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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 Jeremy Hatch on November 5, 2010 at 2:43pm
As I read Matt 5 and those present during the Sermon on the Mount, if you will, I find an interesting moment taking place. Namely, Jesus seperating His mathetes from the rest of the crowd.
As it was and is proper today with a Rabbi and his disciple, the Rabbi calls out his protoge' and in turn the protoge' accepts or rejects the call.

Mat 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him.
Mat 5:2 And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying,

Here in the first two verses we see the seperation of the twelve and the rest of the crowd. Jesus sitting down is proper etiquette of a teacher before he has something important to say. If you remember Jesus in the synagogue reading from the book of Isaiah, He read aloud the scripture, then went to the center of the room, then sat down and then gave His teaching of that passage. As was custom.

I believe this seperation is vital to our understanding of someone who is a disciple and someone that is being evangelised. The crowd most likely noticed who Jesus sat amongst, (the twelve) and understood these were His mathetes. And just like in synagogue, they were part of the evangelising moment in a corporate setting.

Discipling it would appear is a personal thing between the discipler and the protoge. The corporate setting is great because of the teaching spill over to the masses, but, it seems throughout the gospels the focus is on the disciples and what they are to learn before they are to be sent out. The progression from being called, accepting the call, following and then being sent out, are all commensurate from being evangelised.

Of course this is based strictly on evangelise having the meaning of "to preach".

As with many of you in here, I see preaching to be the beginning part of the process into discipleship. Whereas, I may not be in the same town as others when it comes to discipleship, I see a disciple as someone who is a convert and not an unbeliever. Whereas, evangelism is part and parcel of what Paul may have been addressing when he wrote to the Romans,

Rom 10:17 Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
Rom 10:18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes indeed, their voice went out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Comment by Greg Della-Croce on November 5, 2010 at 11:26am
An older book that shed a lot of light on this for me was Master Plan of Evangelism. If you read it with a mind to discipleship, it shows the connection between the processes of Evangelism and Discipleship are very close. Doing the process from the middle often robs people of their full needs.
Comment by Sue Reim on November 5, 2010 at 10:41am
I can remember the exact moment when the Holy Spirit convicted me that I had to move on from eager student to discipler. I have never stopped being a student, and I will never be totally equipped to disciple others , but someone must move out ahead (based on whatever experience we have that God can use). It is another example of "Here I am , Lord, send me". I agree that the churches I have participated with are far better at bringing people in the door than mentoring and equipping them for the Christian life. I see self discipling as actually part of spiritual disipline and therefore important. However, I believe that working on our ideas and beliefs outloud and analyzing our thinking and performance with trusted mentors will always get more comprehensive and ultimately rewarding results than self sufficiency. I have not had a discipleship program available to me at any church so far, although some classes, small groups, prayer groups, etc have in some ways served the purpose. Although a program is not always the solution for every need, generally we can all use some guidance from others with varying experience so we can be better equipped for mentoring.
Comment by Tom Swank on November 5, 2010 at 9:15am
I tend to see Evangelism as a part of Discipleship as others have commented. When I study the life of Jesus (the truly great disciple-maker) it would see that "disciple-making" began the moment he began building a relationship with those who eventually became apostles. I am thinking discipleship begins before conversion and that discipleship describes the entire process of taking someone from pre-Christian to one who is making disciples of others.
Comment by Karen Deikun on November 5, 2010 at 9:06am
One of the important components of Discipleship is that you accept correction from someone else. You are accountable - and that makes the process not just learning more but applying the learning to your circumstances. I've been in many small groups that study a lot but no one changes a lot. Acceptance seems to mean acceptance of wrong behavior and a lack of gentle confrontation.
Comment by Jenni Biegler on November 4, 2010 at 9:29pm
Matt, say more about your comment, "I think evangelism is the first step on the path of discipleship" and don't worry, you don't have to die on any hill :)
Comment by Matt Howell on November 4, 2010 at 8:26pm
Interesting article, although I might quibble with the headline ... I see evangelism as part of discipleship; I think evangelism is the first step on the path of discipleship, but it's not a hill I'm willing to die on.

I am also "self-discipled" for the most part, at least in a formal sense. There have been people who have been influential in my life, but not in a structured discipleship sense.

We're in the process of developing a men's mentoring/discipleship program as a follow-up to a leadership training class we do with men in our church. We're finding they come out of the leadership training better educated, but not necessarily doing much with the information. Our goal is to help them put that knowledge into action, and to do that in a one-on-one, discipleship/mentoring context. Hopefully we'll begin to break the "self-help" mentality prevalent in what seems to be significant numbers among churches.
Comment by Janice S. Garey on November 4, 2010 at 8:19pm
When I think back on my Christian walk concerning discipleship, it was missing in my life on a daily basis except for the benefit of Christian radio broadcasts. I gained such encouragement from the wonderful teaching of Chuck Swindoll, Chip Ingram, Joseph Stowell, John MacArthur, and others. Do others consider Christian radio broadcasting to qualify as discipleship?
Comment by Jenni Biegler on November 1, 2010 at 9:37pm
Jeremy, as I read your reply, I thought...hmmm, maybe it's the need/lack of discipleship that you experienced in your own life that has created greater awareness and commitment to discipleship. Those of us who recognize the need and take it seriously are responsible for doing something with that awareness. Have you ever noticed how God seems to use our frustrations in a particular area to call us to action? ;)
Comment by Jeremy Hatch on November 1, 2010 at 3:13pm
What you say here: 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.
Is so spot on, it doesn't get any more clearer than this.

I, much like George, am self-discipled and wonder "what if" if there were a discipler in my life.

If the Lord had not put George and two other men from the church we became aquainted through, I may not be where I am in my Christian walk. Several years of self-learning and not growing the way "I thought" was expedient, I became friends with these three men. I found in these men, the same desire for the Word and I noticed things in their character that I lacked.

Those things I knew I needed more self-control led me to these men and I latched onto them as my mentor(s) in those areas of my life. Our relationship(s) are as friends and my being discipled by them was not from my asking them to be my discipler openly, but, being a part of their lives watching, learning, following their character. After some time, I openly asked each of these men to hold me "accountable" through one way or another. They did. Since then, the Lord has blessed me in more ways than I can speak of. These men are "my guys" and I have what I call a "David-Johnathan" relationship with them. Of course, today's venacular this would be a "bromance". (tongue in cheek of course)

George has opened a Group in this Network called Teleios, - greek for being full grown, mature, complete or a term that I shy away from "perfect" as is taught in Matt 5:48. The term denotes a process being administrated to get to a point of completion. For me, this is that point when a disciple takes notice the call to "go out and make disciples" and begins too.


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