When Jesus Christ voluntarily gave His life on the cross some 2,000 years ago, He did not die for a cause. He died for people. During His ministry on earth, He “appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Just before His death on Calvary, Jesus prayed for His men (see John 17). Over 40 times in that prayer, He referred to His twelve disciples.

During His brief ministry on earth, Jesus had the world on His heart, but He saw the world through the eyes of His men. Prior to His ascension, He gave to these men what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission. As recorded in Matthew 28:19, Jesus charged them to take the Gospel throughout the world by making disciples.

Jesus had world vision. He expected His men to have world vision. Jesus expected them to see the world through the disciples that they would produce, just as He had seen the world through the twelve men He had raised up. His vision of reaching the world through the use of multiplying disciples is not found in an obscure passage in the Bible; it is a theme that pulsates from page to page.

It was obviously the thought that was on the apostle Paul’s heart as he wrote his “last will and testament” to his son in the faith, Timothy. Let’s briefly analyze 2 Timothy 2:2: “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.”

You indicates the importance of the individual. At Jesus’ meeting with Peter, He said, according to John 1:42, “You are Simon … you shall be called Cephas.” (You are Simon, you will become a rock.) When Jesus saw Peter, He did not see him as he was but as he would someday be. There is tremendous potential in the life of one man.

You … me indicates the importance of personal relationships, of mutual confidence and trust built up through years of laboring together. When Paul wrote from prison to the church at Philippi, he said that because he was unable to visit them, he would send Timothy, his son in the faith. In essence what he said was, “When Timothy arrives, it will be as though I myself were present.”

Many years earlier, Paul had seen the potential in this young man from Asia Minor and decided to invest his life in him.

Commit suggests transmitting something from one person to another. It indicates the deposit of a sacred trust. Paul is saying to Timothy, “You are my disciple. This is the relationship that exists between you and me. Now transmit this as a disciple-maker to other disciples.” When we invest in the lives of other people, we transmit not only what we know but, more importantly, what we are. Each of us becomes like the people with whom we associate. I am sure that if we could meet Paul and Timothy, we would find them similar in many respects.

Later Paul wrote to him, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions” (2 Tim. 3:10–11). This gives a synopsis of what was committed to Timothy by Paul and what in turn was to be committed by Timothy to faithful men.

Faithful men—Discipling stands or falls with these two little words. Solomon, that wise king of ancient Israel, said, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?” (Prov. 20:6) Faithful men and women have always been in short supply. God still seeks them out: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).

Teach others also—This is where the discipling process begins to pick up a head of steam. We are now in the fourth generation. We began with Paul, then Timothy, then faithful men, and finally, others also. Teaching others cannot be done solely through a classroom situation. It entails the imparting of a life—the same in-depth transmission that occurred between Paul and Timothy.

This is a multiplicative process. While the faithful men are teaching others also, Timothy is in the process of raising up more faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Implementing this vision of multiplying disciples constitutes the only way Christ’s commission can ever ultimately be fulfilled. Other ministries and approaches can augment it but never replace it.

Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, “Activity is no substitute for production. Production is no substitute for reproduction.” Whatever ministry we are engaged in, it ought to be reproductive. — Henrichsen, Walter A., and Howard G. Hendricks. 2011. Disciples Are Made Not Born: Helping Others Grow to Maturity in Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.