It always feels like I’m “preaching to the choir” when I write on discipleship. I mean, this is the “North American Mission Board” blog, after all. It’s undoubtedly a part of our DNA as replanters, church planters, or even the lucky folk who happen upon this site because of the keywords in the title.
But just as we never outgrow our need to be reminded of the gospel, I think we’d do well to remind ourselves of the importance of discipleship, along with some tips therein.
Remember when Jesus shows up in Galilee after the resurrection? Some worshiped, some doubted, and Jesus draws in real close to declare, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” And then comes this command we all know well:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
And in case any of them were prone to forget (like I forgot about the request to write this article), “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We know this passage, we’ve studied this passage, we’ve preached this passage, and we might even have “Matthew 28:18-20” tattooed on our forearm. Or something.
Majoring on the ‘both/and’
However, at least for me, it’s pretty easy to major on the “either/or” of the Great Commission. Maybe we’re pretty comfortable open-air preaching or passing out tracts to random strangers, but the idea of a long-term investment in someone gives us the heebie-jeebies.
Conversely, we might love the idea of working one-on-one with a few folks, digging deep into the Word, but would rather have our back waxed than go door to door. However, when I see the Great Commission, I see a command for both evangelism and discipleship.
Jesus says, “Go,” and do what? “Make disciples,” how? By “baptizing them,” and it doesn’t end there, does it? We don’t just lead someone to the Lord, baptize them, and add them to our membership role. No, we then teach “them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
Practical tips for ‘both/and’
So, if we agree the Great Commission is both evangelism and discipleship, here are three tips for incorporating each into your daily routine:
Pray God will give you opportunities to declare the Good News and pray for the boldness and courage to do so. One of the things I notice when I pray is how much it changes me. When I pray for opportunities to share the gospel, it seems my head goes on a swivel when I’m out and about, looking for opportunities to share.
Go where people are. While God certainly could bring someone right to your doorstep (especially if you happen to live in a parsonage), I encourage you to get out of your study one day a week and into the community. Get out where folks gather and take the initiative to …
If your mouth is closed, it’s rather difficult to share the Good News. If you’re prayed up and if you’ve gone to where people are, then, by all means, step up to the plate and tell someone that Jesus saves!
I have a version of the “Three Circles” I follow, totally different than the one you’re thinking. When it comes to discipleship, I disciple in my home, in the office, and with someone in my circle of influence. Let me explain:
My first circle is the home. These are the folks I’m around the most, so it makes sense to be discipling them. My wife and I will study Scripture together, our whole family will have family worship each night, and I’ll guide our girls through daily Bible reading.
The second circle is in the office because these are typically the folks I’m around the most after my family. You could get together weekly for Bible reading together or go through a discipleship book. The opportunities are endless!
The most specific discipleship circle takes the most initiative. The other two come rather naturally in the rhythms of life and ministry, but this one requires you to take some initiative specifically. Maybe there’s an up-and-coming young man in the church who shows some leadership potential; maybe there’s the one you’ve recently led to the Lord. Ask them if you could go through some discipleship material together!
We’ve only scratched the surface with this, and rightfully so. I can’t write anything about discipleship you don’t already know, I just aimed to write a gentle reminder for you to remember its importance – especially as a “both/and” component of the Great Commission – and to get the creative juices flowing to make evangelism and discipleship a part of your rhythm of life and ministry.,
Published July 3, 2019