“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matt and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt 28:19-20
The preacher fixes you with a stern yet challenging gaze and asks; “So, how many people have you led to the Lord this week?” How are you supposed to respond to that?!
Recently there was a televised ‘revival’ in East London and at each evening service they would get someone to answer this very question. One evening they made a huge fuss of a cute little ten-year-old girl who said that she had led 17 people to Jesus that very day. Of course, what she really meant was that she had approached 17 people in downtown East London and asked if she could read out a prayer to which they were to respond with “Amen”.
We are called to go into the world and make disciples, followers of the Lord Jesus. Discipleship starts with the rebirth of the spirit and continues with the transformation of that new spiritual life into the likeness of Jesus. Rebirth of the spirit is an act of God in response to genuine repentance, belief, and heart-felt request – it is not the automatic reward for a formula prayer spoken or acknowledged!
Evangelism is the word we give to the process of sharing the good news of salvation with people who have either not heard it or have not yet responded to it. It is a part of outreach but it is not the definition of outreach. We reach out into our world to give to it what we have – and the most valuable and life-giving thing we have to give is the message of life in Christ Jesus; the Gospel.
Giving our time, money and talent will help others in the short term, but unless accompanied by a generous ‘giving’ of the Gospel it will not affect others eternally. Outreach without the Gospel is good at a temporal and human level but that is all: our outreach must have the Gospel as its central concern if it is to be of any lasting benefit.
A better question for the preacher to ask is; “Are you in the process of making at least one disciple right now? Are you helping someone else to come to know Jesus, to grow to become like Him, and to then to go and do the same for someone else?” So that’s the question – are you?
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