A recent conversation with our team about our values has stuck with me and I wanted to look once more at a couple things we briefly mentioned, namely that every Christian is an ambassador AND a disciple-maker. These two responsibilities naturally come up when we consider fundemental passages such as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). To go on making disciples obviously requires that we first (by the power of The Gospel) make converts. In fact, it is difficult to get more basic than evangelism and discipleship. And yet, while these things may not be totally lacking in the life of many believers, it certainly does not seem to be as common as Scripture would indicate it should!
Have we recently pleaded with someone to repent and believe? Are we engaged in relationships where we are teaching someone how to follow Jesus? If so, praise God. Odds are, however, we could use a more robust and intentional commitment to these high callings of the Christian life – that of ambassador and disciple-maker!
Christians are referred to as ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), evangelists (Rom. 10:13-17, Eph. 6:15), and witnesses (1 Pt. 3:15). Look at how quickly Paul goes from salvation to personal evangelism…
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Right after describing our justification in verse 17, he describes the responsibility we have as ministers of reconciliation (v. 18) between sinful man and a holy God via the “message” of the Gospel (v. 19)! Yes, we get better at this and more comfortable with making such “appeals” as we grow in Christ. But it is also true, that we are not told to wait to witness. Christ’s disciples were told to wait at the beginning of the book of The Acts of the Apostles, but that was only because they were not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. Since the Apostolic Era of Acts, all believers are indwelt the moment they believe. Therefore we are equipped by our saving understanding of Gospel Truth AND the power of the Holy Spirit to go and proclaim the Good News and “implore” people to respond by Faith in Christ! Intentional Evangelism seems to come down to a few things (maybe this will be helpful)…
Deep Concern – we are convinced that without Christ, people die and receive their due pentalty in hell.
Sincere Care – we are able to start natural conversations and honest relationships, because we actually care about the person we desire to see saved.
Bold Conversation – we are willing to risk discomfort and offense to communicate to someone their need for a savior.
Now, to making disciples. Evangelism that leads to conversion is not necessarily the end…it’s actually very much the beginning! According to Christ’s commissioning of the church (Matt. 28:18-20), we are held responsible (in cooperation with the Word and the work of God) for the growth, obedience, and maturity of new believers!
Matthew 28:18-20 – 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The work of discipleship is such a massive reality so often taken for granted. If we are to be found faithful to our corporate mission as the church and our individual mission as Christians, we will commit to learning and observing everything Jesus commanded (think: the whole Bible), and then to teaching a new believer to do the same. Both are life-long adventures! Doing discipleship well (like evangelism) will take some time, but nothing in Scripture indicates to us that we wait until we have grey hair or that some Christians are exempt from this critical activity. Training will certainly serve the church well, however, your saving knowledge of Jesus and the understanding of Scripture granted to you by the Spirit (combined with disciplined study) is all that most believers need to get disciple-ing! While pastors/elders are held accountable for this being done under their leadership, discipleship is the responsibility of the whole church!
God does not need us, but He has ordained that we participate in the saving and sanctification of His elect. Let’s recommit together to a biblical standard of evangelism and discipleship, whether it mean we re-engage with those in our church, the lost in our neighborhood and work-place, or even our own family! And as we go, let's not forget Matt. 28:20b, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is necessary, because we may “plant the seed” or “water the ground,” but only God draws, only the power of God can give ears to hear, and only the Spirit can cause them to be born from above! Without Him we can do nothing (see John 15:5)!