I began this series with a post titled Evangelism: Making Disciples in which I suggested that the ministry of evangelism is the specific task of making disciples (Matt 28.19). In the last post, Evangelism: What Is a Disciple?, I suggested that a disciple is a person who has learned to believe and live like Jesus. This is not to say that a disciple has learned everything there is to learn about being an orthodox believer. What it means is that a disciple is someone who has come not only to believe in Jesus as the Lord and Messiah but also learning to believe as Jesus believed, committing their life to live by such faith.
So how does the church make disciples in this mode? In a culture that has now become post-Christian, this is a question which must be given careful thought. How are people formed to become disciples when they begin with a belief/story (worldview) that is so radically different from that of Jesus?
What we see Jesus doing in order to make disciples is building relationships with people and inviting them to join him in faith community. This is where I have also seen people actually become a disciples and these are the two components of evangelism I want to stress.
By building relationships with people and inviting them to participate with us in the faith community, we get to know people and they get to know us. They get to witness the practices that good disciples of Jesus live by, such as hospitality and generosity, communion and prayer, etc… In turn and over time, they begin to notice the values and beliefs that stand behind such practices.
Because we are developing a relationship, there is a good give-and-take dialogue that can emerge to address questions about what it is that we do and why we do them (remember that such quality conversations only will come in the midst of the quantity of time spent together). This allows the life that God is calling people to embrace in Christ to be learned in the context of a life lived together.
Building relationships with people and inviting them into the faith community as participants must happen both organically and on various levels. Inviting people to join a large gather worship is important but it is not sufficient in and of itself. Likewise, inviting people to a small group, to our homes for dinner, or to join in an outing with some friends are all important too but neither are they sufficient in and of themselves. We need all of these aspects and the invitations to join need to become so organic that people know they belong and do not feel like an outsider.
In other words, we must become friends with people, inviting them into our lives. In such space, God works, convicting and forming the hearts and minds of people to become disciples.