We Need to Evangelize the Church
Before we send church members to evangelize the world, we first need to thoroughly evangelize our church members. You might think, Why do we need to evangelize believers? They already believe! We don’t usually think about evangelizing the church. Instead, we’ve come to understand evangelism as being for unbelievers and discipleship as being for believers (if we think that discipleship is for anyone at all). But this is a false and dangerous separation because the Bible doesn’t divide evangelism from discipleship. That is, the gospel isn’t only for the purpose of converting unbelievers; the gospel is the church’s glorious story, and we need to continually rehearse it to one another and with one another.
How does this work? We thoroughly “evangelize” church members by discipling every member in the gospel and constantly reminding them of the gospel. When we do this, the gospel defines the entire life of a Christian. It’s not something we believed in at some point in the past with no need for it anymore. As Paul equivocally declares, the gospel is “of first importance” in the church (1 Cor. 15:3).
This is an excerpt from The Discipleship Gospel (available in eBook and paperback). Get a discount by using code ‘TBP’ at checkout when you order here.
Our faith in the gospel is what empowers us to follow Jesus daily. As we learned earlier, following Jesus is living a new life defined by dying to ourselves every day and living in the power of Christ’s resurrection. This requires that we, the church, continually rehearse the glorious, life-defining story of the gospel with one another. Such rehearsal keeps us crystal clear on what the gospel is. It equips us to encourage one another with the gospel, and it also prepares us to proclaim it to others who are lost and without Christ in the world.
When you have a way of intentionally discipling people in the “elementary doctrine of Christ” (as we considered in the previous chapter), it’s a game changer. This elementary doctrine must include the gospel. It’s surprising how many discipleship curricula don’t train people on the gospel and how to articulate it fully yet succinctly—indicators that even the disciple-making leaders who are writing these discipleship curricula have separated evangelism from discipleship. We fully believe (and have experienced) that the best way to discover the truth of the gospel is in the context of intentional, discipling relationships.
Whatever discipleship curriculum you use, be sure it trains people with the gospel and how to articulate it. And make sure that it actually calls people to repent and believe in the gospel and to begin following Jesus. A discipleship curriculum that includes these gospel aspects is an evangelistic tool that also empowers believers to rehearse the gospel with one another. It can be used to disciple interested unbelievers, eager new believers, and fourth soil believers to become disciple-making catalysts of the church. It also helps us to see that discipleship becomes evangelism.