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Multi-Generational Discipleship

by Tim Yates

“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. 6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:1-8).

The Book of Titus is packaged with the Pastoral Epistles along with First and Second Timothy, and rightly so. Why? Because Titus is dealing with the local church. Paul begins the book by reminding Titus that he was left at Crete to “set in order the things that are lacking” and “to appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). The charge is to help the local Church. The first admonition involved a process (v. 5a). Every local Church needs a process. We call the process discipleship. Paul encouraged Titus to strategically “set in order” a discipleship process that moves the believer toward Christlikeness or spiritual maturity within the context of local Church life. The second admonition involved a Pastor (v. 5b). Every Church needs a Pastor who can set in motion the process. The word “appoint”

means to put someone in charge. The text calls him an “elder” (presbyteros), a leader or, as verse 7 says, a “bishop” (episkopos), one who oversees the local church1. In    
Ephesians 4:11, Paul used the expression “Pastor” (poimēn), shepherd/teacher, to describe someone who leads the flock and equips the believer for the work of the ministry. So, Churches need a process and they need a Pastor/Shepherd to set the process in motion. In this article, I want to focus our attention on the process of New Testament discipleship. What does discipleship look like in the Book of Titus? It begins with healthy teaching.

Right out of the starting block, the Apostle jumps into training mode and begins to describe the process (discipleship) with the various age groups and genders within the local Church setting. Hence, I use the expression “multi-generation discipleship” (Titus 2:1-8). Before he describes the discipleship process, Paul commanded Titus, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (v.1). In other words, “speak” (laleo), preach “sound” ὑγιαίνω (hygiainō) healthy doctrine.2 Healthy biblical preaching and biblical teaching produces healthy disciples. What the preacher/teacher says is very important. How does Paul flesh out this multi-generation discipleship within the sphere of the local Church? He addressed three generations:
Generation #1: He addressed the “older men” (v. 2). He spoke to their BELIEFS. Does it surprise you he spoke to the older men first? How should the older men in the fellowship live out their faith? Paul said, “that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience” (Tit. 2:2). First, he encouraged the older men to be “sober” (nēphalios), or show restraint. He further insisted they were to be “reverent” (semnos) or show dignity and live honorably. He instructed them to be “temperate” (sōphrōn), showing self-control, having moderation, and a sober mind. Next, he said, be “sound in faith” or be healthy in your beliefs. Unfortunately, some people have an unhealthy belief system. However, this should not be the case in the Church. The older men should have a healthy, robust, and proven belief system. Furthermore, he insisted we be people of agape love, which is the highest form of love. Then, finally, he encouraged the older brothers to be men of “patience” or endurance. They were to be men who stuck to their convictions, not the kind who are up and down or easily moved off course or quit. They were to be men who were steady, stable, and sound. They were admonished to be faithful and consistent; men who stay on mission. In other words, the older men must model and demonstrate a Christlike life.

Generation #2: He addressed the “older women” and their ministry to the “younger women” (v. 3-5). He spoke to their BEHAVIOR. The word “behavior” refers to how one lives (v. 3). The older women are to be reverent, not women who slander, gossip about others, or who drink excessively, but instead, teachers of good things (v. 3). Okay then, what should the older women teach the younger women? They should teach them how to love their husbands and how to love their children (v. 4). Being a good wife and being a good mother is a priority. This simple discipleship process is instructional, observational, and rooted in a close-knit relationship between the older and the younger women in the Church. Equipping godly wives and developing godly mothers was first and foremost in the early Church. There was no LifeWay curriculum or famous “Teacher,” there were simply just older women who taught the younger women how to love their husbands and how to love their children. This is a lifelong process. You never arrive, but you strive to move forward to a Christ-honoring family relationship. You gotta love the simplistic approach Paul shared with Titus.

Furthermore, the older women should train the younger women to be “discreet” or have self-control and sober-mindedness. They were to be “chaste” or pure, to be “homemakers” not homewreckers, but women who can manage family life well (v. 5, See also 1 Tim. 5:14). The purpose of this antiquated process is so “that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (v. 5). There was no segregation between the older women and the younger women in the early Church. There was no generation gap. In fact, the women in the congregation were united by a common bond in Jesus Christ. In a relational context, marriage and motherhood provided a natural means of raising up strong families within the local Church. There was no stage, just people. There was no rock star leader, just a bunch of older women mentoring the younger women and bringing them to maturity. This was the process. Yet, Paul addressed the younger men too.

Generation #3: He addressed the “younger men” (v. 6-8). He spoke to their BOLDNESS. Paul told Titus to encourage the younger men to be “sober-minded” (v. 6). In other words, be sane in an insane world. Be sensible and clear minded in a sinful society. Keep your mind straight. Keep your priorities right. It’s easy to be philosophically seduced by Hollywood, by the “Taylor not so Swift” mindset violently forced on the Christian community. He further instructed the younger men to boldly show/demonstrate “a pattern of good works” or an example of good deeds (v. 7). Stand up and step out for Christ. Show forth “integrity” or moral purity. Let others see your “reverence” or respectful behavior. Use “sound speech” or healthy words that cannot be condemned. Lay aside vulgar language, cursing, and crude comments. Refuse to be coarse in your speech and use Christ-honoring words. Perhaps then our good behavior will put to “shame” the hostile “opponent” in our lives. Disarming them of antagonism and giving them nothing evil to say about you (v. 8). Nonetheless, the call for “younger men” to be boldly different is not easy. While the urge to blend in is the norm, God has called us out to be different, to be holy, to be the salt of the world.

In closing, let me share with you some practical applications. First, join the process. Instead of minimizing the process maximize the process. While many are pushing a “Churchless Christianity” or a take it…leave it mentality, we need to buy into the Titus concept (Titus 2:1-8). We need to participate in the command “to set in order the things that are lacking” (the discipleship process). And we need to follow our Pastor, who has been “appointed” by God to shepherd us (Titus 1:5). Sheep need a process and sheep need a Pastor. You can buy in, or you can drop out. Over the years, I have witnessed hundreds of people go both ways. I highly advise you to join the process.

Second, value relationships in the Body. The multi-generation plan is organic, natural, and life-changing. Younger members of the Body should gravitate to the older members of the Church and vice versa. This is God’s plan, the Titus plan. Tried, tested, and proven. The older members have a lot to offer the younger members. They have experience, wisdom, and valuable insight. This ordained relational process is sanctioned by God. We need help with family relationships. Husbands and wives need to learn how to love one another. Moms and dads need to learn how to parent their children. Thank God for Church members who have been through the process and can help others through the journey.

Third, get a mentor. A mentor should be someone who might be a few steps ahead of you (spiritually). It should be someone who can help steer you through the process, and somebody who can sharpen you, develop you, and show interest in you. Everyone needs a mentor, and everyone needs a mentee. Share your time, wisdom, and life with others. Instruction and observation are equally needed.  

Culture wants to dismantle the local Church, but Jesus came to do just the opposite. He came to “build His Church” and to shape His followers (Matt. 16:16). He wants people from every generation to find their place in the Body. Paul left Titus in Crete to establish the process and ordain Pastors. Paul focused on multi-generation relationships, such as the “older men” and their beliefs, the “older women” and their ministry to the “younger women,” and the “younger men” were to think right … sober-minded. The process involved every generation moving the next generation toward growth, wholeness, and spiritual maturity. Therefore, every generation has a ministry to the next generation. This is the Titus plan.
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