Burning Question: What is the balance between evangelism and discipleship?
This question, turned in recently as part of our Burning Questions series, is a question that every local church ministry must deal with. I title this entry “Evangelism vs. Discipleship” not because of the question (which is actually worded very well) but because some view evangelism and discipleship as “either/or”. According to the Bible, evangelism and discipleship are treated as “both/and”.
In the passage known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus’ perspective is one of evangelism and discipleship. This passage could actually be used as much as a rallying point for believers and churches to engage in discipleship just as much as it is used to call us to evangelism. Jesus’ reference to “all the nations” (v.19) aims us outward in evangelism, but His references to “make disciples” (v.19) and to teach new believers to observe and obey His commands (v.20) are clearly emphasizing the real need to nurture new believers in their faith, which is discipleship.
Acts 2:41-42 also shows such a great balance in the early church in Jerusalem. There was a natural step from evangelism to discipleship and the result was that Christianity rocked the world.
At First Baptist Church of the Islands, our mission statement summarizes what we aim to accomplish in four simple words: Know, Grow, Show, and Go. It is under the heading of GROW that we seek to provide opportunities for believers to mature in their walks with God. This is the discipleship function of our church. It is under the heading of GO that we seek to provide training and opportunities for believers to GO with the Gospel and to share the life-changing, eternity-altering message of the cross. From a local church perspective, these two functions are where the rubber meets the road. Success in our mission is rarely defined by how many attend morning worship services but rather by how many people are truly being reached and matured regarding faith in Christ.
Every church should prioritize these two extremely important functions of evangelism and discipleship. They never compete with one another but rather fit hand-in-hand. As people are introduced to Christ in salvation (evangelism), they are then nurtured and cared for (discipleship) in order to grow in their relationship with Christ. Never a 50/50 balance (or even a 60/40 or some other ratio). Rather, it should be a 100/100 balance of reaching out with the Gospel and reaching in to disciple new believers in their relationship with the Lord.
By the way, this is not something that we each sit back and wait for the “institutional” church to accomplish. Every individual believer contributes to make the church what it is. Our Christian life gets very exciting when we use it to GO with the Gospel and when we invest it to help others GROW deeply in their walk with God!