By: Alan Hirsch Instead of giving you more theory about the why and the what of discipleship, this week I thought I’d show one of the great benefits that arises from thinking differently (more movementally) about something that we think that we Evangelicals think we already know pretty well…evangelism. Here is evangelism as understood through the lens of the Great Commission which lies at the root of the Jesus movement.
I want to propose that the reader try to put aside what you think you already know about evangelism and simply (and quite literally) adopt the Great Commission as your guide to how we might prioritize discipleship. I suggest that following of the logic of the commission itself, we should all simply disciple people anywhere and everywhere. Furthermore, that we should learn to see discipleship as a lifelong process that includes our pre-conversion experience and, if God does his thing, extends into the lifelong experience of the disciple of Jesus.
In other words we need to reframe evangelism within the context of discipleship rather than the other way around. This is what it means to put evangelism back where it really belongs, as part the Great Commission given to the church to make disciples of the nations. If we fail to practice discipleship from the get go, then as experience has taught us, discipleship as a lifelong pursuit of becoming more like Jesus, simply drops off the agenda. Instead we now become the preachy Bible pushers and guerilla evangelists that everyone seeks to avoid. Discipleship (as the famous Engels Scale indicates) starts way before people are fully converted or born again.
Pre-Conversion Discipleship to Post-Conversion Discipleship Jesus
Now, before you dismiss this as a tad weird for your liking, I suggest that in fact this was precisely the case with Jesus and his followers. The question scholars argue over is when the disciples were actually “born again” or what we might consider “truly converted to Christ.” Some say John 20:22, where Jesus breathes the Spirit on them, and others say that it was actually at Pentecost (Acts 2). I know of none that would say before that! So, even “the Twelve” (and “the Seventy”) were for the most part what we would call “pre-conversion disciples.” What is more, the standard practice in the church in its first three centuries was that people had to prove their adherence to Jesus in discipleship before they were allowed to become part of the church! This was the original purpose of the catechisms. In other words, discipleship started long before a person became a convert. In movements that change the world, discipleship is an ethos—a way of life—not just an optional extra for the more dedicated Christians.
This is what it has to be prioritized and coded into the very life of the church if it is to become a movement. Join the disciple-making track to enhance the church’s potential in the critical task of fulfilling the Great Commission…authentically.
Explore this idea further by viewing my free ebook, DISCIPLISM.