Intentionality in Discipleship & Evangelism

Jesus said that we are to make disciples by going, teaching and baptizing. (Matthew 28:19). In that Great Commission, making disciples is the key. The work of the church is always to be building disciples. Yet, there are times when I wonder if the body of Christ is more concerned with making converts than with making disciples. At the same time, there are many churches that have little to no evangelistic fervor.

I was recently told of a church that was doing a phenomenal job of seeing people introduced to Jesus. The church was evangelistic to the core and God was using them mightily. But then the person said that this church has no vision for discipleship. This person lamented that although people were being saved (which was a great joy), the young believers were stuck in infancy.

On the other side of the coin, there are many churches that have a heart and passion for discipleship. The only issue that because of a lack of passion for souls, they are constantly discipling the same people as no new believers are being added to the fold. Oftentimes, these churches have strange hang-ups about contemporary ways of proclaiming the good news. There are the ‘altar call’ wars and issues. It makes me think of DL Moody who was purported to have said, “I like my way of doing things better than your way of not doing things.”

I then remembered hearing a pastor say, “You shouldn’t share the gospel with someone unless you are committing to discipling them also.” Now, I don’t know if I agree with the sentiment. But the pastor was trying to get across the responsibility we have, as believers, to not only share the good news, but also to take an active concern with someone’s progress in faith.

In many ways, it we are keeping the main thing the main thing within the church, we need to be intentional in building disciples. Realistically, if we are seeking to make converts, we are doing that so that they can become disciples. Their salvation is the starting line for their life of discipleship. So it isn’t an either/or reality. Instead, evangelism and discipleship are like matched gloves, both equally necessary for the work of the Lord.

So here are some quick thoughts about being intentional in discipleship.
1) Understand where your gifting is.
2) If you are strong in evangelism, seek out a compliment in discipleship. And vice versa.
3) Make a commitment to both evangelism and discipleship.
4) Gather a tribe to pour into (like Jesus did with his 12).
5) Always remember, there are more fish in the wild then in the ponds.
6) Think through various benchmarks in spiritual development for believers
7) Don’t neglect the transition points within the ministry (ie. from Junior High to High School to Young Adults to the Body at large)
8) Remember that Paul didn’t just share the gospel but also his very life.
9) Make discipleship as much a part of your ministry as preaching.

5 replies
  1. Jon Langley
    Jon Langley says:

    For me personally the biggest single hurdle to true discipleship is the sacrificing of self necessary to overcome my own cultural programming and preferences so that I not only find it normal, but actually desire to spend intimate time with another man or men, pouring into them as Christ did His disciples: not based on a “program” but based on the everyday occurrences of life and ministry.

  2. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    Great quote by Moody.

    Good post Daniel. I fall short in the evangelism. We are growing in small group discipleship and one on one discipleship.

    I have been thinking about assigning discipleship jobs to every Christian who has been in the Lord for 10 years or more. A kind of “throw them in the deep end of the pool” idea.

    We could do a short equipping with them, but they are more than likely more equipped than they realize. I wonder if our modern churches tend to focus so much on the pulpit ministry, that the rank and file congregant doesn’t think he can accomplish anything with someone one on one?

    It’s great that our folks want to bring people to church to hear me, but they can also disciple….they just may not think they can.

    Good word D.

  3. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:

    Great post indeed…

    I think that it’s pretty typical of preaching/teaching pastors to fall short in personal evangelism. I appreciate the exhortations toward intentional evangelism that Greg Laurie has brought at the CC SPC the last couple of years. We (preaching/teaching pastors) often view our ministry through the lens of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry,” which tends toward discipleship. But I have found that even our discipleship can fall far short, as we filter our discipleship through a Sunday morning or mid-week bible study.

    About 7 or 8 years ago I remember sitting in the office of a Senior Pastor friend of mine who was sharing some of the needs of his church with me. I asked him, “What are you doing for discipleship?” His answer bothered me; “Well, we have a mid-week bible study.”

    I agree with you, Daniel. We need to be more intentional in our discipleship. For many years we’ve had a very well developed School of Discipleship at the church, and over the last 6 months I’ve been meeting with about 14 guys every Wednesday night (as we have done away with our mid-week study) to impart vision and stir them up to love and good deeds. I’ve been challenged by Jesus’ word to His disciples in John 14:12…

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

    Jesus’ expectation or challenge to his disciples was, “You’re going to do greater works than I have done.” Yes, we can discuss the extent and impact of what is meant by the Lord, but the fact is, we should challenge those we’re investing in to launch out.

    Last thought, as I’m rambling. Yes, we (the modern western church) have focused [probably] too much on converts instead of disciples. But I also think that our discipleship methods have focused too much upon teaching people what Jesus commanded without teaching them how “to obey” (NIV/NLT) what He commanded.

  4. Jon Langley
    Jon Langley says:

    That last sentence of Miles’ comment is where my head was at with my first comment.

    The discipleship that Jesus modelled was personal and intimate and based on doing things together so that the student learned from the teacher, the less experienced from the more experienced, through watching and doing and helping and asking questions along the way.

  5. Daniel Fusco
    Daniel Fusco says:

    Great thoughts guys.

    I am not, in any way, saying that I am doing all of these things greatly either.

    For me personally, I have found that we are much more intentional with both pulpit evangelism at our worship gatherings. We are also much more intentional in our discipleship as well. I do a weekly “huddle” with 25 emerging and present leaders here where I am pouring into them.

    I agree with Jon, it is hard sometimes to remember to invite people along on the work of ministry so they ‘catch’ the ministry from us.

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