Are Evangelism and Discipleship Different?
Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 are clear. We are to “go and make disciples.” We typically think of this command in two phases and use two terms; evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism involves sharing the good news of Jesus to the unbeliever. Discipleship involves obedience once one has believed. When we are not careful, though, this bifurcation can lead to a truncated understanding of the Christian life.
Most professing Christians are aware of the discipline called apologetics. The word means to “speak in defense” of some belief. In the early church, those who defended the faith to outsiders were called apologists.
As you can see, this term has largely been used by Christians to describe evangelism; the discipline of defending the Christian faith over against non-Christian unbelief. This is wholly appropriate and right. It is the first half of the great commission in Matthew 28:19 “Go.”
Who Are We Trying to Persuade?
I want to broaden the audience of the Christian apologist, though. Not only is the Christian apologist to convince the unbeliever concerning the claims of Christ; but the believer, as well! That is discipleship. It is what I call “pastoral apologetics.” There is a desperate and daily need to make a case for the truth, relevance and power of the Gospel for the believer as he or she faces the daily challenges of living the Christian life.
Notice how the apostle Paul warned the Colossians from being duped into thinking that there was something more they needed in addition to Christ to face the problems of living. Paul says this to believing Christians in Colossians 2:6-8;
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.
In other words, while Paul found himself on many occasions defending the faith against the unbelief of those who rejected the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; he found as many opportunities to make a case for the claims of Christ for the benefit and sake of those who already believed. He does not want the believer to be taken captive by any other “false gospel.”
Are You Fighting to Believe?
Every time we gather with other Christians in fellowship and worship, pick up our Bibles to read or take a moment to pray, we are asking this question, “Is this really true?” Why? Because we are so easily duped. We need convincing on a daily basis.
Today, what are you struggling with? What temptation are you facing? Where are you tempted to find meaning and the resources to live another day? If you are honest with yourself, you are always fighting to believe what you profess. May your heart’s cry today be the same as another believer in Scripture who made his doubts and struggles known to God with these words,
I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24).
Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane