Fighting to Believe

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

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Will Counseling Make a Church Turn Inward?

What do counseling and evangelism have in common? What do counseling and community have in common? Have you ever put them together? At first glance, it would seem that the two pairings are awkward at best. But stop for a minute and consider how a local church that takes counseling seriously actually does a better job of reaching non-believers as well as build community.

Counseling and Evangelism

How has the church historically persuaded the surrounding culture of the truth of the Scriptures? If you know your church history, it has largely happened when people’s lives were changed so much by the grace of God that others could not dismiss those who were changed. Nor could they as easily dismiss the truth claims that transformed them. There has been much discussion about modernity, post-modernity and the apologetic challenge this raises for the church. In a post-modern climate, modern notions of rational categories of truth and error, right and wrong, good and bad have been abandoned. Those belong to the day when the majority culture imposed its meta-narrative on the minority culture. Since this led to oppression, it was necessary to rule out any claims to absolute truth. This is the context in which we live. It is going to take much more than logical arguments to convince people of the truth of the Christian faith.

When a church counsels, it is saying more than the Bible is true; it is saying that the God of the Bible is real. He comes to change lives, families, communities, cultures and the entire cosmos. You can actually see those changes! When a church counsels, it is engaging in one of the most important apologetic tasks it can engage in. It is saying, “We will not simply proclaim the truth, we will demonstrate the truth in the way we live and in the visible proof of lives changed.”

Talk to any church that takes counseling seriously and they will attest to the fact that they reach non-believers naturally because they are addressing the problems they struggle with in their daily lives. The truth changes them and they come to embrace the truth!

Counseling and Community

We don’t often think of the word community when we hear the word “counseling”. The word “counseling” evokes images of conversations between two people behind closed doors where no one else can listen. We think “confidentiality”. While we would not want to diminish the need to handle personal information and conversations with great care and wisdom, a church that counsels is actually a vibrant community. 

Paul, in Colossians 3:16 says, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” This passage is speaking of a vibrant congregation where brothers and sisters in Christ are counseling one another in the context of daily life as they grow as a community. This does not preclude more personal, confidential contexts for counsel. It does emphasize the communal nature of “one-anothering” ministry.

When a church counsels, it becomes the first place, not the last place that people think about when they need help. How biblical and yet how radical for people to think of the church in that way!

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.