Traditional evangelism that results in growing disciples of Jesus Christ, is not working in the 21st century. In times past, the unchurched or non-Christians came upon an evangelistic encounter already possessing a matrix of Judeo-Christian principles. The evangelistic message served as a key by which they could unlock the meaning of the matrix and thereby receive Christ and immediately begin growing as disciples. Generally, this is no longer the case as most people approaching their evangelistic encounter have little or no concept of Judeo-Christian principles. Many of them are attracted to the message and may receive Christ, but since they are lacking a corpus of biblical knowledge, they have great difficulty with their own spiritual growth.
In times past, the unchurched or non-Christians came upon an evangelistic encounter already possessing a matrix of Judeo-Christian principles.
Many churches focus on evangelistic encounters resulting in conversion instead of developing sustainable evangelism resulting from an ongoing process of disciple-making. New Christian converts are often left bewildered as they try to figure out how to make the Christian life work. They may feel as if they have been given a valuable key to salvation but while they are sure the Jesus key fits many more doors to spiritual growth, they have no idea where or how to find them. The reaction of many church leaders is, “The Holy Spirit will disciple the new converts.” The problem with that thinking is that Jesus’ Great Commission gives the responsibility of making disciples to the church. The Holy Spirit is a helper or assistant to both the new convert and the disciple-maker. There is nothing is Scripture that suggests that the church is to make converts and leave the discipling to the Holy Spirit.
If new Christian converts do not already possess a matrix of Judeo-Christian principles they must be provided a process for spiritual growth…discipleship.
THE PROBLEM WITH JOHN 3:16 EVANGELISM
The message of the third chapter of The Gospel of John is compelling and has served as the evangelistic instrument in the salvation of many people since that fortuitous night when Nicodemus sought out the notorious Rabbi from Nazareth. John 3:16 continues to lead many to faith in Jesus Christ by the actions of fans holding up banners with the verse notation as they attend sporting events, the face paint of athletes like Tim Tebow, or Max Lucado’s excellent book 3:16- The Numbers of Hope.
Great Commission gives the responsibility of making disciples to the church.
Consider the person of Nicodemus as he sought out Jesus. Nicodemus grew up in a home that was saturated with teachings from their Bible—the Old Testament. Early in his life he learned the Shema and added many dos and don’ts to his religious to do list. In his quest to solve his Rubik’s Cube religion Nicodemus became a Pharisee but all that seemed to do was to add 613 new rules to his dos and don’ts list. It was like a Rubik’s Cube for which there seemed to be no solution.
Many churches focus on evangelistic encounters resulting in conversion instead of developing sustainable evangelism resulting from an ongoing process of disciple-making.
Some people have carried a Rubik’s Cube for several weeks trying to solve it while a few like Ludwig Fichte solved the 3D puzzle in 31.5 seconds while skydiving before opening his parachute. The point is that to someone like Nicodemus the message of Christ that he must be born again was like a key by which he could solve his Rubik’s Cube faith. Unfortunately, few people today bring a Rubik’s Cube religion to their John 3:16 moment of being born again. To make things worse, few churches have a process that a new Christian’s key will unlock and lead them to spiritual growth and maturity. The message of John 3:16 is not only the evangelistic key to salvation but a key to the door of discipleship. However, effective church leaders will recognize that moving new Christians beyond conversion requires intentionality and the implementation of a discipleship process. A discipleship process provides the missing faith matrix for the evangelistic key to unlock spiritual growth. This may be called the “discipleship cycle.”
A discipleship process provides the missing faith matrix for the evangelistic key to unlock spiritual growth.
JESUS IS THE KEY AND PROCESS DISCIPLESHIP IS THE RUBIK’S CUBE
Receiving Jesus Christ provides the key to spiritual growth. Churches that provide a Process Discipleship system have the greatest opportunity to move converts to become disciples and then to be disciple-makers themselves. A Process Discipleship system provides sustainable evangelism and ongoing spiritual formation. A Process Discipleship system such as Simple Discipleship includes as many of the following discipleship methods as possible in an ongoing delivery system:
- Simple Discipleship: A Comprehensive Disciple-Making Plan- The Simple Discipleship Virtual Book Tour- (updated) originally posted in 2010
- DISCIPLESHIP BEST PRACTICES: 13 Ways to Make Disciples
1. Passive Discipleship: the least effective method but essential to support other methods
2. Private Discipleship: the Christian and the Holy Spirit (most effective but under used)
3. Presence Discipleship: In times of crisis the disciple invests time, assistance, and prayer.
4. Participation or Proximity Discipleship: applies to all areas but most of all to giving
5. Projected Discipleship: Actively but humbly projecting a Christian example of living Christ’s teachings.
7. Program Discipleship: Pre-packaged materials delivered in large or small groups.
8. Personal Discipleship: One-on-one discipleship (very effective but seldom used)
9. Peer Group Discipleship: Bible study and Sunday School
10. Practical Discipleship: Hands on service, evangelism, and missional projects
11. Proficiency Discipleship: Leadership Development
12. Proclamation Discipleship: Evangelism and preaching to unchurched
13. Process Discipleship: All of the above delivered in a systematic way
Many church leaders are looking for the next big thing but building a sustainable disciple-making process is not a quick fix or the next big thing. In fact it is ministry as old as the church of the first century. It is a return to biblical discipleship instead of Constantinian evangelism.
- Process discipleship churches can measure their spiritual growth progress. Can your church measure spiritual growth?
- Do you understand the Rubik’s Cube comparison?
- Consider the difference between a conversion ministry as compared to a sustainable discipleship process.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
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