Virtual Reality | Day 27
Christian leaders lay themselves down in service of others in accordance with God’s plans to spread the good news (2 Tim. 2:2)
Yesterday, I suggested that the Christian leader is called to REPRODUCE their CHARGE and COMFORT in others (4:1‐8). I continue the reproduction theme today with this thought: to reproduce is to PRODUCE A COPY or representation of another’s life.
Timothy was to reproduce not only Paul’s message but also aspects of his life: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5)
Sober-mindedness, perseverance in suffering, and evangelistic zeal are qualities observed in Paul. Timothy was to reproduce these qualities. To reproduce is to produce a copy or representation of key qualities in another person’s life.
Parents witness this when their children imitate their actions. A few years ago, a nephew from the United Kingdom visited us and when it came to pray before our meal, he offered to do it. Nothing remarkable in that, except that this ten-year-old boy was unchurched. His brief stay with us led him to enter into our routine, much to the surprise of his parents!
To reproduce is also to CREATE SOMETHING very SIMILAR (to something else), especially in a different context. In his final letter, Paul challenged Timothy to reproduce what he had seen and heard in different contexts. He would have to reproduce the sound doctrine he had heard from Paul in different places, where different results are to be expected. Let’s read verses 3-4:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Even though Timothy would reproduce a message of the same content, albeit in his own unique style, successful reproduction does not mean that the response will always be the same. The results would and could differ in different contexts.
We see this in Acts 17. In Athens, Paul found himself in a less favorable environment, yet he was able to adapt his communication style to fit the context. Reproducing the Gospel message demands consistency of content, not of style. Sometimes there needs to be an adaptation, depending on the audience or other environmental factors. According to verses 3 and 4, Timothy would likely find himself in his own “Mars Hill.” He would visit places and minister to people who may be open to debate, but unwilling to repent. His task here was to produce something similar to Paul but fit for that different context.
This will likely be our experience, too. What works in one place will not work in another. Are we ready for such a challenge, I wonder?
Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “It is so characteristic, that just when the mechanics of reproduction are so vastly improved, there are fewer and fewer people who know how the music should be played.” It’s one thing to say we know the Gospel, but such knowledge is tested in those moments where we must adapt the presentation mechanism to fit another audience.
To reproduce also carries the idea of PRODUCING OFFSPRING. The Reformer, Martin Luther said, “The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them out of clay.”
In the Garden of Eden God said, “Go forth and multiply.” On the Mount of Ascension Jesus said, “Go forth and make disciples.” Both Old and New Testaments contain charges to God’s people concerning reproduction. The focus of the Old is overwhelmingly biological and national, and the focus of the New is spiritual and international. The mandate is the same: reproduce.
In 2 Timothy, Paul re-echoes that charge to Timothy. Look at verse 5 again, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Do the work of an evangelist. I once read this verse and prayed, “God give me a context for it.” No sooner had I done so, then I realized that I had one. Ours was the only Christian family in a town of 4500 inhabitants. I was not an evangelist, but I was called to do the work of one. The next day a phone call came through about being a chaplain to the Hamburg Freezers, a professional ice hockey team. Over the course of a season, God provided me with environments within which I could do the work of an evangelist. The task of evangelism is to produce offspring – children born of God by the Spirit. That is tasked to all of us.
To reproduce is also to be COPIED with a specified degree of success. Paul was dedicated to ensuring that the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel, was reproduced: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.” (2 Tim. 4:1-2)
Success for Paul was determined, not solely by the quantity of people who responded, but the quality of the message to which they responded. Timothy is charged with preaching, not with the size of the response in mind, but the consistency to what he’d received and believed. Success is measured by the Lord in terms of faithfulness to the truth rather than the numbers who respond.
The virtue of reproduction, the settled habit of mind that witnesses a Christian leader pouring their lives into others, was Jesus’ idea. Jesus did such a good job of this, modelling it for us in real-life contexts. Note the Scriptural I-D-E-A of spiritual reproduction:
I--Instruction in a real-life context.
Note how many times the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him why He did such a thing in the way He did. This was instruction in a real-life context.
D--Demonstration in a real-life context.
He not only taught them in parables, but He was also always showing them. He was visualizing, incarnating, and fleshing out the truth to them. Remember the time the disciples came up to Jesus and said, "Lord, teach us to pray." They asked that question because they had watched Him pray.
E--Exposure in a real-life context.
This is where Jesus would take the disciples into these situations, and they would try it.
A--Accountability or assessment in a real-life context.
After they tried it, and after they experimented, they came back and they talked about it.
The real-life context for us is engaging with other people--doing life with other people; knowing others and being known. This was the original IDEA. We must return to the original idea. As we invest in people, we must be committed to three things:
1. A Person
2. A Process
3. A Purpose
Food for Thought:
Pray for God to give you number 1.
Ask God to make you passionate about number 3.
Remembering that context determines approach, ask God for wisdom on the number 2.