The featured image for this blog is ‘Discipleship AND Evangelism’ yet my title is Discipleship OR Evangelism. Why the difference? That is what I want to discuss briefly. There is a bit of a feud raging out there in the Christian leadership community regarding the effective of evangelism versus the process of discipleship. It’s as if the two are diametrically opposed to each other. I’m here to tell you-they are not opposed to each other but rather, they should complement one another.
Numbers, numbers, numbers! A great many pastors these days are more concerned with how many people they have filling their pews rather than the quality of the spiritual life of those people filling the pews. Discipleship must, must, must be a main thrust of the church. The great commission mandates for believers to disciple other believers! We are told to go and ‘make disciples’ of every nation. Not just to win converts mind you but to disciple. I will say very plainly that discipling individuals takes much greater time and effort than just preaching to get people saved. Now, evangelism is much-needed as well for without evangelizing there will be no one to disciple. We need both. So what is the correct model for church growth? Where do we start? Are we aiming to get big or trying to keep it small? Do we just disciple or do we focus more on mass evangelism and getting people in?
One thing that I believe needs to be stated is, if one is effectively discipling and preaching the Gospel, there will be growth. You can’t plant a church with the mindset of just staying small. (Well you can but it will be a dead church.) Now with that said, say we start with a core group of men and women in which to build the foundation of a church body. This group grows, with the pastor teaching the Word and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. As this is done and people are either invited to services (as an unbeliever), or are saved in the field by one of the members (sharing the Gospel as we are all commissioned to do) and then brought, the church will grow. The numbers will increase. Or at least they should. If they are not I would seriously take a look at what is being preached from the pulpit and what is being taught to the believers in that assembly. When smaller and/or just starting out, the pastor/church planter should definitely look at discipling those few within the assembly. Pour into them, just as Jesus did His twelve. (Of course it needs to be said, that if one is starting a church in a town of a few thousand, well…don’t be expecting the numbers to be climbing off the wall! Demographic is definitely reflective in congregant growth. The point is, there should be growth of some kind.)
One method to use is this approach: Disciple twelve, then each of them disciple twelve, then each of them disciple twelve and so on. This is a great principle to use which promotes discipleship and also will inherently promote growth. There is a system out there called the G12 principle which I have been part of in previous churches, which is built upon this very concept. Very effective. (Of course it doesn’t have to be twelve but this number is based on the twelve disciples that Jesus was able to effectively minister unto and instruct.) This focuses on keeping a relatively small number in which to directly disciple, then as they grow, they in turn start their own small group of people in which to disciple. This forces individual Christians to grow in their faith, and not just stay stagnant. It also forces each Christian to not just be a pew warmer but to begin pouring out into the lives of others. (When we are put in position to have to pour into others, it mandates greater power and anointing in our own lives, forcing us-driving us to press further and deeper into our relationship with the Lord. A definite win-win.)
Why is it that many are so bent against the mega-church these days? Now I will say there can definitely be a great many problems within a mega-church but if done correctly and grown correctly, the mega-church can not only survive but thrive spiritually. But what is a mega-church and does the mega-church set aside discipleship for sheer growth and numbers? Some definitely do.I think sometimes the mega-church gets a bad name when in reality, not all mega churches are bad. There are many mega churches out there doing a great deal of good and truly upholding and preaching the Gospel truth-along with effectively providing discipleship throughout. This takes a productive leadership tree, flowing down from the pastorate to various lay leaders and ministries but it can most definitely be done. I know because I have been part of 3 different mega churches, all which offered effective discipleship methods.
I don’t think we always have to throw the baby out with the bath water. We should be both discipling the few and evangelizing the many. Jesus set this pattern for us as documented throughout the Gospels. The key is to not get too caught up in just one of these disciplines. As a church planter/pastor, find out who in the church is also effective at discipling. Utilize those believers to lead corporate discipleship classes or ministries. Then also effectively establish small groups with various leaders in the church to disciple men and women under them. This again establishes the leadership tree from the pastor down. Too many, and I mean way too many, pastors are insecure control-freaks who refuse to let men and women step up to provide leadership within the body of Christ. When this is released to the congregants, it allows maximum growth while also providing the level of discipleship required. (Of course, there needs to be a level of accountability and spiritual maturity for those leading.)
Let’s not get stuck here. Let’s evangelize the masses, teach the body of Christ, and disciple a small few around us. If each Christian is taught this model, and by the leadership, instructed and empowered to do so, the body of Christ will thrive, be healthy and will grow. Good growth is a by-product of effective, Biblical evangelism and one-on-one discipleship. Not growth for growth’s sake but growth because the Word is being sown correctly.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20/NLT)