This past Wednesday, I lost one of my spiritual dads. Six years ago, one of the twelve men who sat on my ordination council, David Boggs, took the initiative to start regularly meeting with me, informally and yet intentionally instructing me on matters of life and doctrine, as well as the practicalities of pastoring and preaching. I feel quite certain that I would not be where I am today if it were not for his steady pointing me back to the Scriptures and the call God has placed on my life (1 Tim 4:14).
In addition to the wealth of wisdom that David imparted to me over the past six years, one lesson that I will never forget is the importance of investing in the next generation of gospel ministers (2 Tim 2:2). Here are four lessons that he taught me – by example – of what discipleship looks like (and in honor of David, they are alliterated):
The fact is, most future disciple-making disciples do not wake up one morning and think, “I need to find someone I can learn from and emulate.” Jesus’ disciples were mending nets or working in their tax booth when they were called. Timothy was simply at home in Lystra. But all these men were invited to be discipled. In fact, it says that “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him.” (Acts 16:3) One mark of a disciple-making disciple is that he (or she) is on the lookout for would-be disciples, or as Colin Marshall and Tony Payne describe them, people worth watching (Trellis and the Vine). And when David saw one of these men, he did not wait for them to make the first move, but rather sought them out.
During a season in my life where I knew God had called me to the pastorate, but was unclear on the specifics (and quite frankly was resisting the notion of preaching), during a season of life where I was managing a restaurant and simply trying to faithfully serve, during a season when I was still grieving the loss of my miracle son, David took the initiative to text me and persistently find times (during my erratic work schedule) to meet for breakfast or lunch. If it were not for his initiative, I would never have learned and grown as I have. Thank you, David, for having eyes of faith and texting me.
Sometimes when we think of discipleship through our program-driven lenses, we think of it as something formal. But discipleship in the Bible was simply a doing of life together. Again, notice that the Scriptures say that “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him.” (Acts 16:3). What book were they going to study together? How long should they meet? These questions would have been non-sensical to the apostle and his disciple. They simply did life together. Timothy learned, not sitting at a desk, but walking with Paul and watching Paul. He saw Paul suffer, heard Paul preach, saw Paul have compassion on the sick, and prayed with Paul for the churches.
Most all of the times David and I met were over a meal. There was no agenda, just sharing of our joys and struggles. We would talk about upcoming sermons (he was always pushing me to be better prepared). We would talk about ministry challenges and delights. I knew I could always call him when I needed help or advice. He would help me talk through rightly dividing the Word, and of course always had an alliteration to share. I watched him walk through painful ministry moments, which only added credibility when he would exhort me to stay the course. I watched him love his wife and care for her. I watched him suffer terribly because of the cancer, and yet preach to himself with his own heart was anxious. Thank you, David, for giving me an example to follow, not just instruction to learn.
Just because discipleship is informal does not mean it lacks intentionality. Jesus’ intention with his disciples was that they would be fully equipped to take the good news to the uttermost parts of the world. Paul’s intention for Timothy was a spiritual son who could continue the work he had been doing (1 Tim 1:2-3). Jesus fully explained to his disciples the Kingdom of Heaven, though they didn’t quite get it at the time! Paul intentionally engaged Timothy in increasing ways during his missionary trips so that he, though timid, would be ready to lead the church in Ephesus.
Though our meetings and conversations had no agenda, David almost always had a book to share or specific advice to give. I’ll never forget the last time we met. Though he was weak, through tears he pleaded with me and another brother to draw near in intimacy with Jesus, for there alone is the “secret” to successful ministry. Thank you, David, for being intentional and not avoiding the difficult topics.
Similarly, just because discipleship is informal does not mean it is only learning by observation. Yes, I had the privilege of watching David’s life and learning from his example. But ultimately, even in the informal conversations over a BBQ pork sandwich, there was instruction given. Just as Jesus was always teaching, just as Paul was always teaching (Acts 28:30-31), discipleship necessitates teaching. We can talk about life, but it better be through the lens of the Scripture.
David was always teaching. He never missed a chance to reference a passage of scripture or to back up his advice with God’s Word. He would instruct me on my life, impressing on me the importance of priorities, loving my wife well, and guarding my heart. He would instruct me on my ministry, reminding me of my calling, warning me of various dangers and pitfalls, and exhorting me to guard the deposit entrusted to me. He would instruct me on my preaching, constantly commending good exegesis, listening to countless hours of my sermons to give honest feedback, and always pressing me to greater excellence in the ministry of the Word. Thank you, David, for being my teacher.
David may never have pastored a mega-church, but his influence is incalculable. You see, David did not just invest in and disciple me. He did this for dozens of men throughout his life, many of whom are now pastoring or are on the mission field. Only eternity will show the incredible Kingdom impact of his discipleship. I know I am richer for it, and I know that the congregation I pastor is richer because of the lessons I learned from David. I pray that I am a faithful servant, entrusting the precious deposit to other men who will likewise do the same.
I may not be David’s son, but I count it a privilege to be one of his son’s in the faith. He has patiently and faithfully loved me in the Lord. He will be greatly missed, but I praise the Lord that he finished his race and remained faithful to the end (2 Tim 4:7-8). David, I rejoice in knowing that your grey head is now graced with the crown of righteousness that our King and Judge laid up for you. Thank you, Jesus, for blessing me by bringing David into my life!