Discipleship and evangelism can be confusing subjects these days. The short and sweet is that a disciple is someone who is transformed by Jesus and follows after him. While discipleship is really a long process, it always begins with some form of evangelism. In essence, evangelism at its root is simply the ‘good news’ of what Christ did for all of us on the cross. One big dog theologian, Michael Green, noted that this conveyance of the good news is really a “sacred duty of every Christian.” Evangelism is a hot topic in Church Planting and in most Christian circles in general. There are unlimited strategies on the subject. They range from secretive social gospel thinking on one hand to the huge public mass meetings on the other. The results of each vary. But even the apparent success of any of them may end in failure unless there is real transformation. In addition, even successful strategies for reaching out in the past may honestly just not work today. One such example may be the success of the great Sunday School movements of the 20th century which are for the most part being replaced today by small groups.
There are tons of books and guides written every year on evangelistic approaches. But yet, many of these works resemble more of a mass media marketing rather than a biblical teaching. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not some ultra-legalistic preacher here. I’ve used and plan to use outreach tools again. But the question I want to ask in this series of posts is whether or not there is any form of evangelistic principle shown in the New Testament. In short, does the book of Acts, which chronicles the spread of the Church in the first century, offer any help in the pursuit of an evangelistic approach? Really, this should be a natural place to begin when you think about the profound expansion of the Church in the first century. Paraphrasing one great missionary, “in little more than 10 years, churches were established all over four major provinces of the Roman Empire.” Imagine that kind of exponential growth and discipleship. While Luke does not set out in the book of Acts to give us a practice manual, there are a number of principles which we can pick up. These strategies were not constructed by marketing experts, but were rather simply recorded by Luke as they happened under divine inspiration. So it of seems that it would behoove modern planters, missionaries, and Christ followers as a whole to examine the work of those who have gone before us. So, in order to have a more positive influence in reaching out, it is imperative that we heed the evangelistic principles seen in Acts. In this series, we’ll look at four areas: the message proclaimed, the methods employed, the divine influence, and the relationship between human strategy and divine guidance.
But for the time being, what have you read, heard, experienced, or witnessed that has made the greatest impact on you in the realm of evangelism?
Agreed Jack. It seems that a lot of times, churches can be so programmed that a personal passion for evangelism get’s lost. The ‘program’ can simply say; “you come to church, listen to the preacher, and then respond to the preacher because he’s the professional.”
Dan, I don’t remember the actual Greek tense and I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but it seems that it conveys the force of “As you’re going” . . . make disciples. That would fit with your proposition there. I also agree that it is really a holistic approach. My only caution is that sometimes people can get so into the ‘maturing’ part of the process that they forget the saving of lost people from eternal death.
Agree on the whole empowerment as well. There have been times when I’ve seen churches do great things and they’ve called it a move of God. I would likewise give glory to God. But it seems really that God is capable of doing a whole lot more. Actually, you know it really is of God when it is beyond our control.
I have been pondering the commission given us by Christ for a while and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve segmented ‘disciple making’ into components that shouldn’t be segmented. It’s a whole that demands dedication. The “go” of Christ’s commission to us can best be understood, in my opinion, as while you are living your life, intentionally make disciples. But, if we only focus on providing for needs, or hearlding the gospel, or mentoring (all compontents of disciple making based on Christ’s example) then we aren’t fulfilling Christ’s commission to us.
Secondly, too much is done by means of the power of man and not in the Spirit of God. Even if man’s intentions are well-meant, if the effort is not guided by the Holy Spirit, we endanger the effort in several ways. Believers assume they’re not equipped to make disciples, but that’s a wrong line of thinking; as if they are the ones doing the disciple making. Our prayer should simply be that we desire to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit that God uses and communicates through to unbelievers and immature believers. God is fully equipped to make disciples and can use us to do it.
I don’t know for sure….but it seems to me that Evangelism isn’t quite what it used to be, I can remember seeing alot of guest speakers, people moving…lives being changed! Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there are to many distractions now and not enough evangelism now. I guess I should try harder too!!