>Others Also

                        >>>>Faithful Men>>>>>>Others Also

                                                       >>>>>>Others Also

What should be the vision of the disciple-maker?

A worthy vision for any disciple maker would be to honor the great Commission of Christ by investing yourself in men so that they mature in Christ to the point that they become driven to disciple others to Christ to the point of maturity that they will disciple others >>> until Christ returns. 

Careful investment in the lives of other people is what Jesus wanted from his followers. It was the model he presented in his ministry as he worked with the disciples and those he encountered (i.e. the woman at the well, the short tax collector named Zacchaeus, the night time visitor named Nicodemus). To do other than follow the model of the Master seems foolish, especially since it has proven successful in hundreds of thousands of applications, across both time and geography.

In his book Tally Ho, The Fox, Pastor Herb Hodges calls people produced to the model presented by Christ,

“World-Visionary, World-Impacting, Reproducing Disciples”

So, should we invest in and building up men who will invest in and build up other men, so that the world might be impacted for Jesus Christ?

Should we expect to impact both the World and Time?

The answer is that is what Christ expected us to do. The answer is yes.

That is an investment and a ROI worthy of service to our Lord!

 

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