Paul, Barnabas, Timothy—Are You?

There are four people mentioned in the title to this piece that come from the New Testament in the Bible. The last one you may question, but the first three almost everyone knows about.

The apostle Paul is the major contributor to the New Testament books of the Bible. We view him historically as the one who established the Gentile churches, and gave us clear instructions as to how to live the Christian life.

Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), was an associate of Paul. He travelled with Paul during his first venture out from Antioch to preach the Gospel in places where it had never been heard.

Timothy was a young disciple whom Paul trained (Phil. 2:22) to work with him in the ministry. We have the letters Paul wrote to Timothy after he left him in charge of the church in Ephesus.

Paul gives a fascinating instruction in 2Tim. 2:2 that many in the church have tried to incorporate into their lives. Books have been written on how to best fulfill this simple directive. Programs have been established, tried, and died as leaders sought to complete this master program of discipleship.

Paul writes: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (ESV) Notice that there are four generations mentioned here: Paul to Timothy; Timothy to faithful men; faithful men to others—Paul–>Timothy–>faithful men–>others = four.

This is obviously a good plan to spread the teachings of the gospel and how to live the Christian life. Why hasn’t it worked as planned?

There may be numerous reasons proffered for our consideration, but I would like to focus on only one which is not specifically mentioned in this passage.

Personal growth through accountability is often lacking in most programs that are established for the purposes of disciple-making.

Some of you may have quit reading at this point, because you know of systems where accountability is a given—built into the very fabric of the program. I, too, am aware of many such instances. But, I am not talking about a “top-down” type of accountability, which is the usual form, given our proclivity for hierarchical authoritarian structures.

I believe there is something much more powerful, something that is seldom done, something that cannot be mechanically orchestrated. It is one of those things that is simple, but not easy. It is a lifestyle that we choose to live for the sake of our own growth and the growth of the Kingdom of God. Ecclesiastes 4:12 states: And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

It is this three-fold cord to which I refer.

So, let’s consider again the three people we began with, and how that might relate to the fourth person—you.

Paul is a leader/teacher. Timothy is a student. Barnabas is a partner/encourager.

Before I try to explain it, I will simply state it. We each need to have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in our life. Also, we each need to be a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy to someone else.

We each need someone with whom we are close to be our teacher. Your pastor who delivers the Word of God to you each Sunday doesn’t count, unless you are with him/her on a regular basis as just the two of you—or possibly a couple more.

We also need someone close to us who is there for support and encouragement, not only when things get tough, but even when things are going well. We need that someone who is able to rejoice with our victories, be a shoulder to cry on in our defeats, and be with us to cheer us on to persevere during the doldrums of monotony.

And we need someone with whom we can share what we are learning in such a way that it helps them to grow. We need a student who wants to learn from us.

Plus, we need to BE each of these for someone else.

In this way, accountability is much more than someone superior to me asking if I got something done; or why I did such a thing. It is the type of accountability that provides a fullness of all that word means: answerability, responsibility, and liability.

When this is operating in our life, our own personal growth and the growth of those around us is ensured.

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