The Problem with Evangelism
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:16–20
The Church began with a few people, most of whom ran away scared and afraid when Jesus was arrested. And then Jesus rose again. The people who ran and the few who did not, saw him, touched him, ate with him and then were commissioned by him to go out, to make disciples, to model his ways and invite people into the freedom and live that he died for. Within 25,000 people were part of The Way of Jesus. 200 years later that number exploded to more than 20,000,000! The great commission works! Go and make disciples.
It goes without saying that if we are asked to go and do something, anything, that it’s pretty important to know what that thing we are being asked to do is. If I am told, “I gassed up your car and it’s waiting outside go and pick up Bill at the airport, and get back here by 5:00 tonight,” and I get the beginning and the ned right but miss the part about picking Bill up at the airport than I end up driving around for hours a little confused, wasting gas before returning having accomplished exactly zero of my commission. But, that is what happens with Jesus’ great commission; his commission make disciples, our response for the some time, making converts — telling facts about Jesus, proving the truth about the Bible, using logic and sometimes fear and then asking someone to pray and then calling it good.
Now admittedly that might be a bit strong, God has grown his church, people have come to faith and amazing things have been done in them and through them. But, I submit, that is because God’s work will go undone, even if we don’t do it right, not because we have been on track and worked his plan as he intended.
A disciple is an apprentice. An apprentice watches the master craftsman, emulates the master craftsman in trying what they have been taught, learns from and listens to the master and then tries again, and so on — a rhythm of learning, a rhythm of taking on both the skills and the characteristics of the teacher. That is discipleship. We are called to be disciples of Jesus, in this apprenticeship model forever. The great commission is to make disciples, to be a disciple of Jesus and then to model that relationship to others, to then walk with them as apprentices both to us and to Jesus. “Go and make disciples, teaching them all that I have commanded you (all that I have shown and modeled and instructed you) and behold (look, see, don’t forget) I am with you always.”
So, as we rethink evangelism, let’s take a step back. Who might we disciple? Hint: They don’t need to be Christians yet. How do we do that? Well, it starts small. Simply notice somebody. As you move about your day, notice somebody. Don’t interact or even pray. Just keep your eyes open and look. God will bring somebody into view — somebody made in his image, somebody whose name he knows. “I wonder what his name is?” “I wonder what she does for work?” Notice someone, and notice them good. Have a curious mind that notices.
Then write down your experience — it likely will surprise you. Write it down and share it with me, either in email or even better on the Creekside Blog.
Evangelism starts with discipleship and discipleship starts with noticing.
Peace, hope and love