Which Came First, Discipleship or Evangelism?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Have you heard that question before? Usually, we hear that as a funny saying that seeks to illustrate that sometimes it is difficult to figure out what the true cause is of a particular problem or event. Today, I want us to think about which came first – evangelism or investing in the life of another.

Last week we thought about Jesus helping us see our lives in a new light. This week, let us look to Him to see reaching others for Him in a new light. When we think about evangelism, do we focus on a product (getting someone saved) or do we focus on a process (introducing someone to Jesus).

Think for a moment how you generally assume people get into the family of God.

Is this the way you think of people getting into the family of God:

  • Start lost, get evangelized (by a professional), get saved, follow in discipleship
    • Need: an event or an evangelist
    • Problem: We assume that this is THE way

Now, there is nothing wrong with the above process. However, the problem is that we ASSUME it is the only way people come to Jesus! This locks us in, doesn’t it? It makes it very difficult (even impossible) for us to see a way that people could get saved without a special person (a minister, evangelist) in their lives. How is that special person supposed to get into the lost person’s life?!

Perhaps looking at how Jesus led the disciples to Himself might help us troubleshoot this challenge. Jesus didn’t save the disciples and then disciple them. Jesus invited the disciples to join Him in life. Then, He taught and lived with them. We might not call that technically discipleship because we don’t know exactly when the disciples became believers – for example, Judas NEVER became one! However, what Jesus did with the disciples sure looked like discipleship, didn’t it? For Jesus, the process was:

  • Start lost, receive teaching and life with Jesus, get challenged, get saved, and continue in discipleship
    • Need: time, love, and an intentional investment of God’s truth both declared and lived out
    • Problem: obedience

Now that is a new way to look at evangelism – living intentionally with lost people! Jesus shared with and expected a response from people who had yet to declare a clear commitment to Him. He still shared with (taught/discipled) and still challenged (sent them on assignments) those who had yet to give their lives to Him. Did it require Him to have a degree? Did it require Jesus to be gifted in public speaking? Sure, Jesus did have a degree of sorts (He knows everything) AND He was gifted in public speaking (He is all powerful, after all). However, neither of things were required for Jesus to live with and share with the ones He called His disciples. What it did require was His time and His love and a consistent message. Isn’t that something we all could give?

19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus told His followers that they were equipped to disciple others. He didn’t just pull aside the remaining disciples and give them some secret instructions about discipling the world. No, He told the eleven that they were equipped to lead others to Him, and then they told us that we were equipped also. The promises Jesus made were not just to the ones we call apostles. The call to disciple others was not just to them either. The call is to all of us.

So when we think about reaching the lost, do we just have ‘professional’ evangelism in mind? Are we really only thinking about tracts, presentations, concerts, and preachers? Is it time to step back and look again? Is it time for us to invest anew in the life of another? Maybe we will see that instead of wanting some ‘professional’ to reach our friends and family, who Jesus wants to use is us! How will you and I be used in the life of another?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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2 Responses to Which Came First, Discipleship or Evangelism?

  1. Christine says:

    I once had a dear youth pastor teach me about opportunities to minister. He taught me how that God will send people to us. When we have a heart for someone, we need to pray for God to give opportunities to be able to minister to them. He will open the door. We just have to watch for it and step through. Sometimes, though, God will give us the opportunities, and we blow it. We don’t follow through. The times when that happens to me, I regret later, and I pray that God will give them another chance either with me or someone else. Sometimes we never see that person again. Because of the brevity of that, each person I meet that God sends my way, I look for how God wants me to interact with them. I don’t believe that meetings are by chance. I believe that God orchestrates it all.
    Sometimes I feel like I blow the opportunities by not knowing the right thing to say. I fret about it later and think of how I could say it better. Those times I just have to leave up to God. It’s not all up to me. The Holy Spirit works beyond our shortcomings. I can only pray that when I mess it up or don’t do a ‘good enough job’ that He can fix it and send the right message at the right time for that person. I just have to be obedient when He sends someone my way. If I can in some way bring them closer to the Savior, then I pray that He is glorified.
    On another note, I also need to look out to my family and friends that I am familiar with being around. I may not be as prayerful and careful of my interactions with them. Yet, I need to work on being just as intentional to minister to them as I am to minister to the one who seems to ‘really need Jesus’. I don’t want to be ministering to others and yet be dismissive of my own loved ones. God placed them in my path too, and I need to be just as alert to attending to what God wants to do for them through me. This is a constant prayer of mine.

    • Pastor John says:

      Amen! Thank you for sharing this. When we feel ill equipped, we trust the one who equips us to make it enough. The good news is we don’t reach out to our friends family and strangers alone. The holy spirit is right there with us. He makes us enough even when we feel like we aren’t. Again, amen!

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