Pass it on!
#2—To the next generation
ILL: If someone asks you after the service how to get to the Flying Goat restaurant, you might say, “Well, you get in your car.” That would be a good start—but it wouldn’t get them to the flying goat. You’d have to add: “go north out of the parking lot and get onto Fort George Wright Drive and head east. When you get to the light at Northwest Boulevard, take a left and go about a mile and you’ll see it on your right.”
In the same way, helping someone become a Christian, a whole-hearted follower of Jesus, takes more than find, tell, bring.
There is a difference between deciding to follow Jesus and actually following Him with full surrender. How do we help people get from a decision to being a disciple? You pass it on! That’s what we’re talking about today.
This is the second and final message in a two-part series called “Pass it on” in which we are talking about the vision of our church.
Our mission is “to honor God by helping unbelieving people become whole-hearted followers of Christ.” We have four basic purposes that drive everything we do: love, win, grow, send.
Love: love God with all you’ve got.
Win: win our friends to Christ.
Grow: grow to become all God wants us to be.
Send: send us as God’s agents into a broken world.
Last Sunday, we talked about “win”. What do we do to win our friends to Jesus? Find, tell, bring. We find people we love, tell them what we know, and bring them to church with us.
If you weren’t here last Sunday, I strongly encourage you to go to the website and listen to or watch the message—it’s central to who we are as a church. Also, there was a video last week that illustrated the power of find, tell, bring—that’s online as well—don’t miss it. And you might be wondering about the sticky notes. Last Sunday, we filled out our Love Lists—on this card, we wrote the names of people we love who need to meet Jesus. We’re praying for these people. We also wrote their names on sticky notes and put them on our walls as a reminder of our mission—this is what we’re about—helping unbelieving people (these people) become whole-hearted followers of Christ. Find, tell, bring.
We have bins with Love Lists and sticky notes up front and at the back of the room. If you didn’t get to participate last Sunday, after the service, get a Love List, fill it out and take it with you, and take a few moments to put the names on sticky notes and add them to the wall. We want you to be part of our mission of reaching people for God.
Ok—so let’s say you do it. You find, tell, bring and your friend or family member comes with you and becomes a Christian. Now what? Are you done? Look at the introductory statement on your outline:
“Our commitment to someone doesn’t end when they make a decision to follow Christ; that is only the first step of a life-long journey. Now we pass on what we know so that they can become a whole-hearted follower of Christ.” When your friend comes to Jesus, you’ve just started!
ILL: It’s a little like having a baby. Did I mention that my daughter Sally, and her husband Toby, had their baby on Monday? Malya Jo Schwarz—there she is. Beautiful! Grandchild #5!
Monday morning, Sally and Toby got to the hospital at 6 AM and Malya arrived just past noon. It was awesome! But what if they had left Malya at the hospital; what if Sally thought her job was just to gave birth and she was done? Being a mom is more than giving birth; that is just the beginning! Now the fun starts—sleepless nights, poopy diapers—the good stuff!
In the same way, when your friend or family member decides to follow Jesus, your job isn’t over; it’s just begun! Now you help them grow.
The Bible says that when you become a Christian, you are born again; you begin a whole new life. The decision to follow Christ is just the first step on a life-long journey; it’s not the end but the beginning. And all of us start out as beginners, as spiritual babies. What is the most important thing a baby needs? Food? Diapers? The answer is: a family. A baby needs someone to love her, care for her, and raise her to maturity. In the same way, every new Christian needs other Christians to help him on the way. We need a family. We need each other to grow up in Christ.
So here’s my big idea today: every one of you can help someone along in the faith. Every one of you can pass on what you know about Jesus. Take a look at this:
That is awesome! Thanks to Cole and Elijah for sharing their story with us. I can’t tell you how proud I am of Cole and Elijah—a huge shout out to you two guys! You know what I love about that? Cole decided to help Elijah along, and just did what he knew to do. “Let’s meet and read the Bible together and talk about it.” So simple…and so powerful! You can do this. You can do this! Turn to your neighbor and say, “You can do that!” You can help people grow spiritually.
1. Passing on our faith to the next generation.
I’m using next generation in two ways. Chronologically, the next generation is simply people who are younger than you—Cole passed it on to Elijah. You pass it on to your kids and grandkids—we’ll see an example of that in a moment. But I’m also using “next generation” to refer to anyone who is younger than you in the faith. You may help someone along in their faith who is older than you chronologically, but younger than you spiritually. We’ll see an example of that as well.
Let’s set a Biblical framework for this. I want to look with you at the relationship between Paul and Timothy. The verses on your outline trace this relationship through the New Testament. It started in Acts 16, on Paul’s second missionary journey.
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.
What do we know about Timothy?
We know he was from Lystra (located in modern Turkey), his mother was a Jewish Christian and his father was Greek.
We know he was a third-generation Christian. 2 Timothy 1 tells us that his grandmother, Lois was a believer in Jesus, and she passed it on to her daughter Eunice, Timothy’s mother, who passed it on to Timothy. Lois Eunice Timothy. Here’s a clear example of passing it on to the next generation chronologically. More about that later.
We know he had a good reputation. It says that the believers in that region spoke well of him.
We know he was young. We know that because years later, when Timothy was a pastor in the great church in Ephesus, Paul wrote to him and said, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12. The word for “young” was usually used of men under 30. If Timothy was under 30, it was a young age for a pastor in a culture that reserved such leadership roles for “the elders”—people over 40. This means that Timothy was leading people older than himself; here is an example of a mentor who was leading people who were older chronologically, but younger spiritually. If Timothy was under 30 when he pastored in Ephesus, how old was he when Paul first asked him to join his team? Probably in his mid-teens—a newly minted “man”!
We know that Paul saw potential in this young man and wanted to take him along as an assistant on his missionary journey.
So Paul invited this young man (14-16 years old) to join his team. In some of the other references listed, Paul calls Timothy his helper, co-worker, brother and true son in the faith. On more than one occasion, Paul left Timothy in a city to solidify their work while Paul moved on. In five of Paul’s letters, Timothy is named as a co-author. All this from a young man! And Paul mentions Timothy in several letters, particularly when Paul is sending him as his representative to that church. In those cases, Paul endorses and sponsors and paves the way for Timothy. Here are a couple examples.
1 Corinthians 16:10–11 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
Paul tells the Corinthian church to treat Timothy well—don’t treat him with contempt. Why would he say that? Most likely, it was because Timothy was young, so older people were tempted to look down on him. Don’t do it, Paul says, “for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.” Paul writes something similar to the Philippians:
Philippians 2:19–24 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
Do you hear how Paul sponsors and endorses Timothy? “I have no one else like him.” And “Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Paul wrote this so that the Philippians would respect Timothy and respond positively to his leadership. Paul is being a great mentor!
Paul considered Timothy his “true son in the faith” and he was Timothy’s spiritual father. This is especially evident in this important passage:
1 Corinthians 4:14–17 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Let’s unpack this.
Paul writes to correct a number of problems in the Corinthian church. He writes as a father to his children—“my dear children.” He points out that they may have many guardians, but only one father: Paul. The word “guardian” translates a Greek word that was used of the slave that escorted a child to and from school, and superintended his behavior. It referred to one who has responsibility for someone who needs guidance—think of a baby sitter. When the child came of age, a guardian was no longer needed. Paul is contrasting himself, their father in the faith, with others who are helping them along during their spiritual infancy. The guardians weren’t bad—they were good—they were there to help them along, to offer guidance. But they weren’t the same as a father. As their father, Paul claims a special authority to teach them and model for them what it means to be a Christian. So he says: “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.” (16) Later in this letter, he repeats this.
1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Think about this. Paul’s advice to younger believers was to imitate him, to follow his example. “Do you want to know how to be a Christian? Watch me. Do you want to know how to follow Jesus? Watch me. Follow me as I follow Christ.” So simple and so powerful.
How many of you would be willing to say this to a younger believer? “Do you want to know how to be a Christian? Watch me.” How many of you are thinking, “Don’t watch me!” This is Discipleship 101. This is Grow 101. Life to life, by example. Just watch me, and do what I do. You can do this! All of you fathers and mothers in the faith—you can do this. Just like Cole, you can find someone younger or newer in the faith, and tell them, “follow me” and hang out. You can do this! And all of you who are younger, and think that you need to be 40 or 50 or 60 to do this, listen to this again:
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.
Young men, young women—set an example for the believers! You can do this! Cole did it—you can do it!
ILL: At our Life Group on Thursday night, our hosts told us that a dozen or more high school students meet every week at their house to read the Bible and talk about it—just what Cole and Elijah do. Simple. No adult leader—just students—and not all of them are Christians.
Who started this? A student: Blair Riddle. Blair started it as a senior and ran it all year. But she graduated in June and was off to college. How did it keep going? A student—Christian Dresback—decided to keep it going and opened his house and passed it on.
I love it! Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young—set an example for the believers. You can do this!
Back to 1 Corinthians 4. After Paul tells them that he is their father and they should imitate him, he goes on:
17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul couldn’t be there to set the example, so what did he do? He sent Timothy, his son in the faith. And Timothy would set the example because he knew of Paul’s “way of life in Christ” which matched what Paul taught. Paul modeled it for Timothy; now Timothy was going to model it for them. Pass it on.
2 Timothy 2:2 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.
This is the “Pass it on Verse”! There are four generations:
Paul Timothy reliable people others.
You can do this. You can pass what you know on to others.
Every one of us in this room who are Christians are so because this has been going on for centuries. The faith has been passed on, person to person, for 20 centuries. We all stand on the shoulders of millions of faithful believers who have lived it and modeled it and passed it on to others, who passed it on to others who passed it on.
You can be a disciple-maker or a dead-end—one or the other. You are blessed to be a blessing—or you can just be a blessing-sucker. You can pass it on or just sit on it and keep it for yourself. What are you going to be?
You can do this! It’s not hard. Cole saw Elijah sitting alone in the back of Mosaic and thought, “I can do this. I can pass on what I know.” You can do this!
ILL: I told you last week how Don Lang invited me to church and I met Jesus there. When I showed up the next morning, Nat Stock took me under his wing. He was 13, an 8th grader like me, but he knew more about Jesus than I did, and he started helping me. Over the next several weeks:
He noticed that I had a King James Bible, which I couldn’t understand, so he gave me a “Good News for Modern Man” New Testament, and told me to start reading the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the story of Jesus. He got me in the Word.
He prayed with me; I noticed that he just talked to Jesus like a friend—nothing fancy or spiritual—he was real. He taught me to pray.
He asked me one day, “Do you tithe?” “What’s that?” He said it means that you give the first tenth of your income to God. I laughed. “I’m an 8th grader; I don’t have income.” But he told me that if I learned how to be generous when I had nothing, it would be easier when I had a lot. So I started keeping track of my lunch money, and put my spare change in an envelope. At the end of the month, I sealed the envelope and put it in the offering. I’m sure the ushers wondered who gave $1.27 in change in an envelope! He taught me to give.
He asked me one day when I was getting baptized. “What’s that?” I asked. He pointed to the baptistery that was embedded in the wall at the front of the church. I could see the water behind the plexiglass—I thought it was an aquarium and the fish had died. “We dunk you in that,” he said. When I asked why, he said, “Because Jesus said to.” Oh. Ok. So on February 7, 1965, I was baptized.
Most of my spiritual foundations came from an 8th grade kid who simply passed on what he knew.
You can do this! If an 8th grader can do it, you can do it!
We’ve started a new mentoring program for men this year—we have 7 groups with about 55 guys enrolled. I’ve got a group, and I’m really stoked about it! Every guy signed a covenant promising that he would pass it on, that sometime in the near future, he would lead a group and pass on what he learned. If this works like I hope it will, we think that in a few years, every man in our church could be mentored for a year in one of these groups. I hope it happens. I hope we can do the same thing for ladies.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to wait to join a formal program. You can do what Cole did—let’s get together and read the Bible. You can do what Nat did—pass on what you know. You can do this right now for someone.
If someone from your Love List comes to Christ, invite them into your Life Group. Meet with them to read the Bible and talk about it. Pass on what you know. You can do this. Pass it on!
I want to finish with one last thought.
2. Passing our church to the next generation.
Do you know what happens to most churches? They gray out and die. The members get older, nothing changes, and eventually the church dies. We don’t want that to happen here! So what can we do to pass our church to the next generation? What can we do to make our church our kids’ church and then our grandkids’ church? How can we pass our church on?
We’re asking that question. And we are intentionally trying to reach younger people and include them in the leadership of our church. I turn 60 this year—I know, I look like I’m 35, and act like I’m about 7—but I’m 59…and a half! I feel like I’ve a lot of productive years left, but any way you count it, I’m in the home stretch. I’ll be passing the baton to other leaders. What do I want to pass on? A church that is getting older and dying or a church that is getting younger and growing? What do I want to pass on? I want to pass on a church for my kids and grandkids. We’ve got to keep getting younger.
We have some of the finest young leaders anywhere. When I look at them, I think the future of our church is in good hands. You’ve seen some of them leading worship; others are on our staff; others are volunteering all over our church. We are rich with young leaders.
In my mentoring group, I have 8 impressive young men between 25-29 from all walks of life. These guys are going to have an impact; they are serious about following Jesus.
I just spent some time the last two weeks teaching 8 of our young leaders how to preach. We had a blast talking about this together, and they were like sponges. I went away so impressed with them and so hopeful for the future.
Next week, I’m going away for a few days of study, prayer and planning, and I’m taking 7 of our young leaders with me. We are going to talk about life and ministry, pastoring and church planting—and we’ll have a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it.
As you’re gathering, I’m making this one of my top priorities.
We are looking for ways to raise up and train young leaders, and I want you to help me. When they preach, or lead worship, or run an event, encourage them; cheer them on. Be like Paul was with Timothy—champion them! They won’t always do things the way you would or I would—that’s ok. We’re preparing them to lead your kids’ church and your grandkids’ church. Be their champions, not their critics. Be their mentors, not their detractors. Talk with them. Get to know them. You’ll be impressed with their hearts.
I know this makes some of you nervous. Let me assure you that I understand that not everything new or younger is necessarily better. I’m not arguing for an indiscriminate embrace of youthful culture, or that we need to start doing hip-hop worship and all get tats and body-piercings. But I am saying that unless we are intentional about reaching and including the young, our church will die. We may pass our faith on to our kids, but they’ll go to church somewhere else.
ILL: James Emery White, shares this story in his book, Rethinking the Church.
I was leading a conference in Florida in which I touched on the issue of contemporary music in churches. An elderly woman approached me afterward. It took her some time to reach me at the front of the auditorium because she walked with a cane. When she got to where I was, she said, “Young man, I want to have a word with you about what you said tonight.”
I thought to myself, Oh no, here it comes.
She said, “Are you trying to tell me churches should use contemporary music to reach people today?”
Now I had just spent forty-five minutes saying that, but I saw that cane, chickened out, and said, “Well, ma’am, I don’t know, it might help–what do you think?”
She said, “Young man, I want you to know that about as contemporary as I get is Lawrence Welk!” Then she took her cane, held it up, and pointed it right at my face as she said, “So if rock and roll is what it takes to get people back to church, all I’ve got to say is. . .’Let’s Boogie!'”
I couldn’t believe it! But then she said something I’ll never forget. She said, “It’s not my style of music, but if it will reach people for Jesus, I like it. Besides,” she added, “the church doesn’t exist for my needs. It exists to win the world.”
James Emery White, Rethinking The Church, Baker Books, 1997, 51-52
May her tribe increase! I hope one day to be the old gray head here saying to my grandkids, “Let’s boogie.” I don’t want to be part of a church where the only hair color is gray! I want to be part of a multi-generational church filled with young people who have a passion for Jesus. And I want to be part of mentoring them, investing in them, and preparing them to do better than I did! I want to pass it on! And I want all of you to be part of that with me!