If evangelism clearly meant making disciples, would it make a difference? The answer is… found in Jesus’ Commission: teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. Huh?
If a person keeps the commandments of Jesus, what does the Lord Himself say about that? If you love Me you will keep My commandments. Of all that Jesus taught, He said the most important thing is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. God the Spirit inspired John the Apostle to write, This is the love of God that we keep His commandments. Making God-lovers is our goal and our guide! A non-believer’s first expression of love for the Lord is confession and surrender. But his love is immature (a babe in Christ). Our task is to raise a mature believer (God -lover). When the believer reaches this point, we can say a disciple is ‘made.’ The Apostle Paul compared his work with the Galatians as travailing in birth until Christ was formed in them (a maturing process). Any parent knows raising kids is an unpredictable and sometimes messy process.
Parenting isn’t for cowards and neither is disciple making. This is a mind-boggling thought: Jesus’ disciples had the Perfect Teacher physically present for three years and they were still clueless when He went to the cross. They denied Him, ran from Him, or both! We are imperfect leaders teaching imperfect followers and somehow we think ‘making disciples’ can be reduced to an event (that moment of first belief). We cite the Great Commission as our mandate for evangelism and equip people for it with soul-winning classes. Soul-winning is the indispensable first step in making a God-lover. We must do it. But we must not reduce Jesus’ mandate to that step of faith. That we have done so is evidenced by an immature church, reaching fewer people with the Gospel, and a society that is less and less Godly. Making God-lovers is being salt and light!
Problems and solutions can be seen in Pastor Joe’s church. Mr. Effective Evangelist and Mr. Compassionate Carer are both members of his congregation. Remember this: if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Mr. E attends every evangelism training event possible. He’s not an advocate of being anywhere on time because that means you didn’t stop anywhere along the way to share the Gospel. Mr. C is consumed with clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and giving his witness by his actions. Mr. E thinks Mr. C has wimped out on evangelism and fallen prey to a social gospel. Mr. C thinks Mr. E is abrasive and uncaring and doesn’t understand how anyone would come to Christ though Mr. E’s methods. Who is right and what should Pastor Joe do about it?
To an extent, they are both right. Jesus was compassionate and met the life-needs of people He encountered. He also confronted people with the truth. Mr. E and Mr. C. embody the ends of that spectrum. The opportunity for Pastor Joe, and the church at large, is to bring those two ends together. Mr. E and Mr. C both have spiritual gifts. To each of them, the world needs what they possess. That’s true, but neither of them possesses everything. Pastor Joe gets to teach these two maturing God-lovers they need each other. Mr. C needs to care for people and invite Mr. E. to go along. Eventually someone will ask, “Why are you doing this?” Mr. E. will be there and be only too glad to seize the opportunity. Pastor Joe will then have a new believer on his hands which the church body can build into a God-lover. It will take those with the gifts of encouragement, teaching, shepherding, hospitality and all the rest. Making God-lovers requires every gift in the body. When we reduce that mandate to soul-winning only, it’s like cutting off an arm or leg.
Believe it or not, there’s another aspect to this! Later….