Aren't All Christians Supposed to Make Disciples, Be Witnesses, and Evangelize?

A notable blog post caught my attention yesterday entitled:

What If Not All Are Called As Disciple Makers? – Part One”  Please read that brief post in its entirety before going on to read the rest of this one.

It’s reminiscent of something I read by John M. Frame some time ago.

Frame stated:

“Christ commands his church to evangelize the whole world; I am a member of the church; therefore Christ commands me to evangelize the whole world.” Much grief is wrought by pastors who take commands in the Bible that are intended for the church as a whole and impose them on individuals, as if each individual had to do the whole job himself. Thus individuals are led to think that they must pray all day, evangelize their neighborhoods, become experts in Scripture, Christianize the institutions of society, feed all the poor in the world, and so forth. No! These commands are for the church as a whole, and individuals contribute to these purposes in accordance with their particular gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12-14).

-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 299.

 

In a nut shell, the proposition is made that all Christians within the church perform different functions, but not all within the church must perform the same functions.  I believe that’s true.  1 Corinthians 12:18 etc.  Every person within the body of Christ is gifted differently and have unique characteristics, perceptions, expressions, and gifts to offer.  Those gifts and talents may be used to glorify God, edify the body of Christ, and reach beyond our skull shaped kingdoms in the expansion of Jesus’ Kingdom. Further, it alludes to the idea that if you are involved in Kingdom work in a supporting role but not directly involved in the actual and personal making of disciples yourself, then it’s okay.

 

Bryant L. Myers, in his book “Walking With The Poor” states:

 

“Since the Christian faith is a missionary faith, then being a Christian means being a witness. The word gospel means “message” or “good news,” and messages are not messages unless they are announced. The word evangelism means “to announce the news.” When Christians say that they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they are also saying that they intend to announce this fact in every facet of their lives and by every means available to them: by life, deed, word, and sign. For Christians, being a witness is integral to who we are and what we believe.”*

 

While Bryant focuses on “being a witness,” it is my contention that his argument is equally valid for Making Disciples and Evangelism.  I do not think that Making Disciples (Matthew 28:18,19,20), Witnessing (Acts 1:8) or Evangelizing (Mark 16:15), is relegated to any limited subset within Christendom nor to any sub-set of ecclesiastical positions within the Church.  Also, I believe that the command to make disciples is a command for individuals as well as corporate structures to make disciples of individuals and thereby the ethnic groups (nations) of which those ethnic groups consist. The command to “make disciples,” is one of the commands which Jesus told his disciples they must teach to others. The assumption is that others will follow suit. That is an inescapable logical loop in the Great Commission. Without the preaching of the gospel, it is impossible to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples. See Acts 14:21 etc. Every disciple of Jesus is to make disciples of Jesus. Whether it takes a community of believers to make a disciple is irrelevant. Of course it does. “One seeds, another waters, and God causes growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) Disciple Making cannot be overly corporatized by the Ekklesia nor hyper-individualized. Both aspects, the ‘all of you’s’ AND the ‘each of us’ (Ephesians 4:7, Romans 14:12, Romans 15:2, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 12:6, Romans 12:4, Romans 12:1 etc.) must be held in fruitful tension.

 

So, when I read Scott Lance’s post over at Missio Alliance, and he asked this question…

 

What if all are not called as Disciple-Makers?

Followed by this statement…

“I do not believe all Christians are called to be disciple-makers.”

 

My interests were peaked.  While Scott doesn’t get to the answer of the question yet as ‘Part II” is supposed to come out today, I can appreciate his approach and look forward to reading his propositions and conclusions. For now, a few questions;

Are all followers of Christ supposed to be disciple makers? 

Are all followers of Christ supposed to make other people ‘fishers of people?”

What biblical warrant is there if you answered ‘no’ to either of the first two? 

 

 

*Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Revised and Expanded Edition) (Kindle Locations 6462-6466). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

0 thoughts on “Aren't All Christians Supposed to Make Disciples, Be Witnesses, and Evangelize?

  1. I’m not sure the fallacy of division applies in this case.

    Not sure why, but it just seems to open the door to “that applies to you, if its your calling, but not me.”

    Examples:
    * The church is commanded to make disciples, but I don’t have to since I’m not gifted.

    * The church is commanded to serve the poor, but I don’t think it applies to me.

    * I like to witness, so I’ll take that one and apply it to me.

    What I think happens is one is confusing the mission with means of expression to accomplish that work.

    I am to evangelize, but not in the same expression of evangelism that another is. I witness to my network, another witnesses to theirs.

    I am to serve the poor, but in a way that I am equipped to do so. I can help a disabled person by cutting grass as a witness, another can fight sex trafficking or third world poverty.

    I am to train church leaders in a particular region of the world, but others are to train leaders elsewhere.

    Let’s not confuse the mission with the methodology.

    • Miguel says:

      Evangelism Coach,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. I’m also not sure the fallacy of division applies in this case. But, for those among us who need to know why, I’ll have to chew on it for a bit.

      I’m intrigued by your last statement, and again it needs to be developed. Where is the intersection of mission and methodology? For that matter where does missiology, ecclesiology, and practical theology overlap?

      Always like the statement, “The Church doesn’t have a Mission, the Mission has a church.”

  2. Robert Aronson says:

    I agree with the author you cite, but I also agree with you. Personally, it doesn’t seem that you or the author disagree with each other either. It’s a matter of rhetoric I think, on definitions of words. For example, when many people hear the word “evangelism” they think of people like preachers and door-to-door folks. But others have a definition of evangelism that is more defined as what we might think of as just “witnessing”, i.e. not being ashamed in word or deed of the Gospel.

  3. Carolyn says:

    What are you thinking? When someone becomes a believer and experiences the life in Christ Jesus, as he designed it to be, these things are really quite naturally accomplished in them.

    If this does not occur, at some level, then perhaps the way new believers are being introduced to the life of Christ is not quite what it was intended to be.

    This is supposed to be love. Love expresses itself. Love enjoys talking about the beloved. Love wants to share itself. Love operates with gifts and messages and togetherness. If these are missing from your believers, maybe they have a theology, but they don’t have a love relationship.

  4. Will James says:

    I think our real problem is understanding what these words mean. All are called to evangelize, disciple, and witness; all are not called to verbally, actively perform these tasks. Our very life styles should be performing these tasks. Have casual friends noticed a difference in your life and attributed it to your relationship with Christ? All are called to serve, but all have different abilities and personalities.
    Serve God where you are, some He called to be.

    • Will:

      I don’t think people notice a difference in a person’s life and attribute it to Christ.

      I think that’s an impossible leap for a variety of reasons:

      1. At least in North america, many people are too distracted to think deeply or to even notice that your actions are different than other well meaning secular people.

      2. The growing secularism leads people to simply think one is a nice person, rather than a Christian.

      3. We secretly hope that people guess correctly at our motives (they are Christian), when they can create their own options (they were raised in a nice home, they are a nice person, they have money to be nice, they must be motivated to serve, etc. . . .

      4. When someone does notice, it may lead to a question of “why are you different?” which then may give an inroad to verbally talking about Jesus.

      I think we all must verbally witness in many different ways.

      Chris
      EvangelismCoach.org

    • Miguel says:

      Will,

      Thanks for the first time comment. It’s brief and provoking. You’ve got me wondering though, when you say all are not to verbally evangelize, witness, and make disciples, what do you mean?

      Can any of those things be done without the communication of words, verbally or otherwise?

  5. Claudia Labrador says:

    “Some He called ‘to be'”? I am always deer-struck by that phrase. What does that even mean?

  6. Jim Wright says:

    John Frame was one of my professors at Westminster Theological Seminary back in the ’70s, and he had a huge impact on me. The foundations he helped lay in my life have served me well. And I totally agree with his point in your quote from him.

    • Miguel says:

      Jim, what do you think is his point in the context of his quote?

      • Jim Wright says:

        I’m not hung up on whether the Great Commission is to individual believers or the Church. Regardless, we each do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission as we are faithful in using the gifts He gives us, according to His calling for each of us. We are not all suppose to look alike or act alike. God in His sovereignty bestows gifts and calls individuals such that the individual parts make up the whole.

        I think that was Dr. Frame’s main point, with which I wholly agree.

        Evangelism and discipleship do not involve some cookie cutter conformity to any particular approach, gifting or calling. Too often some have tried to make us all look and act like them and their approach to those mandates. That’s rubbish, and robs us of the wonderful diversity of being the multifaceted Body of Christ, which brings unique capabilities – each according to his or her own gift and calling.

        If we each do our part as equipped and called by God, in the context of a diverse, participatory Body of Christ, evangelism and discipleship will be unleashed to a new degree. That’s been our experience here in Virginia.

  7. I believe the key to interpreting the quote I posted is the following:

    “Thus individuals are led to think that they must pray all day, evangelize their neighborhoods, become experts in Scripture, Christianize the institutions of society, feed all the poor in the world, and so forth.”

    All of these things are good and commanded by God. And none of them are especially directed toward a subset of believers (unless we define “become an expert on Scripture” in a purely academic sense). Frame wants to relieve some of the unnecessary pressure applied to so many that all of these are top priority. Some Christians are called by God to primarily defend the precious lives of unborn children; some are called to give a cup of cold water to the poor in Jesus’ name; some to prayer for multiple hours a day for the various ministries around the world, etc (cf. 1 Cor. 12). All are called to live in devotion to their common Savior. But it’s a matter of emphasis. We should all evangelize as God opens doors, pray fervently, love the poor, etc. But there are so many hours in the day and we can’t do all of them with the same intensity everyday, and God knows that and understands. I think Frame’s point is Christian leaders shouldn’t impose a stricter expectation on Christian obedience than God himself does.

  8. Laurie Norris says:

    I love watching the wee kids playing team sports. I remember a soccer game where the ball was completely surrounded by little kids trying to get a kick at it. The coach broke it up and stood them all in their positions.As soon as the action stared, the clump reformed. The fans loved it.
    Hockey is another team sport where kids have to learn to pass the puck, play their position or their man, keep their heads up, be aware of teammates and not just chase the puck around.

    At the other extreme (professional sports), practitioners are often more concerned with contracts and conditions. Much of the beauty and lessons of team play are lost. We are told that winners win and then go to Disneyland drinking Coke. (unless there is a drug scandal)

    Our perspectives are dynamic and change as we move through our lives. Our responsibilities and understandings also change as we grow older.

    This is a quote from John–

    In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

  9. Marshall says:

    while the logical fallacies will here & there apply, more egregious the failure to recognize corporate dynamic in preaching Christ and for making disciples unto Him. Humbly, I depend upon my brothers & sisters in this work which cannot be accomplished by myself alone — no more than Jesus might have finished His work without 12 chosen men alongside Him. The Testimony is woven to our acting as one in the Song.
    If you preach Christ and your brothers in Christ do not cooperate in the same in the Holy Spirit; in action, your work of preaching will be severely challenged and may even fall by the wayside. The Gospel is a corporate voice and Christ is the Way corporate, akin as John Bunyan conveyed by allegory during the 17th century.

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  11. denbarth says:

    We westerners read the scriptures through an individualistic lens. We forget that the NT was written to people who lived out their faith in small groups – house church was the norm, not the exception. So 1 Cor 12 etc wasn’t about filling a slot in an organization, it was being face to face. living and serving together. Mission was what they did – together, but obviously each member did what they could as well. One can’t be together for everything. I cannot conceive of a follower of Jesus who doesn’t share the burden and joy of evangelism and discipleship, of “mission.” If one loves, because Jesus loves us first, how could we not speak up about Jesus to someone who is lost and hurting? How could we not care for them, whatever their needs?

    I tend to view the person who questions if everyone is called to evangelize as someone who is divorced from others in need, lost and searching. If they knew those persons personally, how could they not speak and act in compassion and love, if Jesus lives in them? This seems like a crazy question that only can be asked if one is holed up in a ‘safe’ cluster that avoids being with the crowds that Jesus viewed like sheep without a shepherd and was moved with compassion.

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