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Leadership

OUR DIVISION BETWEEN DISCIPLESHIP & EVANGELISM

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OUR DIVISION BETWEEN DISCIPLESHIP & EVANGELISM

Recently, I was asked to work with a congregation to improve their discipleship and evangelism processes. Almost instantly, I discovered a phenomenon that is present in many mainline congregations throughout the country: a division between discipleship and evangelism. The advice of the pastor was “I pray your good success.” What he was actually saying was “good luck.” I thought, “With this kind of division, it is impossible for them to make a kingdom impact among their membership and the community.

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Therefore, go 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 obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age  (Mt 28:19-20 CEB).

We know Matthew 28:19-20 as the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. For many, this passage is the compelling argument for establishing and growing the church since the day of Pentecost. Yet, over the course of time, American churches have somehow compartmentalized and divided the Great Commission into two separate ministries; discipleship and evangelism; but this is not what Jesus taught. By separating these two processes, a false sense of “reaching out” and “building up” has emerged. As a result, acute tension and competition between discipleship and evangelism is occurring in our churches. They should be considered two sides of the same coin or two elements of a single process. Said differently, if we are to make disciples of Jesus Christ, both processes must work together as a single unit or disciple making.

Two Commands

Going, baptizing, and teaching, is what Jesus commanded us to do with the end goal of making disciples. It seems our interpretation of Matthew 28:19-20 is not a single command but two separate commands. Churches see discipleship as teaching and evangelism as sharing the Good News toward making converts. The result is that a lot of teaching and witnessing takes place in our churches, but we are not making a lot of disciples. Jesus taught us how to make disciples with the calling of the Twelve and the subsequent three years of teaching before sending them out. Upon His ascension, he reiterated the command to make disciples until his second coming.   

Linking Discipleship & Evangelism

So, what is the solution to this systemic problem? One method of resolving this age-old conflict is to link discipleship and evangelism together as Jesus taught and modeled. Evangelism should result in attracting converts, and converts should be trained to become disciples. Then, disciples should evangelize to reach more converts who are trained to become disciples. Therefore, evangelism leads to disciples and disciples evangelize until the Gospel is spread throughout the world. This is disciple making based on the Great Commission.

When possible, discipleship should follow evangelism. The end game of evangelism is the transformation of converts into becoming spiritually reborn. Once reborn, converts need to be taught by seasoned disciples in order to grow to maturity.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

-Donnell Moore

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The Third Place: Is The Church Missing Something?

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The Third Place: Is The Church Missing Something?

In his book, The Great Good PlaceRay Oldenburg argues that we need a "third" place. Oldenburg's thesis is that the home is where we live and constitutes who we live with; our workplace/school is probably where we spend the most time but is very “task” oriented in nature. We need a “third” place to provide a mooring for community life and wider, more fluid, creative interaction. -Churchandculture.org

The term third place is not new, yet it continues to make a radical difference in people’s quest and desire for socialization and a sense of belonging. It is said that Starbucks coffeehouse became an instant success because it positioned itself as a third place. People from all walks of life gather at Starbucks for a host of reason; kingdom impact should be one of them. While attracting people of like minds, Starbucks provides a seductive product that makes social dialogue easy. Not long after the Starbucks craze exploded in the marketplace, other businesses entered the third place market. The driving factor for most businesses was the profitability and instant success Starbucks was maintaining.

Entering the Third Place Market

While the church has attempted to enter the third place market as a basis for kingdom impact and kingdom building; malls, pubs, restaurants, community coffeehouses, ballparks, cyberspace, female/male styling salons and outdoor recreational venues are somehow doing a better job of attracting people, especially on a day and time that was exclusively reserved for the church (Sunday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm). Is the church missing something? Declining memberships says: yes.

Not as Easy as it Seems

Although churches have established café’s, fellowship lounges, and gaming centers for children and youth, it seems that overall, churchgoers and the unchurched find greater appeal in non-church venues identified as the third place. Researchers suggest that there are a few reasons the church struggles in this area: tradition, theology, practicality, and missional purpose. I will speak more to these reasons and why they reduce kingdom impact in another blog.

What is the Church Missing?

How often have we realized that more people are at the ballpark, beach, or recreational facility enjoying life as we leave the church of our choice? How often have devoted church members taken sabbaticals while their children are participating in events held at school or sporting events during traditional worship times?

Alternatives to Church-Based Third Places

Oldenburg argues, “we need” a third place. If the church is to compete with third places of the world, it must begin meeting the relevant needs of its members and the people of the community. If the church is not able to make the adjustment to becoming a third place, it can always find a few places in the area and begin frequenting them for meetings, fellowship and basic socialization. You might be surprised at who will become attracted to your church when they see members engage in “holy conferencing” in non-religious venues on a regular and consistent basis. Don't let your church miss out on potential opportunities to make a kingdom impact. Identify venues as your church’s third place or retrofit your facility if possible, to attract people in non-traditional ways.  

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