Evangelism: The Missing Ingredient of Discipleship
When I was younger, I decided to bake a cake. I followed the recipe carefully, but left out one important ingredient, the eggs. The result was a flat, hard, and chewy substance no one would mistake for a cake. I was amazed that one ingredient could make such a profound difference.
I have learned that there are not only essential ingredients in cooking, but also in following Christ. And there is one particularly important ingredient of discipleship that many believers leave out – evangelism.
Evangelism and discipleship are designed to work together. Like two legs, they should operate in tandem to move us forward in our walk with Christ.
We see the interworking of evangelism and discipleship both mandated and illustrated throughout the New Testament:
- In Jesus’s call to the disciples in Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” where fishing for people (evangelism) is directly tied to following Christ.
- In the first lesson Jesus taught His disciples involving the miraculous catch of fish, “from now on you will be catching men”. (Luke 5:10)
- In Jesus’s training of the twelve disciples. Many of the lessons they learned from Jesus took place as they were reaching out to others. (Luke 19:10, John 4:35-38)
- In Jesus’s final commission to His disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47-49) and His last words on earth. (Acts 1:8)
- In the lives of all believers throughout Acts where evangelism was the norm and the way the church grew. (Acts 2:47, 8:4, 28:28)
The relationship between evangelism and discipleship does not end with Acts 28. It continues for Christians today. Regularly sharing our faith helps us grow in our faith. Here are some specific ways it does so:
1. Evangelism strengthens our faith.
Paul exhorts Timothy, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner, but share in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8) He also says in Romans 5:3-5 that such suffering, “produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” As we step out in faith to share the gospel, our faith is fortified, and character refined.
2. Evangelism teaches us about God.
Paul exhorts Philemon in verse six of the book that bears his name, “And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Some of the greatest lessons I have learned about God came from telling others about God. I have learned more about God’s timing, providence, provision, and trustworthiness while on mission with Him than from any sermon I have ever heard.
3. Evangelism helps us to become more like Christ.
The goal of discipleship is to follow Christ and become more like Him. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Because evangelism was the norm for Jesus and Paul, it needs to be the norm for us as we imitate Christ.
4. Evangelism is a way for us to glorify God.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism declares that the “chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Glorify simply means “to put on display, to extol and make famous.” One of the best ways to glorify God is to tell others about God. The Psalmist exhorts us to, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)
Simply put, if you are not sharing your faith, you are not functioning as the disciple Jesus intends you to be. Evangelism is a vital part of your discipleship.
What is the next step of obedience you need to take to follow Christ as both His disciple and witness?
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