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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comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

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