I was talking to a friend today about evangelism and discipleship in diverse contexts. We spoke of successes and failures, movements and mind-shifts, and of laying down and tearing up foundations. We laughed at our mistakes and lamented at some of the directional decisions we’ve made along the way. I briefly described our evangelism/discipleship process to him and he said;
“I’ve never heard about anyone
doing it that way before!”
It occurred to me, that while I’ve alluded to this process before in some previous blog posts, I’ve never really given it focused written attention. In my head, I’d probably call it “Apostolic Discipleship,” but since the word “apostolic” causes church cringes, I’ll refer to it as:
“Elemental Ephesians 4:11 Evangelism/Discipleship.”
Let’s break it down…
It’s Elemental because we seek to utilize what we see as different gospel components or “elements” to effect change in different contexts.
It’s Ephesians 4:11 because we believe that text essentially lays out those components in the context of evangelism and discipleship.
It’s Evangelism/Discipleship because we believe that splitting the two components renders the gospel message inert.
Since “Elemental Ephesians 4:11 Evangelism/Discipleship” is way too geeky, I’ll refer to it as EE4ED from this point on. Yeah, like that’s not geeky…
Let me tell you how EE4ED evolved. After becoming missionaries to the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador, we quickly came to terms with the ineffectiveness of conventional evangelism and discipleship methodologies. Winning souls wasn’t producing saints. What looked good on paper wasn’t imprinting and implementing the kind of gospel transformation written about in the scriptures. Something had to change. Godly innovation was birthed in our desperation.
After many personal and often painful mind-shifts, some of which I detailed in this book, our approach to evangelism/discipleship changed drastically. Now, what I’m going to lay out in the rest of this article is not a solid science or a model to be copied. It is, however, a process which continues to yield fruit, and in part, explains our 11+ generations deep of disciple making and nearly 30 active community fellowships. (Code Talk for “Church Plants”)
In what we call “Discipleship Group,” which happens in our home once a week, a core group of believers on mission come together to discuss, debrief, and dissect our kingdom work. At one of those meetings, we were going to discuss Ephesians 4:11-13, the existence of modern-day apostles and prophets in the church, and how it relates to God’s mission. Knowing in advance that talking about the validity of apostles and prophets in the modern-day church would cause some kick back, I simply said that every believer is, in some way, gifted with the characteristics of an apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor, or evangelist. I further suggested that these characteristics were vital to our mission as a group and made the proposition that we must not only identify those characteristics within ourselves, but we must determine those characteristical needs within the communities we’re working in and, in a sense, match them up.
To explain it more simply, I suggested that when we go out to do mission in a new or existing community, when we assess that community’s spiritual condition, we must always walk away asking ourselves “What is the greatest Ephesians 4:11 need of this community?” Do they need someone with prophetic characteristics, apostolic characteristics, pastoral characteristics, teacherly characteristics, or evangelistic characteristics? By asking ourselves this question of the community at large and identifying those characteristics as individuals within our group dynamic, we were able to match up the needs of the people with the giftings that we individually have.
In fleshing this out, we discovered that the gospel itself has characteristically apostolic, prophetic, didactic, evangelistic, and pastoral components. I’ll lay out what those components look like in Part II of this series. We no longer talk about whether or not apostles and prophets “exist” in the church anymore today, we just act like they do. We will continue to act that way, equipping his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Look for Part II later this week. If you’re not subscribed to my blog, you can do that here or follow me on facebook or twitter. Normally, this is where I would ask a few questions. But, I thought that I would give you the opportunity to ask me some. Do you have any questions?