Prayers of Blessing

Several years ago, I was going door-to-door in North Kansas City with a Midwestern student. After an older woman answered the door, I said, “Hello. My name is Tom and this is [my partner]. We are with [local church] and are telling people about Jesus. Have you heard of Jesus?” To this question the woman answered, “I’m sorry. I belong to [name of denomination] and I’m not interested.” I responded by saying, “Would you mind if I pray a prayer of blessing on your home?” To this the woman replied, “That would be fine.”

At this point, I began to pray in the name of Jesus every good thing that I could think of. I prayed what the Lord brought to my mind that I thought this woman may need:

  • That God Himself would protect her home
  • That His guardian angels would surround her and keep her safe
  • That the Lord would keep evil far away from her home
  • That God would bless her and all who enter her home
  • That her financial needs would be met
  • That God would keep sickness far from her
  • That He would bless her local church and its pastor
  • That the Lord would reveal Himself to her and give her peace, and
  • That, if she did not know Jesus as her Savior and Lord, she would soon come to know Him as such.

As I prayed I literally sought to ask for everything positive that I could think of, knowing that we have a God who answers prayer!

Now, is it legitimate to pray a blessing for people in this way? Absolutely. In Romans 12:14, Paul encouraged blessing and not cursing:

Rom 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Jesus taught His followers to pray even for their enemies:

Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

If we ought to pray for our enemies, it only makes sense that it is also commendable to pray blessings upon people whom we do not yet know.

In any case, the older woman at her door thanked us for the prayer. Yes, she told us that she was already a born-again Christian. We were soon in a friendly conversation about the spiritual needs in her area. We gently asked questions about her spiritual welfare. Loving prayer opened the door of conversation and friendship with this woman. In the case of this woman, I turned over her contact information to the church planting pastor.

One church leader reminded us in chapel that when a person allows you to pray for them, you become their pastor. Go back and visit them two weeks later. See how they are doing. Pray for them again. The Lord may use that heartfelt concern to open doors for the gospel.

In our tool-bag of evangelism resources, let’s not forget the power of prayers of blessing. If a person has a hearing of faith or even a slight inclination toward the gospel, prayer can be a powerful tool. They will recognize that they are being brought by name before the throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of need as we pray for them:

Heb 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Let the words of our mouth bless and not curse.

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Ideas for Effective Church Evangelism

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It is one thing to know how to share your faith and it is another thing to lead an entire church evangelism program. Let me recommend several ideas for church evangelism as we enter a new Fall of church ministry:

Never Badger Your People

Pastor, as a husband to a wife, you should never badger your church family to lead them into evangelism. You need to encourage them and build them up. Focus on the good that they are already doing, and lead them forward.

Set the Example

Be the evangelist that you want others to be. Or in the words of Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Don’t expect them to do what you yourself are not doing already.

Provide Many Levels of Opportunities

Not everyone is ready or able to be involved in door-knocking or in other ways of meeting new people. So you will need to have a wide variety of opportunities available for your church family to be involved in evangelism.

Some Examples of Opportunities at Different Levels

Here are some examples of types of involvement that people can have in outreach on the local church level:

  • Baking pies or cookies to be delivered to first time guests
  • Forming a prayer group to pray specifically during outreach events for those being reached
  • Visiting those who have just visited the church for the first time
  • Visiting those who are M.I.A. (Missing In Action)—those who have missed church meetings from 3-5 weeks
  • Visiting those in the community through door-to-door.

These are just a few examples to prime the pump.

Always Be Open to New Opportunities

As your church members begin to be involved in outreach, other ideas and opportunities will develop that are church-specific and community-specific. Make sure that your leadership style is open to new ideas, so that people will feel valued and encouraged in their gifts and abilities.

Make Use of Week-by-Week Schedules

I have found that church families can become burned out on some evangelism programs that are rigid and leave them feeling guilty if they do not participate weekly. For this reason it is important as a shepherd to the flock to give them seasons of feeding and rest.

Here are some ideas for monthly scheduling of evangelism events that I learned from doing evangelism with inner-city churches:

  • First Saturday of the month: visit a nursing home
  • Second Saturday of the month: visit a local prison
  • Third Saturday of the month: door-to-door visitation
  • Fourth Saturday of the month: visit a homeless shelter
  • Fifth Saturday of the month: enjoy a breakfast together, fellowship and a prayer time 🙂

Consider a Month-by-Month Outreach Schedule

Some inner-city churches have very effective evangelism programs that do not burn out their members, and also take into account the patterns of life in the annual calendar:

  • June-July-Aug: Designated as evangelism months
  • Sept-Oct-Nov: Designated for new member assimilation
  • Nov-Dec: Christmas and holiday activities
  • Jan: Designated for the annual Bible Conference
  • Feb-Mar: Evangelism training with planned outreach
  • Apr-May: Revival preparation and implementation

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

As important as is being personally intentional in evangelism, it is also important to be intentional in administering evangelism. Make a workable plan. Do not burn out your people. Rearrange the plan if it does not work. But remember if you plan nothing, then you will reach that plan. So using these and other ideas, consider planning for evangelism.

Acts 18:9-10, “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’”

God has many people in your city that need to hear about Jesus. So let’s pray for one another that we will be intentional and gentle as we plan our evangelism schedules for the Bride of Christ.

 

For more information on this topic see: “Toward a Local Church Evangelism Strategy” at: http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-29.pdf

Three Types of Evangelism to Avoid

Johnny Appleseed

This morning I purchased flowers for my wife because our 31st Anniversary is tomorrow. The florist, however, appeared condescending and unhelpful. It was not a great experience. I was reminded about the importance of being loving, genuine, and caring in evangelism. With these attitudes in mind, let me share about some unhelpful approaches to evangelism.

1) Patronizing Evangelism

Patronizing Evangelism comes from an “I’m better than you” attitude. In Patronizing Evangelism we forget that we are sinners saved by God’s grace alone. We do not merit salvation any more than the next person. So, why be proud of being born again and look down on others?

“For if I evangelize*, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I evangelize* not!” (1 Cor 9:16)

*The phrase “preach the gospel” is often used to translate the 55 New Testament uses of the Greek verb “evangelize.”

Paul had no reason to be inflated in his evangelism. Rather, he made himself “a servant of all to win the more.” (1 Cor 9:19) Paul’s evangelism kept him humble!

While it is far less stressful to evangelize children (especially inside a church or at VBS), poor people from a different country, or those who we are serving in some way, it does not make these the preferable or only means of evangelizing. While reaching out to children, the poor, and needy is valid and necessary, we must avoid becoming patronizing as we share the good news of Jesus.

2) Johnny Appleseed Evangelism

Johnny Appleseed Evangelism encapsulates the feeling of “having a positive view of the future.” Perhaps giving out apple seeds was Johnny’s introduction to evangelism, and if so, I do not want to demean his method. But on the other hand, if his main message was “plant an apple seed and smile at the future,” then the message avoids the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundation.*

*Further research leads me to the insight that John Chapman, aka. Johnny Appleseed, was a Swedenborgian missionary. This group apparently denies the Vicarious Atonement and the Trinity among other things.

It seems like Johnny Appleseed Evangelism remains stuck on God sending rains and harvests, without moving into the message of Jesus. Yes, Paul did use the message of God’s sovereign care over mankind through nature when addressing the Gentiles in Acts 14 and 17. But he followed it up with the person and work of Christ, when he was given that opportunity.

In Acts 14 Paul’s healing of a lame man, his stopping the sacrifice of a bull to himself, his message of God’s creative care, and his call to “turn from these vain things” led him to be stoned and left for dead. In Acts 17, in Paul’s famous Mars Hill sermon, when he spoke of the resurrection of Christ he was interrupted by hecklers.

Johnny Appleseed Evangelism in and of itself is not enough. We must go beyond God’s creative care in nature and move to the death and resurrection of Christ even if we face ostracism and persecution.

3) Mister Rogers Evangelism

Another form of evangelism that is easy to fall into is a Mister Rogers approach to evangelizing (no offense to the late Mister Rogers).* In what I am calling the “Mister Rogers Approach” we seek only to put a smile on the face of those with whom we share. A discussion of sin and judgment are not a part of the Mister Rogers Approach, because these topics may offend the person with whom we are sharing.

*Apparently Fred Rogers, aka. Mister Rogers, was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

However, when Paul spoke of evangelizing, he wrote to the Galatians:

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10)

While being cheerful and friendly are important in evangelism, we must avoid merely tickling the ears of those with whom we are speaking. Ultimately we must please Christ who sent us out—and be willing to call men to repentance:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)

Christ calls us to share His death and resurrection with love and humility, as well as power and boldness. So let’s also obey the Great Commission as communicated off the pen of Luke:

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47)

Two Harlots and the Fate of the Evangelist

Solomon showed his amazing wisdom in helping distinguish between the mother of a dead child and the mother of a living child. It is actually an interesting account with ramifications to evangelism:

“And the king said, ‘The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one”; and the other says, “No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.”’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.” So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.” (1 Kings 3:23-27)

Here, the mother that bore the child had compassion for her child. The mother who did not bear the child had no concern for the life and development of the living child.

These two mothers are actually examples of two types of Christian leaders. There are leaders who have enough love to lead people to Christ. To become their “father” as it were. Paul said the same in 1 Corinthians 4:

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15)

And yet already in the days of Paul, certain leaders, who had not “begotten them through the gospel” came in by stealth. They sought to rob these newly born Christians—and to take away from them any gratitude they had toward the person who had “begotten them through the gospel.”

Solomon needed to ask a question to distinguish between the true mother and the false mother. Likewise, Paul set up a dichotomy in 1 Corinthians 4: the true father and the instructor; the evangelist through whom they came to Christ and someone else.

Notice then how he came back to this same idea in 1 Corinthians 9:

“If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12)

Just like the true mother in Solomon’s wise counsel, Paul did not want to take advantage of his “right in the gospel.” His concern was for the unhindered spiritual growth of the newly converted Corinthian believers.

However, the other teachers, “ten thousand instructors,” had little care for the spiritual welfare of those led to Christ by Paul. Their primary care was for themselves. In this way, this second group of teachers is more like the heartless harlot who wanted the living child to be cut in half.

Is a heart for evangelism important for the Christian leader? Yes, it is! It is urgently necessary. For, a lack of evangelistic fervor may lead a Christian leader to become like the heartless harlot—fleecing the sheep led to Christ by someone else. Meanwhile, sometimes, the true evangelist must needs be willing to step aside in follow-up, agreeing with the harlot of the living son, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”

Spiritualia Seminavimus

In these two words from 1 Corinthians 9:11, spiritualia seminavimus, hangs the essence of Christian ministry. What is meant by “Sowing things spiritual”?

1 Cor 9:11, “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?”

Paul here built from the distinction between the spiritual and material also expressed by Moses in the chronologically antecedent Leviticus 10:10-11:

Lev 10:10-11, “that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”

In order to understand what specifically needs to be “sown” in 1 Corinthians 9, we must understand what is meant by “things spiritual” (or “things holy” in Moses). Primary views can be roughly divided into four main camps, each of which could be subdivided into other camps:

  1. Things spiritual refers to the spoken Word of God;
  2. Things spiritual refers to doing good deeds on behalf of Christ;
  3. Things spiritual refers to enacting the Ordinances of Christ (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) for a person or group;
  4. Things spiritual refers to calling the power of God down upon the material specimens of the Seven Sacraments on behalf of a person or group.

Clearly all four of these approaches to “things spiritual” are quite different and unique.

However, the issue behind each view lies in several places. Differences relate to what is believed to be the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16):

Rom 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

I argue that the gospel specifically, or the Word of God generally, entails all that is meant by things spiritual. So, if the power of God unto salvation is the spoken Word of God, then “things spiritual” concern the first referent on the list above.

The author of Hebrews explained that the sword of the power of God on this earth is inseparably interconnected with the very words of the Word of God:

Heb 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Such a powerful weapon must-needs be wielded with humility and great care. This power of God found in the words from God can be annulled by one’s own self-aggrandizing “wisdom of words”:

1 Cor 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

So, how is this power of God communicated to others? Is it not by their first “hearing” it?

Rom 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

But, does “hearing” automatically produce faith in everyone who hears? No! For Paul explained another type of hearing in verse 16:

Rom 10:16, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’”

So, it follows that “sowing things spiritual” means that hearing must be accompanied by a proper reception of the things heard:

1 Thess 2:13, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A great example of God both opening and not opening hearts is found in Acts 16. Paul spoke to “women” (plural) assembled at a place of prayer. Yet we find that only the heart of one woman, Lydia of Thyatira, was supernaturally opened by the power of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and by the words communicated by Paul:

Acts 16:13-14, “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

So, there are different types of hearing. Now, elsewhere, the proper reception of the gospel is described as the “hearing of faith”:

Gal 3:2, 5, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? … Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”

Indeed, the author of Hebrews described this hearing as a hearing “mixed with faith”:

Heb 4:2, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”

So, this passage refers to another kind of hearing, not resulting in salvation. In fact, this other kind of hearing is a mere carnal hearing. Paralleling the distinction taught by God to Moses in Leviticus 10. Paul explained the blindness of those who cannot understand the gospel being communicated:

2 Cor 4:3-4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

God said the same in His calling of Isaiah the prophet:

Isa 6:9-10, “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.’”

But as to the “hearing of faith,” a clear result of this type of hearing upon the recipient is the reception of the Holy Spirit as a direct result of receiving the words of the Word of God.

That this line of reasoning is a contemporaneous topic of dispute (as noted in the four views listed above) is no surprise. This same topic was also the subject of a major dispute in the Apostolic Age:

Acts 15:7-9, “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.’”

Therefore, in conclusion:

  • The Holy Spirit is NOT granted via a secondary material source (e.g. a material Sacrament);
  • NOR is the Holy Spirit is granted through the ordinance of baptism (1 Cor 1:17);
  • NEITHER is the saving work of the Holy Spirit communicated through the good deeds of a Christian toward another person;
  • RATHER, “things spiritual” are sown by speaking the Word of God, with the result that some are granted a hearing of faith, sealed by the reception of the Holy Spirit, and culminating in immediate salvation and the forgiveness of sins!

Eph 1:13, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

So then, “sowing things spiritual” refers to individual Christians obeying the ordinance of Christ to evangelize, as is commanded in the Great Commission passages, and as is the primary context of 1 Corinthians 9.

 

Ten Strategies to Safeguard Regenerate Church Membership

“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” 1 Cor 5:6

It does not take much yeast to cause bread dough to raise 3-4 times its size. Given the right temperature and time, a large lump of dough can raise fairly quickly with a fairly insignificant amount of yeast.

Depending on the recipe, normally 6 cups of flour will call for about one tablespoon of yeast. The ration of 6 cups to one tablespoon is 192:1, or one half of a percent. And yet that one spoon of yeast will cause those 6 cups of flour in a batter to rise over and over again.

While having yeast is helpful for making certain kinds of bread, Paul used this allegory to teach a negative lesson. He was illustrating that allowing unchecked sinful behavior among members of a local church impacts the entire church membership. He likely used this illustration because of its example of a very unbalanced ratio, 192:1. When church leaders allow one member to live in obvious sin, the result impacts the remainder of the church just like leaven!

So any given pastor or church leader needs to be aware of the spiritual state of the members of his church.

In a perfect world all members of a church would be regenerate and would remain so throughout their lives. But we do not live in a perfect world. When a new pastor comes to a church, he inherits all the membership decisions made in the past. Perhaps unregenerate people became members in a church by mistake or even intentionally.

So it is beneficial that we have strategies in mind to safeguard regenerate church membership. Let me recommend ten strategies, to which others may be added:

(1) Baptism for Believers Only

We must guard against the desire to bolster baptismal numbers by baptizing those who have not certain of their faith in Jesus Christ. There is danger on both sides here. We can restrict baptism from “Whosoever will” on one hand, sinning against the Holy Spirit. Or we can baptize those who are not genuinely saved, and thereby sin against the Holy Spirit.

(2) Practicing Communion for Believers Only

Other than baptism, the other command of Christ, the Lord’s Supper, is the place where we need to differentiate between the saved and the lost. Here again there is danger on both sides. On one side, there is the danger of becoming Pharisaical, and on the other becoming Sadducee-ical. For example, it has been my practice to mention the warning of 1 Corinthians 9, stating that the communion table is restricted to baptized believers only, and then allowing the congregants to decide for themselves.

(3) Practicing Church Discipline

Loving ministry necessitates loving church discipline. When a member is found to be living in known sin or immorality, church leaders are obligated to follow Matthew 18, Galatians 6, and similar passages to reestablish this church member. If church discipline is not lovingly practiced, then regenerate church membership is in jeopardy.

(4) Prioritizing Biblical Preaching

A constant diet of the Word of God can protect a church from drifting away from its Master, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). God’s Word preached literally cleanses the consciences and souls of those who have a hearing of faith in a congregation. Biblical preaching is a powerful key to maintaining regenerate church membership.

(5) Maintaining the Bible’s Distinction Between the Saved and the Lost

In a day of compromise, it is important for the pastor to set the pace for his church by maintaining the Bible’s distinction between the saved and the lost in his preaching. Blurring the lines between the saved and the lost is detrimental to maintaining a regenerate membership. When these lines are blurred doctrinally and or in practice the entire congregation suffers from an influx of leaven into the church.

(6) Welcoming Practical Application of the Bible’s Truths

Along with biblical preaching is the importance of clear application of God’s Word. Preaching is more than informing, it also includes the responsibility to warn. The admonition of Ezekiel 3:18-21 comes to mind here. That same admonition rang in the mind of Paul who stated that he was under obligation to teach and warn all men. For example, Paul affirmed that his ministry was one of “warning every man” (Col 1:28). Likewise our preaching should be more than just informing—it should also include warning. And this warning will go a lone way toward helping us maintain regenerate church membership.

(7) Regularly Visiting Our Members

Maintaining regenerate church membership means that we know our sheep. There is no better way of knowing our congregation than visiting them in their homes. Their homes is where we learn how they live and with whom they live. It does not take long to greet a person, read Scripture, and pray for them—maybe 10-15 minutes. But in so doing the pastor shows love for his people and is better able to empathize with them. His regular visitation allows the pastor to understand his people as life issues come up. He can preach to where they live, and build a relational foundation that he may later need in a first level of confrontation (Matt 18).

(8) Fostering Intentional Loving Fellowship

Along with regularly visiting members, the pastor should be sure that there are regular avenues for fellowship among the saints on the church calendar. Isolated church members can drift. Members that are involved in a healthy community with multiple levels of relationship will be discipled and mentored.

(9) Training Our People in Evangelism

Another way to safeguard regenerate church membership is to train our members in personal evangelism. As we voluntarily train our people in personal evangelism, they will have the gospel set before them once again. They can evaluate their own lives in light of the gospel. And they can recommit themselves to a Great Commission priority in their lives.

(10) Giving Our People Opportunities to Share the Gospel

Once a person is trained to share the gospel, they can now proceed to the next level—sharing the gospel! It is helpful and beneficial for a pastor to create varied opportunities for his people to share the gospel—whether in the local context or on overseas trips. They will already have a built in desire to share the gospel from the Holy Spirit. So the pastor puts legs to the work of the Spirit by providing his people concrete ways to share the gospel. He emulates Jesus who sent out his disciples (e.g. Luke 9:2; 10:1). As they share the gospel, they will be reminded of their ongoing need for Christ, and you will safeguard the regenerate membership of your church in their lives!

Just like yeast changes the size of the lump of dough, so unsaved members will transform a local church in a negative way. Maintaining regenerate membership is a challenge. These ten strategies are offered to safeguard the household of God and to help us keep unhealthy leaven from infecting our churches.

A Word about the Interrelationship of Evangelism and Discipleship

Debates between the mission of the church related to evangelism and discipleship only happen in those churches that still believe in instantaneous conversion or “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

So at the outset, it must be clarified that these debates only occur in the minds of those who believe in an authoritative Bible. If a person believes in an authoritative church or one particular person within a church, then that person or church tells them what to think about the issue, and there is no debate. But if a person believes that the Holy Spirit speaks in-with-and-by the Word of God and that each individual is called to “take heed” and “guard their heart,” then each person has the privilege and responsibility to diligently search the Scriptures and have his own opinion on the matter.

Further, it must be clarified that this is not an issue for those who believe in a gradual salvation through prolonged application of certain spiritual disciplines, salvation by infant baptism, or some other form of sacramental salvation. The number of Christian Churches that fall within these categories is far more than a super-majority of those who call themselves Christian. For them it is clear that discipleship is the obvious priority over evangelism. Evangelism is either totally unnecessary or exists only to reach barbarians and savages.

Basic Definitions

At the outset evangelism and discipleship must be defined. By evangelism I mean the sharing of the gospel by which a person who is spiritually dead hears the gospel and is offered an opportunity to receive Christ by placing their trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins. By discipleship I mean “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” as stated in Matthew’s Great Commission (Matt 28:20).

Even so, evangelism and discipleship differ in doctrinal application, in the church leaders in whom these responsibilities are vested, and verbally in the Bible. Yet they are also closely related to one another, as will be noted in three texts. So evangelism and discipleship are similar and also distinct. We will begin with some distinctions.

Doctrinally-speaking

Evangelism, or the gospel proclaimed, when accompanied by a hearing of faith on the part of the listener, leads to justification. Discipleship, when also accompanied by a hearing of faith, leads to sanctification.

Justification is punctiliar or point-in-time in its application to the human heart. A person goes from the state of not-being-saved to the state of being-saved. So it is explained by Jesus in John 5:24:

John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

Sanctification, however, is a life-long process that begins at justification and continues on until the end of our lives. Hence, Paul wrote to Christians in the church in Thessalonica, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3).

So, evangelism and discipleship are differ from a doctrinal point-of-view. Again, for churches that blue the lines between conversion and sanctification (normally by adhering to some kind of sacramental salvation), the doctrinal distinction described above is either non-existent or ascribed to infant baptism.

So evangelism and discipleship are quite different in their result—doctrinally-speaking.

Church Leaders

In His great wisdom, Christ gave the church two separate church leaders, one to focus on evangelism and one to focus on discipleship.

The evangelist is given to the church by Christ as noted by Paul in Ephesians 4:11:

Eph 4:11, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”

So one leader that Christ gave to His church is the evangelist. The main focus of the evangelist is to evangelize lost souls who are yet “dead in their trespasses and sins.” This emphasis is found directly in his name—Evangelist.

And yet in the same text, we the NT’s sole use of the word “pastor.” While the evangelist is to focus on lost souls, the pastor is to shepherd the new believers gathered through the work of the evangelist. The primary task of the pastor is then to be a shepherd to the gathered people of God.

It stands to reason that the shepherd will have a role in evangelism and it also stands to reason that they evangelist will have a role in shepherding. However, their gift set and their motivations will differ, as may their attitudes to evangelism and discipleship.

It may be that one of the greatest difficulties in understanding the differences between evangelism and discipleship is the blending and graying of the distinctions between the evangelist and the pastor. Both the evangelist has a role and so does the pastor-shepherd. Neither should overlook the importance of the other!

Terminology

Just as the leaders have different names, so different verbs are used to explain the roles of each leader in Matthew’s Great Commission. The verb associated with the role of the evangelist is the Greek matheteuo, translated “teach” in the KJV and “make disciples” in more recent translations. These translations are somewhat misleading as they tend to blur the differentiation between justification and sanctification, between evangelism and discipleship, and between the role of the evangelist and that of a pastor.

Here is what the Anglican Church believes about baptism:

XXVII. Of Baptisme. Baptisme is not only a signe of profession, and marke of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from other that be not christened:  but is also a signe of regeneration or newe byrth, whereby as by an instru­ment, they that receaue baptisme rightly, are grafted into the Church:  the promises of the forgeuenesse of sinne, and of our adoption to be the sonnes of God, by the holy ghost, are visibly signed and sealed: fayth is confyrmed: and grace increased by vertue of prayer vnto God. The baptisme of young children, is in any wyse to be retayned in the Churche, as most agreable with the institution of Christe. (Thirty-Nine Articles [1572]; available at: http://www.episcopalian.org/efac/1553-1572.htm; accessed 21 Oct 2004).

In a church that believes that infant baptism saves the infant, it is hardly difficult to see that they do not appreciate evangelists traveling about evangelizing, making it seem like these infants were not really saved in their infancy. Hence, it is not difficult to understand why the KJV’s blurred the lines between “teach” in Matthew 28:19 and “teaching” in v. 20 to fit their pastoral approach to salvation—salvation through the ritual of infant baptism as applied by a pastor of the Church of England.

However, the Greek word matheteuo has a different meaning than being involved in an outward and overt long-term discipleship relationship, as is often considered to be the case. The same verb is found in Matthew 27:57 as applied to Joseph of Arimathea before he identified himself as a follower of Jesus. Consider this verse:

Matt 27:57, “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple [matheteuo] of Jesus.”

The entire phrase “had also become a disciple” is the translation of the verb matheteuo. Here is the skinny. Joseph was called by John a “secret” disciple (John 19:38). And yet the same verb is used of him as was used in the Great Commission for making converts before they are baptized. In fact, we know from other Scriptures, they must be followers of Christ before they are baptized.

So the second verb in Matthew 28:19 is also the first in the salvific sequence of a soul: “Go, win disciples of all nations, baptizing them.” The new convert must first be won as a disciple. Then he must be baptized. Then he is to be taught: “teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you” (v. 20).

Radical Differences

So then, there are radical differences between evangelism and discipleship. These differences are seen in doctrine. They are noted in the offices of the evangelist and that of the pastor. They are also clarified in the Greek verbs used in Matthew’s Great Commission.

Amazing Unity

But just as there are radical differences, so also there is an amazing unity of ministry. It is this “yes-and-no” that makes the issue complicated. Paul spoke with amazing clarity using a united terminology. Ezekiel spoke with clarity about this unity in accountability. And then Paul again spoke with clarity about the unity in ministry.

Colossians 1:28

Col 1:28, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

In Col 1:28, Paul intentionally repeated the phrase “to all men” (panta anthropon) three times. Each time the phrase is attached to an important concept in the sequence of verbs showing the commonality of the focus whether or not people are saved or lost.

In the first case we find it attached to the verb “warn,” the classic verb that we find used in the Ezekiel 3 passage below. Warning speaks of the motivation as well as the extent to which people are taught. It is more than mere informing, true gospel ministry involves warning the hearers.

Next Paul uses the “all men” in relation to teaching. Here we have a verb often used of pastoral ministry. But Paul purposefully attaches it to “all men.” So there is an element of teaching in evangelism as well as in discipleship.

Lastly, Paul uses all men of the end goal or end result of any and all spiritual ministry, that they might be perfected in Christ. Truly this goal is the aim of all Christian ministry.

Ezekiel 3:18-21

In Ezekiel 3 God calls Ezekiel to warn both the wicked (vv 18-19) as well as the righteous (vv 20-21). The punishment for not warning is the same in both cases, “his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezek 3:18, 20). The parallelism is astounding as the same verbs are used for ministry, and the same concepts are used for accountability. There is a clear parallel between ministry to the saved and ministry to the lost

1 Corinthians 1:10-4:7

It is perhaps in 1 Corinthians 1 that Paul made it absolutely clear. He stated that the root of the argument between evangelism and discipleship was arrogance in the heart of the debater (4:6-7). Yet, rather than enflame an argument, Paul used himself and Apollos as examples or types of the two sides:

1 Cor 4:6, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”

So Paul wrote in chapter 3 that he planted and Apollos watered, but that God gave the growth. He continued expounding upon these two phases in ministry:

1 Cor 3:7-8, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

So then, it is not about whether evangelism or discipleship is more important. They are both important in God’s economy of things. But in the end, it is God who is important, because it is God who does the work through the evangelist and through the pastor.

Therefore, mankind being puffed up (as we all are), and Christians growing and learning as we go, it is likely that the debate between evangelism and discipleship will not cease with this article. For, in a way it is a useless debate, as it is debating things that the Bible addresses fairly clearly. On the other hand, it is a very important debate. The fact that it exists as a debate shows that those debating it believe in the Bible, believe in conversion, and believe in evangelism. These are all good things. So may the debate continue!