Discipleship vs. Evangelism

The fundamental problem with “unfinished Task” strategy is that it substitutes evangelism for the Great Commission idea of discipleship. Evangelism is not the same thing as Missions. In fact, there are many good and well-respected mission sending agencies that have built strategies and missiologies around a profound misunderstanding of the missionary task. Somewhere along the way, we mistook “reaching” people for making disciples. Disciple making requires acute cultural awareness and mature faith in Christ. In order to obediently share our faith with people of a culture different from our own, we must become experts in that culture. We must learn the language to understand the worldview, and only then will we be able to culturally translate the message of the good news. But this takes time and energy. Instead, we are content to pass out tracts and Jesus films, and remain ignorant of how culturally irrelevant we are. According to Jesus’ words in Matthew 28.18-20, our task is more than evangelization. It is to make disciples, and that requires us to abandon our human-centered strategies and walk in total dependence on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, going where He leads, in His timing.

Maybe it’s our affinity for convenience that has led us to settle for marketing-campaign dissemination of information over the long-term disciple-making relationships Jesus modeled with His disciples. But discipleship is not sharing information, public discourse, or debate. It has little to do with the materials we have available, and is not quick and easy. Discipleship is a relationship. In fact, the Good News is a relationship. The gospel itself is a relationship, and relationship is the context through which it must be shared.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.