“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 2:2 (CSB)
I am embarking on a theological education course with my disciples that will take a little over a year. Next week, I plan to begin teaching through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I will make a weekly audio recording of these teachings, which I plan to upload to YouTube. I intend that each recording will cover one chapter. However, some chapters (such as the Person of Christ) will undoubtedly take more than one week. After I upload this recording, I will meet with a core of disciples to discuss this teaching. Each week, these brothers intend to make a recording in Urdu on the same subject. In this blog post, I am sharing why I am embarking on this process.
When the apostle Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he was preparing to die at the Roman government’s hands. He wrote to Timothy, his “dearly loved son” (1:2), calling him to Rome to give him final instructions before his death.
Throughout 2 Timothy, Paul emphasizes the passing of his teaching and his apostolic mission to Timothy. 2 Timothy was a succession letter. As Paul prepared to die, Timothy and others would take up his mission to the Gentiles. As Paul modeled, they would pioneer new places with the gospel, make disciples, and establish new churches.
One aspect of Timothy’s succession was a continuation of Paul’s teaching through Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul admonished Timothy,
“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
God entrusted this deposit to Paul (1:12). Through years of service together, Paul impressed his “teaching, conduct, purpose, faith” to Timothy (3:11). In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul called on Timothy to continue in this teaching. Then in 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul commanded Timothy to continue to give that trust to others. Just as Paul developed other leaders, including both missionaries and pastors, Timothy was to do the same. In this way, the Pauline mission would continue and grow. Entrusting this teaching to others was one way that Timothy guarded the good deposit he received from Paul.
Paul’s mentorship of Timothy is a picture of our vision. An essential part of the missionary task is to develop more missionaries, just as Paul developed Timothy. To reach the Muslims of South Asia, we need to build local missionaries who can continue the core missionary task among Muslims. In training local workers, I need to explain where I see theological education like this and where it fits in the process.
Here is our current discipleship plan for when a new Muslim-background believer chooses to follow Jesus. It is in three steps.
First, we teach them the 7 Commands of Christ.
- Repent and Believe – Luke 19:1-10
- Take Baptism – Acts 8:26-38
- Pray – Matthew 6:5-15
- Go and Make Disciples – John 4
- Love – Luke 10:25-37
- Take the Lord’s Supper – Luke 22:14-22
- Give – Luke 21:1-4
We teach the 7 Commands by helping new disciples first memorize the Bible story. Some can read the story for themselves, but many new believers are illiterate and require significant repetition to remember. After they learn the story, we ask four basic Bible study questions:
- What do we learn about God?
- What do we learn about people?
- Is there anything we should stop doing?
- Is there anything we should start doing?
The 7 Commands’ goal is to help new believers become obedient to the basic actions of the Christian life. As we teach these 7 Commands, we follow a pattern to help them grow in obedience. We begin each meeting by asking them how they obeyed the previous teachings. Then we teach the next command. Third, we make a concrete plan about how to obey the new command. In this way, we can help new believers become obedient to follow Jesus over their first month in Christ. At the end of this process, these believers are regularly studying the Word, praying, loving their families and neighbors, sharing the gospel, and meeting with others.
Second, after the Seven Commands, we continue to pour in Bible knowledge. We usually do this by teaching book-by-book through Scripture. The Gospel of Matthew is a typical go-to book after a Muslim first follows Jesus. During this time, the new believer continues to walk out the 7 Commands and make disciples of others, while growing in the Word.
Third, the formation of local churches is always the goal! Local churches are where long-term discipleship and teaching continues. Some new believers will emerge as leaders and desire more long-term training and instruction to grow as missionaries or pastors. This systematic theology course fits within this last category.
Therefore, this Systematic Theology course is designed and aimed at a particular group of believers. It is for those who are already doing the Great Commission among Muslims. This course is not basic discipleship but rather a next step for developing faithful partners in the work.