The Cycle of Evangelism and Discipleship

An Unending Process

by Randy Hurst

When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, it was not a new idea to them. Through His teaching and example, Jesus had been preparing His disciples for their task.

The mission before them was not merely to assemble another religious social movement. They were to participate in the divine activity of God in the world, redeeming lost humanity to himself. Just as the disciples had seen the loaves and fishes multiply, they would now participate in perpetuating and multiplying the message Jesus had committed to them.

Each of the four Gospels concludes with an emphasis on the mission to which Jesus committed His disciples at the end of His earthly ministry. The Great Commission passages in all three Synoptic Gospels, as well as in John, clearly present a comprehensive mission that includes evangelism and discipleship.

An accurate and comprehensive definition of evangelism was given by William Temple, the 98th archbishop of Canterbury (1942–44): “Evangelism is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men might come to trust Him as Savior and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.”

Treating evangelism and discipleship separately is an artificial distinction. As a line cannot be drawn between the colors of a rainbow, so evangelism cannot be separated from discipleship in Scripture. Evangelism and discipleship are not two parts of a progression that begins with evangelism and culminates in discipleship. Instead, they compose a cycle. Evangelism should be undertaken with the objective of discipleship, and discipleship should prepare believers for evangelism.

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