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World Congress on Evangelism, 1966
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DISCIPLE MAKERS - KEY TO EVANGELISM
Lorne Sanny

For world evangelism in 1966, our resources are tremendous. One of every three persons in the world is a nominal Christian.

Further, every major language group has a body of evangelical Christians.

Yet how many of these persons are helping the cause of world evangelism? How many church members ever lead someone to Christ? In America, at least, certainly less than two per cent.

World evangelism is not forwarded by nominal Christians, nor necessarily by evangelical Christians, but by a certain kind whom Jesus called disciples.

Only the disciple has a message. He takes time to look at Jesus and listen to Him, hence can witness to what he has seen and heard (Acts 22:14,15)... He has a motivation: “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). He has a method - Jesus said, “...Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). . Following Christ, he learns how to catch men.

Making disciples was central in Jesus’ ministry. Though great multitudes followed Him, He chose only the totally dedicated to help Him in His ministry.

This is where He told us to begin. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...” (Matthew 28:19,20). The command is not merely to go, but to make disciples. Further, we must make disciple makers. Jesus said, “...make disciples... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. . .” The “all” includes making more disciples, who will in turn multiply.

This emphasis, prominent in the early church, has been largely obscured in later centuries. Therefore we again approach world evangelism with the task of multiplying disciples — beginning with those we have and teaching them to make disciples.

But to do this we must first have a pattern, a picture of what a disciple is. The Scriptures give us this pattern.

First, a disciple is identified with the Person of Christ. He openly confesses Christ before men (Romans 10:9,10), is baptized (Matthew 28:19,20), and takes up his cross (Luke 9:23). He is publicly identified with Christ whether this is popular or unpopular.

Second, a disciple is obedient to the Word of Christ. Jesus said, “...If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples” (John 8:31). The disciple seeks to obey the Scriptures in every area of life. Third, he bears fruit in the work of Christ. One fruit is love. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John l3:35). Another fruit is lives influenced towards Christ.’ “...Go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).

But how do we make disciples - those who are identified with, obedient to, and bearing fruit for Christ?

One effective method is that of the disciple-maker’s gathering a few potential disciples into a “koinonia” fellowship group. Canon Samue1 Shoemaker said, “Every congregation needs two things - the formal service for worship, the informal gatherings for fellowship.” Robert Raines says, “A small group is necessary for ...personal and mutual encouragement. The strategy for our time is the small-group approach.”

Such small groups of two or three, at most ten or twelve, are at the heart of disciple-making. The Church has largely failed to encourage such groups, but they are beginning to spring up around the world, and we should recognize their value and potential.

Unless the groups center around testimony, Scripture, and prayer, however, they become mere social gatherings, without disciple-making dynamic.

Giving testimony in the group, the disciple identifies himself with Christ and commits himself further. Bible-based testimony is a powerful spiritual weapon (Revelation 12:11).

In order to obey the Scriptures the disciple must know them. “He who has my commandments and keeps them...” (John 14:21). Bishop Stephen Neill says, “Competent knowledge of the Bible is the only basis for effective Christian witness.”

No one bears fruit without prayer. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

The disciple-maker acts as leader, not lecturer, helping members individually and in the group. The group member learns to give testimony among sympathetic Christians before testifying outside. He shares with others his own study and meditation in the Scriptures. He learns to pray, claiming the promise of Matthew 18:19.

Thus prepared by the koinonia group in testimony, the Scriptures, and prayer, he now comes to the critical matter of learning to do evangelism. He should be trained on the job or in the battle. “Learning the art of Christian service,” says Bishop Newbigin, “must largely be by doing.”

The Twelve watched Jesus as He did evangelism. Then He sent them out, training them through guided experience. The disciplemaker, who is a veteran of the battles for which he is training new recruits, should show them how to do evangelism, then help them actually begin to do it on their own.

He should first give them a tool, a method, some simple outline which incorporates the basic Gospel message concerning the Person and work of Christ. Having an outline to follow gives the disciple confidence and liberty. He learns, of course, to use whatever method or tool fits the opportunity.

The disciple may be guided into formally structured evangelistic endeavors, such as counseling at a Billy Graham Crusade or helping inquirers after a church service. Or he may join in informally structured activities, learning to talk with people personally after the Gospel is presented at a luncheon or tea by testimony, message or film. The koinonia group itself may plan evangelistic events in which its members can participate.

The best training in creative evangelism, however, is through everyday, unstructured channels of witness in office,
neighborhood, among family and friends.

From these experiences the disciple learns he can talk with people about Christ, that friendship opens opportunities, that the Holy Spirit gives power, and that he needs more answers. He goes back to his church, his koinonia group, for answers and encouragement. He is not theorizing now; he is practicing.

Thus he continues to come in for fellowship and instruction and to go out for evangelism. He has his Cave of Adullam and Valley of Rephaim.

When in due time he reaps, he must help disciple his converts, getting them into a church, into koinonia fellowships, and eventually into doing their part in evangelism. He will have become a disciple, will be making disciples, and at length will make disciple-makers, following Paul’s method of entrusting what he has heard and learned to faithful men able to teach others (II Timothy 2:2).

“And the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied...” (Acts 6:7).


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Last Revised: 10/25/06
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Wheaton College 2006