Do We Really Believe in Evangelism and Discipleship?

Do We Really Believe in Evangelism and Discipleship?

Blog #1 in a series entitled “Obeying Jesus’ 1st Century Command in the 21st Century”

David Kinnaman wrote, “Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ . . . Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.”[1]

However, some pastors and Christian leaders[2] are not aware of the process, the journey that is required, for discipleship which produces the very transformation to which Kinnaman refers. The objective of this blog series is to challenge pastors and leaders to accept the paramount task of making disciples. This will be done by establishing the importance of disciple-making and then examining a discipleship model for use in the local church so that we can all see how to train and resource church members for this indispensable assignment which Jesus gave His church.

Jesus makes it clear that His desire for His followers is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). His challenge to do so is recorded no less than five times in the Gospels and Acts (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8).

While teaching evangelism and discipleship seminars, I have asked participants if they were ever discipled by someone in their past and been amazed to find a very small percentage, including pastors, who can answer the question positively. Dr. Randy Faulkner writes, “If I can encourage pastors to invest some of their time and energy in building men as leaders for their families, churches, vocations, and communities, then I believe I can help these pastors expand their influence for Jesus Christ and strengthen the impact of their leadership in the church.”[3] A great need for discipleship exists in the church.

The local church can and should be the answer to the discipleship crisis. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Apparently, the local church is the driving (attacking!) force challenging the devil’s ground since Jesus says that the gates of Hell cannot prevail, or withstand, the advances of the church. However, the church can gain ground in the devil’s territory by developing followers of Jesus; developing disciples who will follow Him no matter the cost and will make other disciples. The local church can meet the need. In fact, “the work of the church . . . is to equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry and multiply disciples.”[4]

One would have difficulty finding a pastor in a good, Bible-preaching church arguing that Jesus doesn’t want us to make disciples or that making disciples shouldn’t be our primary goal as individuals or as a church. Nevertheless, so few churches are discipling people in a regular, systematic fashion. Why? Faulkner, seeking to encourage pastors to invest in people by making disciples tells why he thinks pastors are not discipling:

It’s not easy. Ecclesiastical busy work can become the enemy of the best things. Sometimes church work—meeting with committees, shuffling paper, returning phone calls, tracking down absentees—gets in the way . . . Old habits die hard, and it’s not easy to form new ones. Pastors who find themselves engaged in the cycle of sermon preparation, hospital visitation, committee meetings, and administration may wonder if they can make time for leadership training and discipleship. After all, running the machinery of a church of any size is time-consuming and energy-depleting. Furthermore, disciple-making, which is a behind-the-scenes spiritual ministry, is not the kind of thing that is recognized and rewarded in most churches. Nobody seems to care whether or not the pastor is a disciple-maker. But woe to the pastor who fails to show up at the hospital to pray over Susie’s third liposuction![5]

Even though people say they believe disciple-making is imperative, that belief has not been transferred to their heart nor to their hands in actions. Teaching and discipling must be done in such a way that transfer will be achieved and the importance of discipleship will be taken to heart so that the learners will disciple others. Stolovitch and Keeps define transfer as “the use of what was acquired in training back on the job.”[6] I hope to address the transfer issue. In this setting, transfer will be defined as the use of what was acquired in evangelism and discipleship seminars back in the real world, in actual evangelism and discipleship settings.

Still, before something can be transferred to life, it must be learned. People must learn how to disciple others. Since many have never been discipled, they don’t know what to do, where to begin, or how to continue once they start. If we as pastors and churches could gain the vision to disciple and have a proven model to do it, then we could certainly enable them to fulfill the Great Commission in our neighborhoods and develop a vision for fulfilling it around the world.

My Good Soil colleagues and I praise God for the tremendous results we’ve seen as He uses His people and the Good Soil resources around the world and even in America. Still so few are involved in discipleship. My prayer is that these blogs will motivate and prepare pastors and leaders to do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission, thus accepting the challenge and obeying Jesus’ first century command in the 21st century.

[1] David Kinnaman, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . And Why It Matters (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 82.

[2] In personal conversations with pastors and in formal seminar settings, I have found that few pastors have been discipled nor are they are involved in systematic discipleship.

[3] Randy Faulkner, Meeting the Dawn at Jimmy’s Egg, (Oklahoma City: R & R Publishing, 2009), 7.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, pages 7-8.

[6] Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps, Training Ain’t Performance, (Alexandria: ASTD Press, 2004), 100.

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