Connecting Business & Professionals To God Innar banner


Key Funding Opportunities Bottom Image

The Privilege – and Challenge – of Making Disciples

Blog Artwork

By Robert J.Tamasy

7 minute read

If someone you cared about deeply were going away and wanted to tell you something very important before leaving, wouldn’t you pay close attention? That’s exactly what Jesus Christ did. Moments before He ascended to Heaven. He gave His followers specific instructions – the mission He was delegating to them:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Known as Jesus’ Great Commission, it was simple then and remains so today – make disciples. I became involved in CBMC nearly 40 years ago, and when I learned that making disciples was a central part of its mission statement, I eagerly wanted to participate in that. The problem was, I didn’t know how to get started.

Even though I had been a church member for most of my life, I was fairly new in my faith. My walk with Christ had gotten its jumpstart when I became part of a small group discipleship program, but CBMC’s one-to-one disciplemaking model was totally unfamiliar to me.

Reflecting on the years I spent attending churches without knowing Jesus, I wished that I had benefited from having a “Paul,” a spiritual mentor to help me understand the Scriptures. Especially in how to integrate my faith into my career, as well as my personal life. Lacking that example, I started looking for someone to disciple me. My boss, the most spiritually mature man I knew at the time, had a different idea.

When I asked Duane to take me through Operation Timothy, he suggested instead that I take another man through it so we could learn about the process of discipling and disciplemaking together. What a daunting thought! I felt still wet behind the ears spiritually; who was I to start trying to disciple another man? As it turned out, my boss was right.

Not long after that, I took my wife and children to a CBMC family conference where the daily Bible teacher was Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, who spent the week expounding on a passage about an obscure fellow named Jabez. The content from his messages later became his best-selling book, The Prayer of Jabez, but it was the central theme that stuck with me.

You might be familiar with the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, which says:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brother. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”

Those two verses comprise everything that we know from the Scriptures about this fellow Jabez. Why was he singled out in the middle of a very extensive genealogical listing? Wilkinson’s book, if you haven’t read it, seeks to answer that question. But as I listened to him expound on the passage, one truth jumped out for me: It’s okay to ask for personal blessings – as long as the motive is to bring glory to God.

Jabez asked God to bless him and to enlarge his territory. Or as another translation phrases it, “expand my borders.” Some might read these words and conclude, “Hey, that’s great, now I can pray for that fancy car or the big house we’ve been wanting!” But I took them to mean something entirely different. Jabez was asking God’s blessings to increase his influence, his impact on the world around him – and when he prayed that, the Lord granted his request.

There I was, thinking about becoming engaged in CBMC’s mission to make disciples, when it occurred to me that I should pray about it. So I did. I asked God to bless me and expand my borders by bringing one man into my life that I could begin discipling, using Operation Timothy.

I don’t remember the exact words, but know I didn’t pray for fame or fortune. Even though I was a writer with dreams and aspirations, I didn’t pray to become a best-selling author. I prayed something like this: “Lord, I would be thrilled to help another man to grow in his walk with You. And in the process, to grow myself. Would you please give me a man – just one man – that I could disciple?”

This is the kind of prayer God delights in and is eager to answer. The next month, a friend and I were following up on a guest at a CBMC outreach luncheon earlier that week. We met Sam, an executive who didn’t have a church background. He had prayed with the speaker at the meeting, but I recall him saying, “It can’t be that easy.” After further discussion, Sam and I agreed to meet and talk more about this thing called Operation Timothy.

We didn’t start immediately, however, because his wife was pregnant and due to give birth within the next couple of weeks. And since it was the holiday season, Sam’s business commitments for the next two months would be all-consuming.

The following month my CBMC friend and I visited another outreach luncheon guest who worked at a local investment firm. This man, Gene, was a believer but quickly admitted he was not where he wanted to be spiritually. He would welcome help in growing. When I explained what Operation Timothy was about, he was excited. “When can we start?” he asked. “How about next Wednesday morning,” I suggested.

We did meet the following week, and that began a discipling relationship that lasted more than two years. It was a joy to be used by God to help Gene grow – discussing Bible passages, learning how to apply these truths to different areas of his life, and also discovering the benefits of memorizing Scripture passages – “hiding God’s Word in his heart,” as Psalm 119:11 tells us.

In the meantime, I kept in contact with Sam, and true to his word, he and I began going through Operation Timothy after the first of the year. How amazing it was to experience the fulfillment of the simple “Jabez prayer” I had silently expressed just a few months earlier. I had prayed for one man to disciple, to “enlarge my territory,” and God had responded by giving me two!

There’s a truism in discipling: No two people are alike. That’s not an exaggeration, as I quickly realized. Gene and Sam had been at different places in their lives; one was an immature but very receptive believer, while the other was trying to get past his former religious skepticism. With each man, there were starts and stops, bumps in the road. But both grew into mutually beneficial relationships. I found I was growing as much – or perhaps more – than my “Timothys” were.

When guys ask questions you can’t answer, or perhaps have never considered before, it causes you to dig deeply to seek those answers. “What do I believe about that? And why do I believe it?”

Decades later, God continues to bring business and professional men into my life to disciple and mentor spiritually. More than a couple dozen overall. Some have met with me “for a season,” then we have lost touch. I’ve stayed in contact with others for many years. In fact, Sam and I still talk regularly and resumed meeting every few weeks or so, living out Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one many sharpens another.”

Some of these men have gone on to disciple others, who then have proceeded to disciple other men. This is in keeping with 2 Timothy 2:2, which shows us the multi-generational dimension of discipling: “And the things that you [Timothy] have heard from me [Paul], entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others.” In each case, I believe, God has used me to make a spiritual contribution into their lives – as they have in mine.

Another of my favorite verses says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Being the father of biological children is a wonderful experience, without question. Especially when they come to know Jesus and commit to following Him. But it’s also a source of incredible joy to be a spiritual parent – and to see one’s spiritual children walking in the faith.

There’s an interesting parallel here: Raising children isn’t an easy task, whether they’re part of your physical bloodline or an extension of your spiritual lineage. Sometimes they grow slowly, other times their growth astounds you. They have problems that you try to help them work through, and at times they disappoint you. They don’t turn out exactly as you expected – but much of the time, they turn out to be far more than you could have ever hoped.

I see it as an investment. Discipling other men has taken time, energy, and sometimes even financial resources. But the “dividends” have exceeded my expectations. Years ago another friend in CBMC pointed me to a wonderful verse that talks about this idea of investment and return. In Isaiah 43:4, God says, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” I can’t think of a better deal!


Robert J. Tamasy is a former publications director for CBMC, and writes for The Connector newsletter. He has written numerous books, including Marketplace Ambassadors: CBMC’s Continuing Legacy of Evangelism and Discipleship; Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; The Heart of Mentoring, coauthored with David A. Stoddard; and has edited other books. Bob’s biweekly blog is: