2 Necessities for Health in Discipleship AND Evangelism

Which is more important discipleship or evangelism? It’s not a trick question, but it is a difficult one in practice. Every church leader has a unique wiring that creates a personal bias toward either discipleship or evangelism. And each church, therefore, quickly reveals an emphasis toward one or the other. This is also true for departments and teams.

Matthew 28:19-20 makes the general mission of the church clear, “make disciples”, but that inherently includes evangelism. Without people coming to faith, there is no one to train in their faith. We can quickly argue biblically that this is a both and not either or issue. Fair enough. But if you want to answer this question honestly, you must consider the patterns, habits and results of the ministry practices in your church. We all need to do this.

Simply ask the question in the context of your church. How many are coming to faith in comparison to how many are being nurtured in their faith? This is the great caution, be careful not to justify discipleship because of the absence of evangelism. Our devotion to spiritual formation is most healthy when it is the response to people finding faith in Jesus.

One thing we have learned for certain is that there is a natural gravitational pull in every church toward discipleship. With minimal intentionality, discipleship (spiritual formation) will occur. Evangelism, however, will not consistently happen without great discipline, effort and intentionality.

So what can we extract from these considerations?

1) It is necessary to make evangelism a priority.

Evangelism needs to be the priority not because it’s more important, but because if it isn’t it quickly becomes weak and can slide to a nominal position and practice in any church. Evangelism, unlike discipleship is not the natural pattern of the church. It is, however, the cutting edge that helps you take new territory.

Keep it simple. 16 classes in how to share your faith over complicate the matter. Cast vision for your congregation to make friends and invite them to church. That’s it. Let it happen in a natural lifestyle way. Of course there is no “wrong” way to approach evangelism, but some are more effective than others within your community and culture. The bottom line is make evangelism a priority, from local compassion to inviting friends, keep it the focus.

2) It is necessary to strive for quality and life change in discipleship.

While we acknowledge that in nearly all churches spiritual formation is happening, it’s not true that it’s always of high quality and effective.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Are your small groups working? Do you have stories of life change?
  • How about new Christians? What do you have in place? Are you happy with the process?
  • Are baptisms a regular part of your congregational life?
  • Is serving (volunteering for ministry) vibrant and widespread?
  • Is prayer vital, core and prevalent in your church?
  • Is worship robust and alive?
  • Are people growing or just repeating the process over and over again?

Discipleship or evangelism is an age-old question.  Hopefully you and I can give some fresh new answers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
 
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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 

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