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Theme: Evangelistic Outreach

“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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4 Responses

  1. Grant

    Chris, your analysis of discipling is yet again spot on, and of course something I’ve heard you speak about before. I’ve always battled with some interpretations of Matthew 28 where preaching on a street corner, or presenting a message of hope to the homeless at a soup kitchen is what he meant. Of course feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc. are all a necessary part of Christian involvement in a community.

    But, and as you said, the question “how many?” is not relevant, but “how far?”. Outreach has to be the process of “each one teach one and release one.” otherwise it might as well be a rotary community service event, but with a christian slant.

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Chris

    Thank you for this discussion. I remember leading a 10 or so year old boy to the Lord about 9 years ago. I was a leader at a church holiday club.

    Though the boy was quite young I really do think he understood the Gospel message and made a sincere commitment to the Lord. I clearly remember the joy I experienced from being able to share the Gospel with this young boy.

    This was, unfortunately, a once off ‘event’ for me. Never have I had the opportunity again to explain the Gospel and lead someone to Christ Jesus on a one on one basis (though I have been involved in other holiday clubs and ‘local missions events’).

    This has been very discouraging to me, but I realise that Christians may have different ‘evangelistic roles’, i.e. some may ‘plant seeds’ while others ‘water it’, but it is God that makes things grow (see 1 Cor 3:5-9).

    I acknowledge that each Christian is called to go and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20),but we often fall into the trap of thinking this needs to be done on a ‘grand scale’. I really think the concept of each Christian reaching out and discipling one person makes good sense. Not only will there be exponential growth, but ‘each one reaching out and discipling one’ will produce quality discipleship! Too often have I seen churches marvel over how many conversions occur under their missions ‘projects’, but I often wonder whether they have a good system in place to continue discipleship afterwards. Sadly, there isn’t always a follow-up on those conversions after the ‘missions project’.

    Sorry for this ‘thesis’, but I just thought that I would discuss what’s on my mind concerning this topic.

    Thanks so much for the opportunity that we have to discuss these sort of things on your blog.

    God bless you and your family

  3. Dr Christopher Peppler

    Thank you Anonymous’ for your comments. Yes, I believe that we are called to make self-replicating disciples of Jesus Christ. For me, the general purpose for all Christians whilst on Earth is to ‘come to know Jesus, grow to be like Him, and help others to do likewise.’ I also believe that if we ask the Lord to lead us to someone we can introduce to Him and then disciple, He will. God be with you.

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