In this sermon, Pastor Neil talks about The Great Commission and Us– Outreach, Evangelism, and Discipleship; explaining the relationship of these terms. Here are some excerpts:
Our friend Ken Priddy from the GO Center for Church Revitalization in Richmond, who has been with us here at Faith on a couple occasions, distinguishes between three very important terms: outreach, evangelism, and discipleship.
He defines outreach as “the strategic connecting of people in the congregation with people outside the congregation for the purpose of building sustainable relationships. It is these sustainable relationships,” he says, “that give opportunity to evangelism.”
God wants us to be all-in on making these strategic connections with people outside the church.
Evangelism is “the strategic connecting of people outside the Christian faith with a crystal- clear presentation of the Gospel including an opportunity to respond to the call of the Gospel. If the Gospel has not been made crystal-clear,” he cautions, “evangelism has not happened.”
The good news, Priddy points out, is that many congregations have greatly increased outreach in recent years. The bad news is that many churches have mistaken outreach for evangelism. As a result, the Gospel is not being presented clearly.
We are not in the business of outreach for the sake of outreach. The purpose of outreach is to bless people outside the church, to bless our community, and to strategically build these sustainable relationships with people who have no faith involvement or church connection.
Another definition of evangelism that I appreciate comes from J. I. Packer, best known for his classic Knowing God. Packer describes evangelism as “a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners” (Packer,Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 41).
Mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy and forgiveness to sinners: This is what God intends His church and each of us to be. It is an essential and inescapable part of our Great Commission.
Discipleship, says Priddy, is developing others in the Christian faith with an emphasis on obedience to all that Jesus commanded. The objective of discipleship is not increased knowledge or moral improvement, important and valuable as they are. The objective is true life transformation as seen in conduct and not simply in theological or doctrinal understanding, not simply in orthodox Christian beliefs but in godly living.
God wants us to be all-in on discipleship, because the goal of the Great Commission is to“make disciples of all nations” – fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. But we cannot fulfill the Great Commission unless we are also committed to practical, active ministries of outreach and evangelism. This is true for our church as a whole. And it is true for each one of us.