Who is your Paul? And who is your Timothy?

Five years ago I was asked a question by a Pastor which I haven’t forgotten.  It was simple but profound.

‘Who is your Paul? And who is your Timothy?’

The principle behind it was be aware of who you are letting speak into your life and equally, be intentional about speaking into the lives of others.  It’s about being discipled and discipling others.  There may be many rules of leadership out there but this one is important.

Philippians 2 helps to demonstrate this important principle.  The chapter begins with Paul’s instructions to make sure that being a follower of Jesus is not merely a label we wear but requires action (Ph. 2:1-5).  He does this poetically demonstrating Jesus as being humble but also exalted by God (Ph. 2:6-11) and then describes how our lives may look (Ph. 2:12-18).  Most people who have been in Christian circles for a while are familiar with this passage.  What follows is a bit more surprising.

Paul shifts his focus and starts giving an endorsement of Timothy.  The question is why?

It would be easy to assume that Paul is doing this because he wants Timothy to help lead them.  This is part of it but not the full story.  Yes, he wants Timothy to lead and he wants them to listen to him.  But Paul is also giving an example of what discipleship is all about.

For the Philippians Paul highlights 4 simple aspects relating to discipleship:

1. Centred on Jesus

Some things haven’t really changed.  In Paul’s day people were self-interested.  They asked ‘What’s in it for me?’ Discipleship isn’t like this.  Disciplemakers don’t want to create miniature versions of themselves.  They have experienced God’s love for them and are driven for others to also experience it.

2. Built on Relationship

Paul likens Timothy to a son.  Don’t worry about the nuances of family dynamics in the 1st Century.  Just notice the need of relationship.  The image Paul has used is a close relationship.  You can’t disciple or be discipled outside the context of relationship.

3. Demonstrable

Timothy is known by the Philippian church.  They have seen him in action.  They know they can follow him because he has proven it.  This is important.  When we are being discipled by someone we need to ask what they are demonstrating.  Equally we need to ask what our lives are demonstrating as we disciple others.

4. Sacrificial

In the final part of Chapter 2 Paul uses the example of Epaphroditus.  Paul wants the Philippians to follow Epaphroditus because he isn’t afraid to sacrifice. Being a disciple and a disciplemaker can be costly.  We often don’t focus on this but it’s a reality.

Sacrifice is the evidence of being a disciple.  It demonstrates the faith we proclaim.  Sacrificial discipleship builds on relationship in that it counts the other as more important.  And sacrifice helps to centre discipleship on Jesus – the one who was the ultimate sacrifice.


The reality of leadership goes both ways.  Leaders speak into the lives of others in ways that help them move, in this case, toward discipleship.  But leaders are also led and shaped by others.  We need to make sure that we are being led by quality people.  How do we see them sacrificially building relationships that centre on Jesus?  And how do we display these qualities so that we can speak into the lives of others.  In other words,

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