Apr 232007
 
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The following observations are drawn from a discussion I facilitated during the April 22, 2007 Christian Musicians Fellowship (CMF) at the home of George and Emily Russell. The topic for the discussion was:

“How can we as musicians present our faith in our respective spheres of influence without going over the top?”

The Great Commission

We began this discussion by reviewing a familiar passage in scripture:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)

Here Jesus commands his disciples (and by extension us) to reproduce disciples – that is to say fully trained followers. Evangelism – sharing the good news about Jesus Christ, is only the first step in the process of discipleship, but it is obviously key! Unfortunately, many believers struggle with evangelism and this is often because of how they have come to view this activity.

The Power Of Our Beliefs

We all have a number of beliefs that strongly influence our day to day actions. Some of these beliefs have been only recently acquired and may be easily changed by new information. Other beliefs are older and therefore more strongly held. Some of our beliefs are very deeply held and hard to change even in the face of conflicting evidence. Our most deeply held beliefs are often rarely stated. They have become so deep that we no longer need to speak them on a regular basis – we simply carry them as assumptions throughout our daily activities. These deeply held yet unstated beliefs influence our lives in powerful ways.

Deeply Held Unspoken Beliefs – An Example

A situation that arose at IBM several years ago is an interesting example of the impact that such beliefs can have:

IBM Credit Corporation was the division of IBM that provided financing to companies that wanted to buy IBM equipment. They found that it was taking them an average of 6 days (and up to 2 weeks) to process a credit application. As a result, they were risking having customers purchase their computer financing (or even their computers) from one of their competitors. Their credit application process was long and cumbersome because of a deeply held yet unstated belief: that each credit application was unique ahd required several specialists to handle. By examining this belief (which turned out to be false) and correcting it they were able to cut their application processing time from 6 days to 4 hours! You can read more about this particular example in Chapter 2 of “Reengineering the Corporation” by Michael Hammer and James Champy.

Deeply Held Unspoken Beliefs – Evangelism

Of course, since our subject is evangelism and discipleship, we want to take a look at how our deeply held yet unspoken beliefs affect this critical aspect of our ministry. One way to do this is to spend some time with other Christians discussing your recent experiences with evangelism. Their experiences and their feedback can help you recognize some of your own deeply held beliefs that you may not have been consciously aware of. At the CMF on 4/22 I had the people in attendance break up into groups of 3 or 4 to do this. After we all came back together we made some discoveries:

  • Sometimes unbelievers confront us with objections to Christianity that we’re not prepared to handle. We often feel at a loss if we can’t to respond to these objections on the spot.
  • We often feel that we’re supposed to win people through extensive theological knowledge
  • We often feel that we’re supposed to win people on our own by exposing them to our godly lifestyle.

A Better Way

These beliefs are problematic because they are based on human traditions and emotional needs rather than on God’s Word. When we examine the New Testament we see that Jesus built a model community of believers who formed the backdrop against which he carried out his ministry. He made it clear in John 17:20-23 that our unity as believers is critical to our credibility with unbelievers. After Jesus ascended to be with the Father his initial community of disciples multiplied and reached their world by both proclaiming the good news about Jesus and reaching out to their neighbors in love. It is by extending to our unbelieving family, friends, and acquaintances the loving relationships that we have with other believers that we can most effectively win them to Christ. In other words, share your Christian friendships with the unbelievers you know. This is a key component of cell ministry – a foundational pillar here at Life Church.

To help you move towards a more relational approach to evangelism we offer you 4 principles, 3 questions, and 1 verse of scripture:

Four Principles

When you share the gospel with someone it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of where the person is in relation to the gospel and how much further he/she needs to go. These 4 principles represent steps along the way to salvation:

  1. God Exists (Gen 1:1; Heb 11:6)
  2. God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you! (Acts 17:24-27)
  3. A relationship with God must be on his terms! (Rom 9 – 11)
  4. Gods terms are: Follow Jesus! (Mat 17:1-5; John 6:25-29; Heb 1:1-3)

As you come to a better understanding of where an unbeliever is with regard to these 4 steps, you can pray for the Lord to move him/her to the next one.

Three Questions

In addition to these principles/steps, there are 3 basic questions that you can pursue with unbelievers as a way of clarifying where they are in the thinking about spiritual things. I came across these on the internet and they are intended as a way of responding when someone confronts you with a belief that is opposed to the gospel.

  1. What do you mean by that?
  2. How did you come to believe that?
  3. Have you ever considered . . . ?

Don’t use these questions merely as a checklist in an impersonal gospel presentation. If you ask them the right way (respectfully and patiently) each one can lead to an extended conversation. Use these questions to get to know the other person better. This will enable you to love and pray for him/her more effectively.

A Final Scripture

Finally, it is important to take to heart this key scripture:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35 (New International Version)

In this verse Jesus emphasizes the importance of the example that is set when unbelievers can see believers loving and serving one another. This means much more that simply allowing believers to see us as individuals treating them in a loving way. It means giving unbelievers access to us in our small gatherings where they can see first hand how we deal with one another.

But Wait – There’s More!

Of course when it comes to evangelism and discipleship we also want to consider:

  • How do you actually lead someone to salvation?
  • How do you follow up a new believer?
  • How do you reproduce disciples?

Check back at this web site for more thoughts on these and other evangelism and discipleship issues.

  2 Responses to “Some Thoughts On Evangelism and Discipleship”

  1. I attended the fellowship and was impressed with practical wisdom shared through the above teaching and others who were there.

    I especially think we need to love one another more and more…
    so that outsiders can see our unity and be influenced positively and powerfully.

  2. Eric…

    you have a very nice blog and very informative article…