Posted by: sdunnpastor | January 24, 2011

EVANGELISM AT THE EXPENSE OF DISCIPLESHIP

Winfield Bevins shares these thoughts that are a helpful reminder as we consider our motivation and strategy for evangelism … from the archives of THE RESURGENCE.

Converts vs. Disciples

Some churches focus on evangelism at the expense of discipleship by seeking to win converts instead of making disciples. The goal of evangelism is disciple making. The Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28 is to make disciples who will follow Christ rather than simply win converts. When Jesus said, “make disciples” the disciples understood it to mean more than simply getting someone to believe in Jesus and they interpreted it to mean that they should make out of others what Jesus made out of them. Robert Coleman explains the Great Commission in the following way:

    “The Great Commission is not merely to go the to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15), nor to baptize a lot of converts into the name of the triune God, nor to teach them the precepts of Christ, but to ‘make disciples’—to build people like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only follow, but also led others to follow his way.”

Superficial Discipleship

The Great Commission compels Christians to focus on keeping people through discipleship as much as they focus on reaching people through evangelism. With the rise of the modern evangelical movement in North America in the 20th century came an over-emphasis on evangelism at the expense of discipleship. At the First International Consultation on Discipleship, John R.W. Stott called attention to the “strange and disturbing paradox” of the contemporary Christian situation. He warned, “We have experienced enormous statistical growth without corresponding growth in discipleship. God is not pleased with superficial discipleship.” Bill Hull also addresses this issue by saying, “The church has tried to get world evangelization without disciple-making.” The church must once again make discipleship a priority for a new generation of believers. The consequences are evident. Statistics show that the average church in North America loses 74 percent of people between the ages 18‐24. According to one of the most recent statistical surveys of the top 25 churches, many of the denominations in North America are in decline rather than growing. Not only are churches in North America not growing through evangelism, they are not keeping believers through discipleship. One example is The Southern Baptist Convention. In 2004, they reported more than sixteen million members. Only 6,024,289 or 37 percent of their membership are present for the average Sunday morning worship service. Where are the other ten million people? Lack of discipleship and not just evangelism is one of the growing contributing factors for church decline in North America. The church needs to bring evangelism and discipleship together. Christians have viewed discipleship as something they do on one hand and evangelism on the other, which is a false dichotomy. The church needs to rediscover the integration of evangelism and discipleship in order to fulfill the Great Commission and make 21st century disciples of Christ. 

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