Saving the Lost, Discipling the Saved - Which Should We Do?
It is a common discussion in church leadership circles:
"Are we going to be a church that reaches the lost or are we going to be a church that disciples the saved?"
It seems that some churches answer this question with an "either-or." The result is a heavy emphasis on one side or the other.
But does it have to be this way? Is an emphasis on one or the other the only answer or is it possible to balance the two?
This is a vital discussion that every church leadership team should grapple with.
Why is it vital?
Because an effective church must do both!
I'll be the first to admit that saying this is much easier than doing it. Balancing the two requires a great amount of intentionality and purpose.
I have found for myself that one of the reasons this is challenging is because most of us tend to lean to one side or the other. For me, discipleship comes far more natural than evangelism. In ministries that I have led in the past, I have had far more emphasis on discipleship. This is my bent. Does this give me a free pass to exclude evangelism? Certainly not! Rather, it requires that I make extra effort to ensure that I am not excluding evangelism from ministry.
I recently finished a four year stint with a youth ministry in Colorado. As I look back on my fours years there, one of things that I realize is that my tendency towards discipleship was replicated in the ministry. We were pretty good at discipling the saved, but the weak point that we had was reaching out to the lost. Evangelism was not emphasized as much as it should have been.
I look back and realize this and hope to have a better balance in ministries that I lead in the future.
I once served under a pastor who was really passionate about balancing discipleship and evangelism in the church. Every week he would emphasize that the church is called to, "Reach the lost and disciple the saved." Hearing this over and over convinced me of the incredible truth of this statement.
A quick glance at the early church demonstrates that both discipleship and evangelism were key aspects of the church and its growth. The most iconic Scripture regarding the early church is found in Acts 2:42. It says that the early Christ followers were devoted to learning from the Apostles teaching, being together in community, and praying together.
The result - many believed and were added to the church.
The early church demonstrated that the church must be about depth and breadth. Another way to say this is that a church must grow deeper by discipling church members in maturity. But it must also grow wider by brining more people to salvation. Both of these are like a circle of life for the church and contribute to its growth and sustainability.
Every church leader has a bent towards discipleship or evangelism.
What is yours?
Neither is wrong, but once you recognize which way you tend to lean you can take the steps needed to balance these in your church or ministry.