“Making Disciples” is a Unitary Act

Over the last month or so, I’ve written about the problem we have in the American church-related to discipleship.  (see We’ve got discipleship all wrong and Penetrating Post-Christian Communities with the Gospel and in a number of other places).

But the issue keeps coming up in numerous posts and in conversations with pastors. This week it came up in some talks with other pastors in a DMin class, with a pastor seeking counsel on how to move his church forward on a better missional path, and with a future church planter with whom I had an appointment.

Thesis One: “Making disciples” is a unitary act.

Here’s what I mean. When we divide disciple-making into parts (i.e. evangelism and discipleship) we inevitably emphasize one and de-emphasize the other. This almost always results in the proclamation of the gospel being pushed to the margins as a necessary aspect of what it means to be a follower of Christ. (N.B. I am not saying “necessary” in the sense of needed to gain salvation. But I am saying “necessary” as a proof of salvation [see Irritating implications of favorite Scriptures]).

Thesis Two:  Proclaiming the gospel develops disciples spiritually.

When we allow disciples to claim Christ but not proclaim Christ, we create low-impact high-maintenance “disciples.” Exactly what we don’t want to do.

Standing for Christ causes spiritual growth. Proclaiming Christ inflames the heart for Christ. Making disciples is unitary. It begins with and continues with proclaiming Christ. If we are unwilling to risk rejection by others because of our proclamation of Christ, it truncates our own spiritual growth and development. Which brings me full circle back to We’ve Got Discipleship all Wrong.

Marty Schoenleber, Jr. is the author of five books and a contributor to A Heart for the Community, (Moody Press 2009).

3 thoughts on ““Making Disciples” is a Unitary Act

  1. A lot of the problem hinges on what we mean by “belief/believe” as in John 3:16. or Romans 10:9 If we understand that belief/believe is the beginning of a process of transformation leading to a life of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all its implications, then making disciples is indeed unitary. We proclaim the Good News by our every word and deed.

    As James points out in 3:9-10, we cannot bless the Father and curse man with the same tongue, by extension we cannot live life in conformity with the world and proclaim Christ crucified and risen at the same time. I am convinced that “witness” in Acts 1:8 is 1)non-avoidable for the Christian, 2) demands a witness through my life, 3) demands a witness through my words and then 4) is proof positive that I am imbued with the Holy Spirit.

    We can no more separate evangelism from discipleship than we can consider steel to be simply iron or simply alloying elements.

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