The Discipleship/Evangelism Quandary

 The Great Disconnect:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19-20


The debate is raging over discipleship and evangelism. Not the way you think.

The debate I am seeing is over which one takes precedence, and yet both sides of the argument use the exact proof text, and I would argue that both are right. The text shows the discipleship element in the blatant use of disciples, which also tells us to teach everything. The hidden element is the how. How do we get these disciples? It is the word “Go”.


Now, let’s look briefly at how this disconnect has happened. The big eva churches have gotten some of the evangelism right for their credit. There is another debate over “Is church for the called” right now. Either way, however, you need to get that person you’re witnessing to go to church and get some more “watering,” as Paul would say. So the “Come and See” concept is partially correct; it verifies what they have heard, but the “Go and Make” is crucial to a disciple-maker to the evangelize and disciple command.


Going back to the debate, some argue that discipleship is more important than evangelism and vice versa. But you can’t have one without the other. Both go hand in hand, and many modern techniques only do part of the job.


If we look at one of the modern concepts, many churches have used small groups as their prominent disciple-making element. However, look at Jesus’s model. He spoke to the crowds, then the disciples (120), then the Twelve, and then had his group of Peter, James, and John. So, it’s not a mix and match but a combo of all four ways. We would see those as Evangelism (Crowds), church (the 120 disciples), small groups (the Apostles), and discipleship (the three).


Data shows us that in churches where a few elements are used, there is more understanding of the Bible and some commitment to the church. But where we see all four in use, Biblical literacy is high, commitment is high, and churches make disciples who make disciples. People are more likely to go and share the Gospel with strangers and friends than not. The Ephesians 4 equipping of the saints is in full bloom.


Through discipleship, which leads to evangelism, we also get a correction to a false idea. Jesus won everyone to himself. That is not true, but this is one of the reasons given by almost every Christian who does not evangelize. They feel inferior to witness, forgetting that even Jesus didn’t win everyone to him, and he is God. The statistic is that only 22% of those Jesus witnessed to accepted the truth. Want proof? Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus talks to the Rich Young Ruler who wanted to follow Jesus, and when given the cost of the task, the Bible tells us, “When the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”


That should encourage us, but it shows that evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand. If we in the Church discipled correctly, revealed the truth of evangelism, and lived out a lifestyle of evangelism, not to be confused with lifestyle evangelism (the constant evangelizing no matter what). We would see people more willing to share their faith with others, strangers they do not know.


The Church in America is experiencing a few big crises right now. 92% of churches are under 100 people. 68% of churches are under 50. Of the 8% over 100, only 2% are megachurches, the newly established 1500+ in attendance. We blur the lines of what matters. But if the majority of churches are under 50, then the question is why? Much of it has to do with the lack of evangelism and the lack of discipleship.


Part of it is those trained to do so. We have a pastoral crisis right now. Fewer men are going into seminary. The mean average of a pastor’s age is now at 57 and climbing up. Many churches cannot find a pastor. Some autonomous churches are deciding to merge and consolidate because of this.


What if we discipled and taught evangelism and did so knowing that we may not win everyone over but be like the sower who spread the Gospel around and many people received, some didn’t take, others took but died out, and others grew strong in their faith.


How would that change your church, neighborhood, state, region, or nation? It would take time, but the results would be eternal. 


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