September 16-17, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer Think 3! Lessons from Paul and Timothy: Part 2
Introduction and offering:
Last weekend, I gave a Think 3 talk about Paul and Timothy. Think 3 means that we think 3 generations into the future, and one on either side of us. I want our church to be great for the generations coming up behind me: my kids, and grandkids and great grandkids—and yours too. Isn’t that what you want? That’s Think 3—think 3 generations into the future. And think one on either side of you. The question I posed last week was:
Who is your Paul? Who is investing in you spiritually?
Who is your Timothy? In whom are you investing?
So here’s the story. Paul first met Timothy when Paul was on his second missionary journey. He was traveling through what is modern Turkey, revisiting churches he had planted on his first missionary journey. While in Lystra, he met Timothy, who was probably 18 or 19, and was highly regarded by the believers in that region. Let me say that again: he was a teenager and was highly regarded by the believers in that region. That is not a typo! Teenagers can set an example that their elders admire and follow.
Paul was so impressed that he invited Timothy to join him in his missionary travels. Timothy quickly became one of Paul’s right hand men. Even though he was young, Paul entrusted Timothy with major responsibility: he represented Paul at churches when Paul couldn’t be there; he was asked to pastor some large and influential churches even in his 20’s.
Paul was a spiritual father and mentor to Timothy; he called Timothy “his dear son in the faith.” This relationship lasted to the end of Paul’s life; in fact, the last letter we have from Paul was written to Timothy near the end of Paul’s life (2 Timothy), and is very personal and affectionate.
Last weekend, we looked at four lessons from Paul and Timothy:
The church is multi-generational. We are better together.
We all need spiritual fathers and mothers. We need people who invest in us and believe in us. Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy?
Young leaders can be trusted. Paul trusted Timothy, and we trust the wonderful young leaders God is sending us!
We must pray for each other. Our best investment in others starts on our knees.
This weekend, I’ve got three more for you.
Invite someone along.
Acts 16:1–3 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 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.
Paul saw something in young Timothy, and invited him along. “I’m going on this adventure—I’m taking the gospel where it’s never been and planting new churches. Why don’t you come along with me?” And Timothy did. That single invitation changed Timothy’s life. In fact, the only reason you know about Timothy is because one day Paul invited him along.
Invite someone along.
Everyone loves to be invited, to be included, to be wanted. And that’s what an invitation says: “I want you to come along. You are wanted. You’re included.”
ILL: Have you ever been left out? Overlooked? Everyone else got invited, but you didn’t? How did that feel? I remember one time years ago when all my buddies did something and didn’t include me—it was an early morning pickup basketball game at Mac Court in Eugene. I was upset about being left out. So I asked one of them about it. Do you want to know what he said? “We didn’t think you’d be able to come.” They said no for me. They didn’t give me a chance to say no—they said no for me.
Everyone wants to be invited, included, wanted. So make the invitation. Even if they say no, well, at least you invited them and they said no. Don’t say no for someone. Make the invite and let them decide. Don’t decide for them.
So what are we inviting them to do?
First, invite someone along to follow Jesus. Here at Life Center, we do Find, Tell, Bring.
Find someone you love.
Tell them what you know.
Bring them with you to church.
We are inviters and includers. We invite people to come along with us as we follow Jesus.
ILL: When you are going to do something really cool, don’t you like to invite someone to do it with you? If I’m going to a movie, I never go alone—I always invite someone to come along. I don’t play golf alone—I always invite some guys to play with me. If I know I’m going to love what I’m doing, I always want to invite someone to enjoy it with me.
That’s all Find, Tell, Bring is. It’s just inviting someone to come along as you follow Jesus. It’s just including people you love in something you love doing. It’s not hard—it’s really pretty natural. I know that some of you are nervous, afraid someone will say no. So, what if they say no? Invite someone else! If I call up Clay and invite him to the movie and he says no, then I call up Bill and invite him. Someone’s going to say yes—I’m so much fun to be with! But don’t say no for people. Please don’t think, “That person will never come, so I just won’t ask them.” Don’t say no for them—invite them along and let them decide. Paul didn’t say no for Timothy—he just invited him, and he came and it changed his life.
Second, invite someone into a mentoring relationship. Who is your Paul? If you don’t have one, invite someone to be your mentor. Who is your Timothy? If you don’t have one, invite someone to follow you. Take the initiative! Don’t wait for the other person to ask you—ask them! Make the invite! And don’t say no for them. “Oh, he is too busy. She won’t be interested.” Don’t say no for them—just invite them along and see what happens.
By the way, this doesn’t have to be a formal, official invitation. It can simply be you moving toward the other person consistently, purposefully. It’s you taking the initiative to make the relationship happen.
ILL: I told you about my friend in the 8th grade, Nat Stock, who took me under his wing and discipled me. He was the one who taught me how to read the Bible, who got me baptized, who taught me how to give, and many other things. So, 8th grade Nat didn’t come up to me and say, “I’d like to be your mentor (or spiritual father).” That would have been weird. He just started helping me along. He took the initiative to be my friend, to point me in the right direction, to ask good questions. It was pretty natural, really. But the point is: he took the initiative. He moved toward me.
I told you that Noel was my spiritual father for most of my life. Noel never said, “Would you like me to be your spiritual father?” There was no formal invitation. But Noel just consistently moved toward me in friendship. He took the initiative, seeking me out and doing things with me. For example, early in the youth ministry, Noel asked if I would come pray with him in the morning. “Sure,” I said. “What time?”
“5 am,” he said.
“5 am! Is God even awake at 5 am?”
Noel assured me He was—he would know. And so we started praying at 5 am, every morning, 7 days a week. A group of young leaders prayed every morning with Noel for 5 years. Honestly, most mornings he prayed while we struggled to stay awake!
The point is that he invited me into a mentoring relationship, but it wasn’t a formal, awkward invitation—he simply moved toward me in friendship. That story leads me to a third thing we invite people along.
First we invite someone along to follow Jesus.
Second, we invite someone along into a mentoring relationship.
Third, invite someone along to do stuff with you. That’s how Noel drew me into a mentoring relationship, and it’s how he trained me. He invited me to pray with him, and I learned to pray. He invited me to lead with him, and I learned to lead. He invited me to love people with him, and I learned to love. One thing I’m trying to do more and more is to always invite someone along. I do almost nothing alone. If I go to the hospital to visit someone, invite someone along. If I’m going to a meeting, invite someone along. If I’m going to a conference, invite someone along. This is training 101.
You do it.
You do it, someone watches.
Someone does it, you watch.
Someone does it.
An important part of mentoring or training—of being a Paul—is to simply invite someone along. Paul wanted to develop Timothy, so he invited him along on his missionary journey. On the job training!
Be an inviter and includer. You will impact and change many people by doing this one simple thing. Invite someone along!
Set an example.
We talked some about this last weekend, but I want to circle back and hit it head on. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he was their spiritual father, and then said,
1 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.”
Later in that same letter, he wrote,
1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
It’s the same Greek word as in 4:16. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Follow me as I follow Jesus. Paul is telling them, “Do you want to know what it looks like to follow Jesus? Watch me. And do what I do.” Paul set an example. He was follow-able. He wasn’t perfect—none of us are—but he was the real deal. He was an authentic follower of Jesus, and could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
Can you say that?
Is your life follow-able?
Are you an example for others of what it means to follow Jesus?
That should be our goal—for every one of us.
Set an example! Be follow-able.
And it’s a goal not just for the older and more mature and experienced. Paul expected young Timothy to set an example as well.
1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Paul expected Timothy to be an example for all the believers, including those who were old enough to his parents or grandparents. If you are in the younger half of the church, step up and set an example for all the believers. I know you can do it! Show the whole church what it looks like to follow Jesus with a fully surrendered heart. Set the pace!
Set an example.
This is essential if we’re going to Think 3, if we’re going to pass the gospel on to the next generations. We have to be authentic. We have to show them what Jesus is about. We can’t just talk the talk; we have to walk the walk. To do this will require two things of us.
First, you must lead yourself. Before we can lead anyone else, we must lead ourselves. As the stewardess says, “Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” If you don’t tend your own relationship with Jesus, you won’t be able to help anyone else tend theirs. You can’t give what you don’t have; you can’t teach what you don’t know; you can’t lead where you haven’t been.
So let me ask you a question: what is it going to take for you to be an example? Where do you need to grow? What do you need to do before you can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ?” If you’re serious about setting an example for others, you’ll identify some next steps for your own growth and start taking them.
Start coming to church regularly rather than sporadically.
There is a direct correlation between your spiritual health and your engagement in church. I’ve never met a growing, on fire believer who was sporadic in their church participation.
Sign up for Rooted or get in a Life Group.
I read an article this week because the headline grabbed my attention. It was by a fitness guru, and the title was “The #1 habit you should have to lose weight.” Intrigued? He and some other fitness guys listed every single weight loss habit they had used with clients. They came up with 167! Then they asked 50 fitness coaches to pick the #1 habit you should have to lose weight. It wasn’t on their list. Still intrigued? Here it is: Find people to share your journey. Permanent lifestyle changes happen in relationships. New habits form when people get together and help each other out. Create a community of consistency.
Maybe the #1 habit for spiritual growth is to be in a group!
Today is the last day for Rooted signups for the fall!
Start doing PBJ regularly. Give God a chance to speak to you each day!
Stop some bad habits that are tearing you down—and if you need help, get it! What was the #1 good habit—find people to share your journey. If you’re addicted to porn, it’s hard to say, “Imitate me.” If you’re stuck in a cycle of bad choices, get help!
Start serving and giving. Don’t just be a receiver. Give your life away for others.
First, lead yourself. You can’t lead anyone else until you lead yourself. You’ve got to lead yourself in order to be an example for others.
Second, you must get close. The best example does no good if no one can see it. You have to be close enough to be known—it requires proximity, or “withness.” Paul wrote to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:10-11 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it
Paul says, “You know all about me, Timothy. You know my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions and suffering.” How did Timothy know all that about Paul? He lived with him. He traveled with him. They spent lots of time together.
To be an example for someone else means that you have to spend some time together, enough time that they can see your life and know that it’s follow-able.
ILL: Cecil Northcott, in his pamphlet, A Modern Epiphany tells of a discussion in a camp of young people where representatives of many nations were living together.
“One wet night the campers were discussing various ways of telling people about Christ. They turned to a girl from Africa. ‘Maria, what do you do in your country?’ ‘Oh,’ said Maria, ‘we don’t have missions or give pamphlets away. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.’”
Wow! Is your life follow-able? When people see what you’re like, do they want to be Christians too? Set an example.
Here’s the last one:
Pay it forward.
ILL: A few years ago, the movie Pay it Forward popularized the idea of doing a good for someone, and encouraging them to pay it forward—pass it on.
Recently I met with a young man in our church who’s been doing that. He’s printed some cards and he’ll do a kindness for someone, give them a card and ask them to pay it forward. At one coffee stand, the barista told him that people paid it forward for over an hour—dozens of people buying the coffee for the person coming up behind them. He’s done this enough that he’s started getting some of his cards coming back to him!
Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to pay it forward—to pass the gospel along to the generations coming up behind him.
2 Timothy 2:1–2 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
I think this is the key verse for Think 3. Paul wants Timothy, his son in the gospel, to pass on what he learned from Paul to reliable people who will in turn be qualified to teach others. Paul —> Timothy —> reliable people —> others. Four generations! Think 4! There is a clear sense of responsibility: this good news doesn’t stop with me. I’m to pay it forward. And it’s not just one and done; I’m to pay it forward to people who will pay it forward who will pay it forward.
Before I finish this thought, we’re going to receive a special offering to feed hungry kids in Spokane. We’re going to pay it forward through the Bite2Go program. Take a look at this: Bite 2 Go video. Krista comes up here.
Here’s how Bite2Go works. Second Harvest partners with schools and community partners like us to get weekend food supplies to children in need during the school year. The Bite2Go kits include a good mix of healthy, kid-friendly, easy-to-open, single-serving, nonperishable food items to cover four meals and three snacks over the weekend. Every Friday, staff members at participating schools discreetly put the packages of food in the backpacks of students in need.
Currently we are sponsoring 88 kids at Sheridan Elementary; 79% of the students at Sheridan qualify for free and reduced lunch.
We are also adopting Holmes Elementary, in our neighborhood, just across the river. 89% of the kids at Holmes qualify for free or reduced lunch. We’d love to sponsor every kid in need at these schools! Our starting goal is to sponsor 100 kids in each school, and create a volunteer distribution team of people like Jon.
The cost per student is $144 a year, or $12 a month. There are multiple ways to give: direct them to the card.
You can give money.
Checks made out to Second Harvest. Memo line: B2G Life Center
Text to give:
Monthly sponsorship with credit card
You can volunteer to be part of the distribution team.
You can volunteer to be a mentor.
You can build a meal kit after the service.
Let’s pay in forward and feed as many hungry kids as we can!
Special offering here.
While you’re giving, let me finish this thought about paying it forward. Look again at what Paul says.
2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
What if each of us took this seriously, and made sure that each week we were paying it forward, passing on what we were learning from Scripture, or from sermons to someone whom we knew would pay it forward too. So, instead of learning something here and just keeping it to yourself, what if each week you determined to pay it forward to someone. “Hey can I tell you something cool I learned this week?” Or what if you sent the link to the sermon to a friend on Facebook or through email, with a note that says, “I learned something from this—let me know what you get from it.” Or what if each week you met with a Timothy, and you talked about what you’re learning from God’s word as you do PBJ? Or what if, when you get something rich from God’s word, you share it with a couple friends on Facebook or by text or email? There are so many ways to do this. But the idea is don’t let it stop with you! Pay it forward. What you hear me say, what you get from the Lord in your PBJ time—pay it forward!
And if you’re looking for some other ways to Think 3 and pay it forward, here some good ones:
Volunteer in LC Kids or student ministries.
Mentor students at Sheridan or Holmes Elementary Schools.
Facilitate a Rooted group or a Life Group.
Mentor young marrieds, or young parents.
Be a pre-marital trainer.
One-on-one friendships: be a friend and mentor.
All of these are great ways to pay it forward.
Don’t let it stop with you! Don’t be the guy who only buys coffee for himself! Don’t be the person who receives God’s truth, God’s love, God’s mercy only for yourself. Pay it forward!