What part does discipleship play in the Great Commission? What should be the goal of the church? What is Jesus’ priority in terms of the church’s task?
Many evangelicals would answer using the word “evangelism.” That was clearly Jesus’ passion, after all. But DNA co-founder, Dr. Bob Moffitt, suggests this is actually a misreading of the Great Commission. He writes that “the evangelical/Pentecostal church … has often, in practice if not by intention, misplaced the emphasis of Jesus’ Great Commission. We have emphasized evangelism rather than discipleship.”
Evangelism is essential, to be sure. But when we make evangelism—rather than discipleship—the central task of the church, we misappropriate energies and assets. We count raised hands rather than nurturing changed lives. Rather than cultivating soldiers we make babies and leave them to fend for themselves.
Such practices skew the results as well as the task. By some measures, 47 million Romanians have received Christ in the last 2000 years. The problem? Only 22 million people live in Romania. Bob quotes church statesmen Oswald Chambers, “There is a passion for souls that does not spring from God but from the desire to make converts to our point of view.” Maybe we should be less concerned about how high we can push the numbers and more concerned about making disciples.
Bob Moffitt is a committed churchman who has been laboring in local-church contexts in many countries of the world for 30 years. He recently captured years of reflections about this subject in a paper, “To Disciple – The Priority of the Great Commission.”
Here are some excerpts:
- I am writing because I feel compelled to address two serious errors I see within our tradition that have had significant negative consequences for the role God has given the Church. These errors are clearly being used by our Enemy in his war against Christ’s Kingdom. I find that my brothers and sisters within the evangelical tradition are often prisoners of the paradigms of traditional evangelicalism. As a result they either don’t see the errors or else ignore them.
- Some of the things I say in this article sound harsh. But I say them because I care so much for the Church and the Kingdom Jesus established to demonstrate His “manifold wisdom and power” (Eph. 3:10).
- Church planting often follows evangelism. Church planting should be a good thing. But when it is disconnected from discipleship—equipping people to serve in their world like Jesus served in his—such churches often turn people away from the very God these churches supposedly worship. Outsiders look at this kind of church as irrelevant to the brokenness of their community. They see a local church that seems to be concerned only about spiritual things and in a future by-and-by. If we believe the Gospel is not only the power to save souls but to transform – to bring healing to individuals, families, communities and whole societies – something must be wrong.
Go here to read Bob’s paper. And then give us your comments. Bob is looking for input before possibly publishing the paper in booklet form.
– Gary Brumbelow