In our last post, Is Your Ministry Successful?, the discussion was centered around how we (in the Church as a whole) gauge success in our ministries. The measure of success that we use is discipleship. We ask these two questions in our student ministry:
- How many students are being discipled?
- After a season, how many students are discipling other students around them?
When you begin to measure things this way it changes the scorecard. It changes the philosophy, the approach, and basically everything else.
Discipleship, similar to many other terms used within the church, has a number of various definitions based on who you ask. Throughout this post, I simply want to clarify what we mean when we say and use the terms ‘disciple’ or ‘discipleship’ and why we measure things through those terms.
I remember taking two specific classes in my undergrad training for youth ministry. One was Evangelism of Youth and the other was Discipleship of Youth. These two separate classes sum up the view, and inherently, the traditional stance that evangelism and discipleship are two different processes. When there is an end to evangelism, there is a beginning of discipleship. Never the two shall meet. Traditionally, evangelism and discipleship would look like this:
This image (borrowed from Greg Nettle and Alex Absalom’s new eBook called ‘One Of’, which can be downloaded for FREE here) depicts an accurate perspective on how discipleship is widely viewed: separate from evangelism. This implies that we are to evangelize to someone until they reach the point of conversion. Then, once they make the decision to surrender to Jesus, the discipleship process begins.
One issue I have with this model is that too often in our student ministries and churches, the process stops at the conversion point. We evangelize, evangelize, evangelize until the person we are evangelizing makes the decision, then the process stops. Think to the last time you had a conversation with someone that talked about the conversions they had in their ministry over any period of time. Did they follow with, “…and those people that made the decision are now in intentional relationships with people investing in them, so that they can go out and invest in others”? I’ve never heard that! Isn’t that what we are called to do, though? The conversation always ends with the amount of conversions on a certain night or at a certain program.
Disciples Who Make Disciples View
Scripturally, I have a hard time finding a place where Jesus tells his disciples to evangelize without pursuing discipleship. He tells them to go make disciples. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out to preach and heal (evangelize), but also tells them to seek out relationships with those people (discipleship). If there is no scriptural grounds for the separation of evangelism and discipleship, then why have we separated them? Or furthermore, why have we placed such an emphasis on evangelism that discipleship gets lost at the point of conversion?
Greg says it like this, “What I have come to believe is that discipleship begins from the moment we meet someone. So, there is a pre-conversion discipleship, as we learn to follow Jesus, and a post-conversion evangelism, as we continue to respond to the challenge of the Gospel.” With that in mind it might look more like this:
As we seek to be incarnational with those students around us, we must begin to realize that we are discipling them from the very beginning, helping them become more like Jesus while showing them who Jesus is. At some point on the discipleship journey there is a conversion moment where the Spirit lives in them. At that moment, it is very crucial for the discipleship process to continue so that they can keep growing in Christ and transplant the Spirit that is in them to others. It’s all about disciples who make disciples.
The Changing Scorecard
This approach and perspective changes the scorecard for us. We don’t pursue the numbers or conversion stats as the main gauge for our ministry. There’s still importance in those stats. However, that’s not how we view success in our student ministry. Instead, the two questions are the new scorecard. It’s worth it when we get out of the way and let the Spirit that is in us work in and through our students, as we begin to see them disciple other students.