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Text-Driven Discipleship: One-on-One Discipleship

Vital to Text-Driven Discipleship is a one-on-one discipleship relationship, yet knowing how to operate in that relationship can be difficult. Scripture gives a plethora of examples of these types of relationships. The relationships of Paul and Timothy and Paul and Barnabas particularly stand out. Using those relationships as a guide, there are three "people" you need to be for holistic one-on-one discipleship to take place: Timothy, Barnabas, and Paul.

Be A Timothy

Of all the people you need to be, being a Timothy is one of the hardest because you must admit that you don't know everything. You also must believe that the person discipling you has your best interest in mind.

Timothy is first introduced in Acts 16. Timothy is half-Jewish and half-Greek, and because of this, he's uncircumcised. After hearing the report from the believers in Lystra and Iconium, something about Timothy stood out to Paul and Silas, where Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. Timothy was likely a teenager, 16-18 years old at the time, and likely was excited that the apostle to the Gentiles saw something in him. Timothy was likely less excited when Paul gave his first instruction. Paul went and had Timothy circumcised. Acts 16 doesn't tell us what Timothy's reaction was to this but given that Timothy would've been old enough to make his own decisions, it's evident that Timothy was quick to trust Paul and be obedient.

Acts 16 exemplifies what it means to be a Timothy. To be a Timothy, you must first live a God-honoring life without having a "Paul." You may be looking for someone to disciple you but have yet to find someone. What you can do is go and be faithful with what you know. Volunteer for everything you can at your church. Go to every service they have. Be involved in the weekly evangelism of your community. Let your God-honoring lifestyle make you recognizable. You may still need to ask someone to disciple you, but this God-honoring lifestyle will make a "Paul" desire to disciple you. You may think that's overly simple, but the three men that I've been a "Timothy" to started by me just being somewhere and being faithful.

The second thing you must do is trust your discipler. Assuming that the person discipling you is a man of God and submitted to the Word of God, trust them. Test everything with Scripture, but being a Timothy means assuming your discipler has your best interest in mind. Trust that his advice will help you. Trust that what he says about Scripture is true. If you constantly doubt the person discipling you, either that person shouldn't be discipling you, or you're not being a good Timothy. The men who've discipled me couldn't always show me at the time why it mattered, but repeatedly I've seen that trusting them was the best option.

Lastly, follow the one who is discipling you closely. After Acts 16, Timothy would travel with Paul on and off for 15 years. Timothy wanted to learn everything he could from Paul. Timothy was teachable. If you want to be a good Timothy, be teachable. Ask a lot of questions. Ask simple questions, ask deep questions, ask hypothetical questions, and ask the question "why?" a lot. Ask any of the men who've discipled me; I ask more questions than anyone else. I learned to ask questions from the first person who discipled me, my dad. There are so many things I wouldn't know if I didn't ask. Whether you're a young believer or a seasoned believer, you need to be a Timothy to someone.

Be a Barnabas

The relationship between Barnabas and Paul is very interesting. In Acts 9, Paul gets saved on the road to Damascus and immediately starts preaching the gospel. In his zeal, Paul goes back to Jerusalem, where he's met with resistance. The believers in Jerusalem didn't trust Paul. Except for one disciple: Barnabas. Barnabas's name means "son of encouragement." Barnabas brings the new believer Paul, zealous for the ministry, to the apostles and vouches for him. In Acts 11, Barnabas would go and find Paul, and the two would begin missionary journeys together. Barnabas and Paul were co-laborers. They encouraged each other. They even disagreed. The two would have to part ways over a disagreement over John Mark, who had abandoned them. Paul and Barnabas, while no longer co-laborers, would maintain their relationship, as seen in 1 Corinthians 9:6. Paul and Barnabas's relationship is one of brotherhood.

To be a Barnabas, you must be a brother to someone. You must encourage him when he's down. You must get in the trenches with him and be a faithful co-laborer. You must, at times, disagree and debate with him. Being a Barnabas to someone means being the iron someone else sharpens off of. If you want a great example of the Barnabas and Paul relationship, listen to the Text-Driven Podcast. Timothy and my relationship is a close brotherhood, where we encourage each other, work together in Text-Driven Ministries, and debate—a lot. We sharpen each other. You need a Barnabas, and you need to be a Barnabas to someone.

Be A Paul

You must also be a Paul. To be a Paul, the same principles of Acts 16 can be applied but in the inverse. Paul went looking for someone who was being faithful where he was. When Paul found Timothy, he had Timothy do something extremely difficult for the benefit of Timothy's ministry. Then, Paul took Timothy everywhere and trusted Timothy to be his messenger to different churches.

To be a Paul, you must do the same things. Look for the young man or young woman who's being faithful where they are and ask them if you can disciple them. Someone might also come to you asking to be discipled, and if someone does, either say yes or that you'll find someone for them. Someone desiring personal discipleship is a great sign of spiritual maturity. Being a Paul means sacrificing time and effort for the "Timothy's" good. Being a Paul isn't "having an open door." It's actively being in someone's life.

Being a Paul also means giving them advice that's for "Timothy's" long-term benefit, even when it's hard. I can't imagine the conversation between Paul and Timothy when Paul told Timothy he needed to be circumcised, but it's clear in the text that Paul was having Timothy do it because it would be for his benefit. The inverse of this is also true: don't have "Timothy" or advise him to do things that won't benefit him in the long run. Many disciplers see having a disciple as free labor. That's not the relationship. The relationship is about raising up another Christian to be faithful to the Lord.

Lastly, being a Paul means teaching a Timothy how to live a mature Christian life. A mature Christian life is holistic. It's vital to teach a Timothy Christian habits, like how to study Scripture, pray, and apply the principles to the Christian life. It's also vital to teach a Timothy how to think, write, and read broadly. Further, you should teach a Timothy how to generally be an adult, like how to maintain a car, dress, be polite, and be professional. Then teach a Timothy how to dream, and desire to do great things for God. For as long as you can pour your life into a Timothy, teach them everything you possibly can. Essential to this as well is remembering John Maxwell's "The Law of the Lid." You will never take someone higher than you presently are. If you're going to disciple someone, you must be constantly growing and learning. Seek to be a Paul for someone. There are Timothy’s everywhere being faithful but going undiscipled because there aren't Paul’s willing to disciple them.


There are a few things I want you to notice as we conclude. First, there is no limit to the number of people involved in these relationships. You can be a Timothy, a Barnabas, and a Paul to multiple people, and you should be. Second, these relationships might also change over time. A Paul and Timothy relationship might become a Paul and Barnabas relationship. If that happens, look for your next Paul or Timothy. Third, nothing that has been said is exclusive to vocational ministry. One-on-one discipleship isn't only for those who intend to enter vocational ministry but is essential for every Christian. If you're a business owner, find a young Christian entrepreneur to disciple or other business owners who you can encourage. Whether you're a teacher, homemaker, pastor, evangelist, bank teller, or in any other vocation, look for people you can be discipled by, look to encourage someone, and look to disciple someone.

Written by Klayton Carson

The "Text-Driven Discipleship" series is also on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at New episodes are released every Monday, just in time for your morning commute.


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