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There is a difference between Evangelism and Discipleship

For approximately four years, a church which I attended was trying to develop a Discipleship Training Center. During our beginning stages, we polled the congregation to see what their experiences had been with Discipleship. To our surprise, the majority of them had no idea what discipleship was and the rest thought that Discipleship was synonymous with Evangelism. This misunderstanding was as prevalent among church leaders as it was among the laity.

For so many years there was a great emphasis on preaching the gospel and getting people saved but few were discipling those who got saved. Who of us would expect a newborn baby to raise itself? Yet we've expected new believers to become mature Christians without giving them the resources and support needed to succeed. No wonder there's so much confusion and spiritual immaturity in the Body of Christ.

I have been blessed to have a variety of discipleship experiences in my own life. I became a Christian and received some great discipleship through AWANA clubs. I had key individuals that would sit down with me one to one and walk through various topics of interest and/or need. I had another that fed me Scripture about things that were relevant to my life at the time. I went through a lot of Navigators material as a teenager and a young adult, and later in life, I went through some Campus Crusade materials. In discipling others, I have used various materials but most recently the Bill Bright's, "Ten Steps to Christian Maturity."

Personally, I think that we never outgrow the need for being discipled but if Discipleship is working correctly, it will lead to us discipling others.

I'm curious about the experiences that others have had in being discipled or discipling others. Will you share your story?

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Comment by Skip Holman on October 4, 2016 at 9:58am

 Second Timothy 2:2 is discipleship and disciplemaking in a nutshell!

Comment by Osborn Steel on June 7, 2012 at 12:16pm

Wow, interesting! Has anyone else come across the same thing compared to this? I am curious where to find more responses on this matter??¦ =-=

Comment by Matt Howell on November 7, 2010 at 9:08pm
To follow up on my earlier post regarding discipleship and evangelism (and again, I'm not trying to quibble over details -- I'm not smart enough to quibble!) ... I see the call as one to make disciples. As I try to understand the term, discipleship is all of the process that is involved in making disciples -- including the initial relationship; the "preaching" of the word; if we're fortunate enough to be there, the midwife function in a new birth; and the ongoing process of facilitating God's work of sanctification in that life.
It's rare when we get to go all the way through that process with one person, which is why it's probably easier to separate evangelism and discipleship. But, when I think about it from an ideal standpoint, that is why I prefer to think of evangelism and what we call discipleship as one continuum in the life of a child of God.
Comment by Gerald Polmateer on November 6, 2010 at 9:49pm
Discipleship is a cradle to grave, lifetime of growth. As we grow and age we encounter experiences and struggles that are not familiar to us and need wisdom. While we may Jesus' disciples from the first day we received Christ until now it does not end until death. We can introduce many to a lifetime of disciplined habits that aid others in living the Christian life but we cannot do it for them. I have done discipleship in a church as both layperson and pastor for about 36 years. I have been received with enthusiasm and with closed hearts even in the same congregation. I have to remember that there is wheat and tares. I leave the tares alone and work with the wheat. I do not try to put new wine in old wineskins. I keep feeding the alligator of making disciples and starve the alligator of the antagonists. I have seen Satan alive and well and become prominent and have also seen churches completely change. The one characteristic I have experienced is that those who are eager to be discipled are those churches which are exhausted and have tried everything. Often they have few people left. The church and have been plagued with troubles and the few who are left are humble and I find are praying for God to do something. It is amazing at God will use humble people. I have watched church double in size in a short time once they are broken. I have had the joy of hearing people pray in faith for the seemingly impossible and watched God answer in ways that were surprising.

When I come to a church I ask God to give me one person. I am pastoring a church now that is ready to explode. It started with one person before I came. Before I came I told God that it would be nice to have one person who understood discipleship and God gave me one great person.

When I come to a church I assume that nobody understands discipleship and ask God for at least one person. I spent two days years ago at a church that started discipleship with one man and five key men. After ten years the church is over 4,000.
Comment by Jenni Biegler on November 5, 2010 at 9:39pm
I hear your heart, Ken. The Scriptures are full of one another passages, indicating that we are meant to do life together, rather than alone. As others have pointed out, accountability is abig part of discipleship. I have found that not everyone is comfortable with that piece, while others of us recognize the healthiness and value of this. There have been times in my life when I have had to search long and hard for someone to disciple me. It's sad when one can't find this with someone in their own church but God is not limited by that. It's my prayer for you that you might indeed find someone through this network that will join with you in your discipleship process.
Comment by Ken Mitchell on November 5, 2010 at 8:20pm
Jenni,
I just joined the network and the reason I did was that I feel the need to be discipled. I have been a Christian for almost 40 years and in the church for over 60. I know the Bible in my head but don't believe that I am a good disciple because in all of that time I have not found anyone willing to disciple me. Self discipleship may have worked for some of the others who have commented but I don't believe it is the prefered method and certainly not the method Jesus used. I am still growing as I follow Jesus, but like the little boy in a story I heard, I sure would like to walk with sombody that has skin on.
Comment by Jeremy Hatch on November 5, 2010 at 4:39pm
Greg,
I liked to think disciple is one that is learning and apostle is the messenger of what is learned to another. Most likely this is a step in the application of a disciple to go out and make disciples. Like I see in this thread, discipling doesn't stop when one becomes a discipler. We are to always be learning.

I agree with the audience being more than the twelve, but, from the first two verses, Jesus sat, they (the 12) came to Him, and He taught them. With my limited knowledge of grammar, I believe using the term "them" after speaking of "they" I am inclined to think it is the 12 that are being the immediate audience of what is being taught. Plus, from my understanding of rabbi/student relationship it does not include all in the community to be a part of that discipleship. A rabbi takes notice of a pupil and offers his tutelage to a young man, or a young man applies for this tutelage and is accepted or rejected. Person to person application, whereas, yes, the rest on that hill overheard the teaching and therefore, began to be inclined to follow or not too.
Some came to Him later, like the rich young ruler, he asked what it must take to follow. The Lord spoke more to who this young man was and he didn't accept Jesus' invitation to follow after hearing more of what was meant from him personally.

When someone speaks of following another, I'm not sure I can believe it is not reasoned before the action takes place.
I wonder too, is Jesus' teaching through the 3 1/2 years of His minsitry to His 12 telling us they were not believers first and only became so, after?
Comment by Greg Della-Croce on November 5, 2010 at 4:01pm
Jeremy,
- I guess I have always seen the "Convert Someone" as a very confusing term. Like you the actual Calling of an individual is the Holy Spirit's work, in as much as the Holy Spirit is the one that convicts the individual of their SIN and of their sins.
- I also have seen this as a process in the individuals life. I have heard very few Salvation accounts by people that are "One day I woke up and became a believer". I see this in the lives of the disciples of Jesus (both the 12, and the 70+). Jesus took them through a process to the point of belief, and then they spent the rest of their lives being Sanctified into His image.
- Oh and by the way, on the Mount, since the word is "disciples" and not "apostles", I think the audience for the Sermon was more than the 12.

Just a thought
Comment by Jeremy Hatch on November 5, 2010 at 3:09pm
Hi Greg,
My understanding of the term seems strictly to be "preaching the Gospel".

The facilitating others as you mention, I take that to mean, to convert someone. Do we have that kind of power? Is not conversion strictly given to the Holy Spirit? This type of preaching/teaching is usually defined as proselytise. So, it seems evangelise and proselytise is more akin then discipling and evangelism. But, I have never done a deep enough study to be able to stand dogmatic or call this doctrine. But, like many, I want to be convinced otherwise of what I believe before I change my mind.
Comment by Greg Della-Croce on November 5, 2010 at 2:06pm
Jeremy,
- I do not understand the comment that evangelism = to preaching (implied: the gospel or Good News of God). Does the word not have a much wider connotation than that? Does it not include the whole process of facilitating others, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to move from Death to New Life? That is being Called/Justified by Christ, being Becoming like Christ, being Glorified with Christ before the Father.

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