In 1999, Phil Neighbors–co-pastor of the Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield–invited me to speak at a youth weekend. That weekend helped cause a shift in ministry focus for me over the next 18 years. It led me to a strategic part of ministry as a teacher, writer, and pastor, one I will continue to emphasize: the Next Gen. during these years I’ve spoken on scores of college campuses and at countless DNows, youth rallies, and camps. I loved this season.
This past weekend I did an event in a church where I’ve done some Next Gen events. But this weekend took me back to my roots. I trained believers to share Jesus Without Freaking Out. Yes, we are talked about evangelism, but I actually see training believers in this area as the heart of my calling: disciple-making.
When I was in seminary I saw a bifurcation between evangelism and discipleship that seemed unhealthy. We did it denominationally, compartmentalizing by agency, and we did it personally. Some were of the” evangelism party” and others were of the “discipleship faction.”
I’m convinced that making disciples–which includes winning people to Christ, growing them as believers, so that they become disciples who make disciples–is the need of the hour. I’m also convinced that one of the fundamental ways to help Christians grow is through getting them sharing their faith, inviting others to join in this grand endeavor. Learning to live out our faith verbally is certainly not the only way to become more like Christ, but it’s hard to imagine doing so without this. If our Bible studies and devotional times don’t lead us to actually live out our faith in word and deed, I question whether we really get what we are reading. Christianity is far more than an intellectual study.
If my habits demonstrate a desire personally to study the Bible and pray but don’t lead me to care for my fellow man and love my neighbor, I may be an example of American individualism more than a biblical Christian. Which leads me to this weekend. I’m back to my roots. I spent several hours training leaders in South Carolina to share Jesus conversationally, out of who they are. I’m trying to help believers connect who they are in Christ and who God made them to be with their daily lives. There must be a greater purpose to our discipleship than simply getting information.
Don’t dichotomize two things God has emphasized. We win people to Christ so they may know, worship, and grow in Him, and so they can win others, and so on, until Jesus comes. Let’s be about this task together.