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Evangelism or Discipleship: Which One is More Important?

Dallas Willard said, “Each church needs to be able to answer two questions. First, do you have a plan for making disciples? Two, does your plan work?”

I’m wrestling with this right now in my ministry. We are a church that primarily does discipleship and community through small groups, but I’m also experimenting with other ways like one-on-one discipleship and mentoring. We have young, single moms being mentored by older, mature women in the faith. I personally meet with people for one-on-one discipleship weekly.

I believe discipleship can take many forms, and there is no cookie-cutter approach. We’re trying all sorts of things to help people grow in their faith, but as I said, small groups are the primary vehicle.

I’d love to hear how you approach and tackle discipleship in your church. What are you doing to present your people mature in Christ?

Os Guiness said, “Evangelism in some ways is easier, but genuine discipleship is harder.” I think there’s some truth to that. You can lead someone to Christ in five minutes, but it takes years to disciple someone. In reality, it happens throughout our lifetime. We never really stop growing in our faith.

Robert Munger said, “Evangelism is the spontaneous overflow of a glad and free heart in Jesus Christ.” When we grow in our faith and become more and more spiritually mature, we naturally want to share the gospel and see more and more people come to Christ. Yes, new Christians are often gung-ho about sharing their newfound faith, but to sustain that over a lifetime will take someone growing in their faith and becoming a true disciple.

It’s been a wonderful whirlwind year of seeing the lost come to Christ and baptizing children, youth, and adults, but now that our church is becoming more and more full of baby Christians/new believers, I desperately want to see them get plugged into a small group, read their Bible, grow in their faith, and enjoy the wonders of the gospel. The longer I pastor, the more I find myself landing in the middle of the evangelism vs. discipleship debate or question.

Catalyst Conference and Andy Stanley once talked on “The Tension Is Good” and said that some things and some times are meant to have a healthy tension that is not resolved. It’s supposed to hang in the air and bring healthy discussion and debate among your team. I believe this is one of those tension issues.

So the next time someone asks you if you’re an evangelism or discipleship guy (or gal), answer, “Both!” and be proud of it. You’re in good company.

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Greg Atkinson is an author, speaker, consultant, and the Founder of the First Impressions Conference and Worship Impressions—both specializing in guest services and hospitality.