“EVANGELSHIP”

“Evangelship” is a made-up word desperately needed to correct a misunderstanding at the core of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. The term combines “evangelism” and “discipleship” to reunite what we’ve separated as two different activities with great ramifications.

“Evangelism” refers to a process or event that leads people to faith in Jesus Christ. Usually, “discipleship” refers to the process of growing in Christ through the mentorship of someone else. In a theological sense, “evangelism” results in “justification” and “discipleship” refers to “sanctification.” The former is fire insurance from the flames of hell; the latter is a home improvement loan on a life built on the new foundation of Christ.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

From a practical point of view, separating evangelism from discipleship can promote “transactional” faith where the decision becomes all-important, while obedience to Christ can become an optional add-on. The net result, at best, creates an immature and self-focused body of baby believers. At worst, transactional faith can give false hope to people that they have truly become believers (by praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or assenting to a message). It’s a view that our eternal salvation from eternal damnation is secure, o we are now able to live freely without divine interference or necessity to obey all He has commanded us.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus commands His disciples to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach these disciples to obey all He has commanded. The misinterpretation of these verses has fueled this problematic separation of evangelism from discipleship.

The often-heard slogan is, “win them, wet them, and they have eternity to go deep.” But a proper understanding is that teaching disciples to obey what He has commanded is a further expression of what it means to become a “disciple.” No proclamation of the “good news” of salvation should exclude the requirement of life change in obedience to Christ. 

Further, the firm distinction between evangelism and discipleship runs the danger of turning both into processes while missing the relational core of what it means to follow Jesus. We hold evangelistic outreaches, gather names of converts, and then turn those names over to others who volunteer to be disciplers. The discipleship process then becomes a program centered around core teaching of Bible and doctrine either in a one-on-one or group setting. What is missing in the process is all the time beyond the meeting or class when disciples must learn to choose right from wrong in all the areas of their relationships, work, service, and worship of the Lord.

The pervasive cultural trait of American individualism compounds the problem in that we tend to view our relationship with God as a private experience, and our participation within the church as a voluntary association. No wonder a faithful church member is now considered to be one who attends church once a month and tithes regularly.

What is missing is the core biblical truth that we grow as disciples within the body of Christ as each person engages in a network of interconnected lives.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16 /ESV)

Disciples grow together, not apart from one another. Disciples grow in relationships with other disciples, not in the process of content acquisition. And most of all, healthy disciples make other disciples through their natural network of relationships. Evangelism results from being a growing disciple. It’s the natural outcome of being a believer and being the church.

CORRECTING THE PROBLEM

We must recapture the biblical teaching that the church is an interconnected community of believers, not the aggregate of many voluntary individual believers. That means we need to look at church differently. It must not be a place that services the spiritual needs of its members. Rather, it is the people who collectively gather to worship and serve the Lord.

We must also recapture the biblical truth that even though some are particularly gifted as evangelists, nonetheless, all healthy disciples make other disciples. That means they share their faith, lead others to the Lord, and walk alongside them as they make the right choices in life. Someone once said that making disciples is “collecting people for Jesus and then walking alongside them for a very long time while they make the right choices in all their decisions.”

We must understand that “evangelship” is not about the process of how we convince someone to make a decision and how we follow up with basic theological and biblical training. At its core, “evangelship” is relational. It’s proclaiming the good news of the gospel. It’s introducing people to Jesus through His Word, by His Spirit, and through the telling of our own experience of knowing Him. And we must recapture the concept of making disciples as the endeavor of the entire community of believers engaging all its members in gathering people for Jesus and walking a long way with them through their choices in life.

Five Core Principles of the New, New Testament Church

Five Core Principles of the New, New Testament Church

Here are some ministry principles undergirding healthy forms and structures:

  1. All ministry is local in origin.
  2. Disciple-making communities follow Jesus by His Word and through His Spirit (to the glory of God).
  3. A healthy church is where disciples make disciples, leaders train leaders, and disciple-making communities birth disciple-making communities.
  4. The essential characteristics of disciple-making communities (congregations or “Clusters”) include: it identifies itself as a congregation, spiritual gifts function, biblical leadership emerges.
  5. These disciple-making communities are networks of networks interconnected organically and often principally through their leaders.

German Wisdom for Old “Soles” Platform

German Wisdom for Old “Soles” Platform

Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places. Those of you who know me also know that I tend to be awake in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning. Years ago, I would spend that time DXing across the shortwave bands listening to Radio Moscow and trying to figure out what would be in the news before the New York Times or Washington Post hit the streets. That radio world changed with the internet.

Now I listen to podcasts and YouTube educational instruction videos ranging from NancyPi’s tutorials on solving calculus differential equation problems to the Crazy Russian Hacker’s mind-numbing life-hacks. What can I say? I don’t always sleep through the night.

WANTED: “Wisdom” of Old Soles

WANTED: “Wisdom” of Old Soles

I usually find myself having to explain why we spell our name “soles”—the bottom of our shoes—instead of “souls.” For the record, it is a play on words to highlight both the fact that I am forever dressed in my Converse Chucks and the fact that our ministry tagline is “walking God’s path together.” If you still don’t get it, just think about it.

This time in the title I enclosed “Wisdom” not “Soles” in quotation marks, not as an intentional misspelling, but to highlight the fact that as we are walking God’s path together, we are not meandering aimlessly. We are hacking through jungles and picking through brambles while trying to avoid life’s many potholes and pitfalls, wisely charting our way. Being a Christian is not a proverbial stroll through the park but a spiritual warfare survival course where the enemy uses live ammunition. That life course takes wisdom and a lot of it.

The Church Is About to Change

The Church Is About to Change

We are called to do what has never been done before. We don’t even have a vocabulary or common set of terms to describe it. Sooner or later, I am sure we will look back with the confidence that only the future brings, but we move along through the fog of faith for now.

We are on sure historical footing to know what it means to be the church, but we walk in a fog of new forms and structures rolling in. They look like a return to the organic, decentralized forms of the early New Testament church. But they are uniquely shaped by globalism—characterized by interconnected relationships defined by technology that realigns every aspect of our lives from how we communicate to how we build and maintain friendships, how we buy and sell goods and services, to how we shape culture.

It’s an Ark!

It’s an Ark!

It’s 1977. Commodore, Tandy, and Apple introduce personal computers collectively known as the “1977 Trinity.” At that time, many thought of the personal computer as a way to balance a checkbook, play a video game, and stop a door from slamming closed in the wind. Who would have imagined that a small personal computer would forever change the world? No one had seen one before.

URGENT:  TIME TO SHIFT FROM ADDITION TO MULTIPLICATION

URGENT: TIME TO SHIFT FROM ADDITION TO MULTIPLICATION

The goal is not getting more people in the room through some attractional means, but unleashing everyday disciples to make disciples who make disciples. This is how the early church multiplied. Multiplication is how the church has grown throughout Christendom, but too often we rely on additive measures. We desperately need a movement where disciples are making disciples, leaders and training leaders, and congregations are multiplying congregations.

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