For the past few weeks in my missional training, we have been asked to think about evangelism and what that looks like. We have been asked to compare evangelism and discipleship. We have been asked to challenge what we have always thought about both topics. We have been asked to really reflect on the ministry of Jesus and how he evangelized and discipled. And to be honest, its been kind of a crazy ride on this thought journey for the past couple of weeks for me.
I’m sure many of you are like me, view evangelism as the efforts you take to ensure that a pre-christian (yes, that is how I refer to lost people now) come to know the Lord. It might involve knocking on doors, having conversations with people about eternity, pointing out people’s sinful nature and their need for a redeemer, Christian events such a concert or revival, etc. To me, discipleship is teaching a baby Christian what it means to live a Christian life. Discipleship happens after salvation.
All my life, I have been led to believe the order to be, evangelism – salvation – discipleship. However, that belief has been challenged for me these past few weeks, and can I say, I’m so glad! With this model, there is an expectation that we can tell someone about Jesus, then suddenly they will accept Him, then we disciple that person and they go forth and repeat the same pattern. Huh? Really? Is that the way you became a Christian? It isn’t the way I became a Christian. I am not saying that method isn’t possible, however, what I am saying is that there is a better way! The way that Jesus modeled.
My entire life, actually probably 9 months before I was even born people were pouring into my life, they were discipling me. I was taught about Jesus in Sunday School. My parents modeled a Christian life for me. I was taken to Christian events. We listened to Christian music. My life as a pre-christian was saturated with teaching me to love Jesus. Then at 12 years old, I made the decision to make Him my Lord. It took me 12 years of discipleship and we expect people to make this life-changing decision just because we suggest it that very minute. I don’t think so. Half the time people will not even eat at restaurants I suggest. How do I expect them to suddenly decide that their life is not their own and to follow a being they can’t see at my mere suggestion. It doesn’t work that way.
So what did Jesus do? How did He win the pre-Christian? Isn’t a Christian suppose to be Christ-like, therefore we should evangelize the world the way Christ modeled. Let’s look at the 12 disciples for example. There is actually no evidence in the Bible that suggests that the disciples were Christians when they decided to follow Jesus. Woah, say that again. You heard me…..that thought blew my hair back too. Check out what Matthew 4:18-22 says:
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
These guys were just doing life, minding their own business, working hard and Jesus drops in. He says follow me and they did. He had earned the right to request this of them by meeting needs and living life with the people. They knew who He was and wanted what He had. They saw something different in Him. Once they agreed to follow Him, Jesus began the process of discipling the pre-Christian disciple, which eventually led to the salvation of His disciples.
I know this is a shift. It was a shift for me to think about my evangelistic efforts this way. However, it was also very refreshing for me. I have never been one that was comfortable with knocking on doors, pointing out people’s flaws or flat-out asking someone where they stand with eternity. This new thought process allows me to disciple the pre-Christian by just living life with them. By working at my job to the best of my ability, I am being Jesus to someone. By buying the person’s lunch behind me, I’m being Jesus. By reaching out to that homeless person, I am being Jesus. By helping that mom hold the door, I am being Jesus. It’s so simple – Be Nice, Serve Others then you can earn the right to Share Christ. Let me know your thoughts! Is this shift in thinking refreshing to you or do you think I am crazy? I challenge you and myself to read the gospels over the next couple of weeks with the model of disciple, salvation, then disciple some more in mind. Let’s soak the words of the gospels up and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us. At the end of the day, being a Christian is about being Christ in the flesh to a lost and dying world. I want to be a world-changer and I want you to be one too.
Check out this great resource from Hugh Halter on how to live a life like Jesus.
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