Pass It On
The things [the doctrine, the precepts, the admonitions, the sum of my ministry] which you have heard me teach in the presence of many witnesses, entrust [as a treasure] to reliable and faithful men who will also be capable and qualified to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:2
We may think we invented viral marketing, but Paul used it almost two millennia ago. Viral marketing occurs when a product or service generates enough enthusiasm to cause people to tell their friends and business associates about a product or service. The life-changing truth about Christ works the same way.
Paul invested tremendous resources in Timothy. He spent lots of time with Him, prayed with him, and showed him how to lead people. Day and night, in every kind of circumstance, Paul taught and modeled the truth for Timothy. Paul didn’t expect the chain to stop there. He told Timothy to pass along everything he had learned but not just anybody. He carefully instructed Timothy to set the standard very high: Select “faithful men” who have the heart and skills to teach others. These men would then do the same thing, selecting leaders and imparting God’s truth to them, and they would do the same with people they selected.
The Christian faith isn’t like a box of cereal on a shelf that people buy on a whim. Throughout the world, people who become believers are won because men and women have caught the “virus” from faithful,skilled, passionate men and women who were “infected” by others.
Today, most of us can look back at a generation or two of faithful people who, like Paul and Timothy, we’re part of the viral marketing of the Christian faith. How are we doing at moving it forward?
When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.
In the master plan of God, the church is always one generation from extinction. God only has children and not grandchildren. Every generation is to be given the opportunity of knowing Christ personally and every generation must pass on to the next generation faith and knowledge. Unfortunately that doesn’t always occur and especially in the last years of church life it seems to have been limited. Many churches have only an older generation membership because somewhere along the way the following generation didn’t make a relationship with God a priority. Many reasons can be given for this but looking for scapegoats or somewhere to lay blame is futile for we can’t go back and change the past. We can, however, begin where we are and while it will take greater effort, commitment, and resource, it is possible still to influence the next generation.
By the time Jesus came, the Jewish community had forsaken their relationship with God and all that remained to a large degree was a shell of religious activity. Outside the religious leaders and the obligatory participation in rituals, few were interested. Yet, we see that people were interested in coming to know God but the way had to be authentic. When John the Baptist began to teach the way of repentance, large crowds began to gather. As Jesus began to model and teach about a personal relationship with God(He introduced God as the Father rather than a far away being) people became interested once again in knowing God. This carried through to the Acts church through the disciples that Jesus sought out and entrusted with the message of salvation. Those men sought out other people and transferred their knowledge and faith and the church began to expand until the gospel was preached throughout the whole world.
The church has survived every attempt to be eradicated solely due to the principle of passing on the faith. Like the relay race runner, each believer is tasked with passing the baton on to the next runner and that runner carries the baton until it’s time for them to pass it on. If any runner fails to pass the baton or any runner fails to take the baton, the race is interrupted and lost. We can be sure that the devil will try to interrupt the passing of the baton. Sometimes it’s that we hold the baton close and refuse to pass it. Sometimes the one who should receive it isn’t interested in running the race of faith. Sometimes it’s dropped in the passing. However, we can recover from any and all of this if desire rises to the challenge.
From the life of Jesus and the disciples we find a model. The beginning of spiritual revolution comes through those who have become passionate about their relationship with God. It is quite evident that Jesus was intentional and intense about His relationship with the Father. He talked to Him frequently and He talked about Him to others. One might say that He was single-minded in His mission to connect people with the Father. He often went out of His way, broke social protocols, and ignored religious tradition that hindered people knowing the Father. I don’t think you could be around Jesus very long before you began to have a desire to know the Father. His love, admiration, and obedience to the will of the Father was evident. From telling stories about a good father to purifying the temple which was designed to be the meeting place between God and man, Jesus’ enthusiasm and joy about the Father became contagious and the disciples were so influenced by it that they became willing to suffer if it meant they could tell people about God. It’s obvious that Jesus transferred His faith and joy to the disciples.
“So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The disciples who had received from Jesus also made sure that they passed it on.
“Then Peter and John laid their hands on them [one by one], and they received the Holy Spirit.”
“And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. God was doing extraordinary and unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or face-towels or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out [of them].”
Down through the ages it has been so that a transfer from one generation to the next was necessary. I’m sure that many like myself have been given much from others. I have had the privilege to sit at the feet of spiritual giants and learn from them. I have also had the privilege to pass on what I have received. I can tell you that both are incredible experiences. I dare say that those of us who are Christ followers are the recipients of a faith transfer from some enthusiastic, caring believer who knew what they had was too good to keep to themselves so they passed it on to us.
It’s obvious that our world needs a contagious, viral infection of the Gospel. We who carry the “germ” ought to be so contagious that everyone around us catches the “bug.” And if we become so “infected” with the Spirit, no barriers, generation gaps, disinterested group will be able to ward off the “germ.” When Jesus transferred to the disciples, the faith and Spirit, it was so infectious that they became carriers and soon multitudes became infected with the Gospel and the cycle repeated itself. We, too, can have this experience. It won’t come because we try to convince people with words or rituals, but it will come when we ourselves become so infected with the Holy Spirit that we begin to act like Jesus. The curiosity that will be generated by a person who has experienced such a transformation will open the way for us to infect someone else.
How contagious are you? Do those around you see Jesus and the Holy Spirit oozing out your pores? Does your life and the way you live it create curiosity and interest? Do those who are around you sense that there’s something different about you? Have you found and/or you looking for the person that you can transfer your faith to so that it continues along? Won’t it be wonderful when our ability to work for God ceases for us but is picked up and carried on by the next generation? Won’t it be worth celebrating when we see them being more effective in their work for God? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the church increasing and filled with a multigenerational congregation? It can be if we will acquire and then pass it along!
Dr. John Thompson