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January 2018

Discipleship: Fruit
Bearing Fruit


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He “put me in print” for the first time, though if truth were told, the polished final product hardly resembled the rough ramblings I delivered. Still, seeing my name in print gave me the courage to pursue the career path that eventually changed my life.

Over the years, he offered a thousand pieces of advice. Sometimes, his words hurt. Sometimes, they healed. But every time, they sharpened me, pushed me, provoked me. We didn’t always agree, but I always valued his opinion. He was my Barnabas.

- - - - -

We heard the howling from a hundred yards away. Anxiously, my wife and I quickened our pace toward the campsite where we had left our youth group and college chaperones setting up tents for our annual weekend in the wild. Rounding the last turn, we stopped abruptly, startled by the sight before us.

Less than a day into his first youth group trip, the newest and youngest member of the group had been duct-taped to a tree, several feet off the ground, completely helpless. His bright orange hair stuck out in all directions, and his hollering threatened to wake the dead. The group? Conspicuously absent.

When we questioned the culprits, the responses all sounded the same—students and chaperones alike. “He wouldn’t shut up!” “He is the biggest pest.” “He wouldn’t leave me alone.” “I warned him…at least ten times.”

Thankfully, “the pest” survived the camping trip, and his mom understood (maybe better than anyone else) that the actions of the other students were self-preservation. She didn’t sue, and my youth ministry continued.

“The pest” soon gave his life to Christ and began studying and memorizing Scripture in earnest. Over the next few years, I answered a thousand (often difficult) questions and endured a hundred random conversations about girls, music, parents, and life-in-general.

Today, “the pest” is a professor and vice-provost at a Christian college, happily married, finishing a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and Public Policy, and heavily involved in local church ministry. He is my Timothy, although these days, I ask most of the questions.

- - - - -

We meet to work out three mornings a week at 4:15—three middle-aged ministers with zero chance of ever looking remotely like Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson. Sorry, fellows. For 45 agonizing minutes, we grunt and puff and sweat and complain, red faces probably looking less “pastoral” than at any other moments in our lives.

Yet, between the sets of bench presses and leg lifts, we share concerns, swap blessings, and challenge one another to deeper life and faith and ministry. They are my Silas and Luke…even when they oversleep.

Proverbs 27:17 remains true: iron sharpens iron. And, as the Apostle Paul urged the hapless Corinthians, our lives should provide a pattern others can follow. It’s discipleship…with or without
duct tape.

About the Columnist : Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine and president of the Evangelical Press Association:




©2018 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists