What's In a Name?
This week we're going to reveal the name of the church plant.
With each of our children, picking a name was hard.
How do you name a person you haven't met yet?
When you name that person what does it mean for their future?
But when the doctor comes in with the paperwork for the birth certificate, you have to commit.
Naming this new church plant has been equally challenging.
But the time has come to settle on a name (partly for banking purposes).
We'll reveal the name on the site and to our email list this Thursday - so keep an eye on your inbox and online.
In preparation for the big reveal, we'll post each day this week explaining one aspect of the vision for the church plant in Pantops.
Disciple the Skeptic & Evangelize the Believer
We've been using this phrase for awhile. It comes from John Leonard's book Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day.
There's a problem in the American church today. It has separated the concepts of discipleship and evangelism. Christians have pulled them too far apart.
Another pastor in Charlottesville, Don Ward, has written a solid dissertation on discipleship. It's the seedling of our sending church's vision for discipleship through relationship. Don has always kept evangelism as part of discipleship. How has he done this? He shares the gospel with friends, he goes to the Albemarle County Jail to share the gospel, and he preaches the good news of Christ in his sermons.
In other places though, discipleship is just a made up word for a church's branding. Evangelism seems to be something that pushy Christians do. Maybe you're a Christian or you know a Christian who says things like:
• I'm not a great evangelist, but I like to help Christians "go deeper" in faith.
• We don't want to just drink milk, but mature Christians need "solid food" which means discipleship.
• Jesus didn't just say to baptize, but also to teach.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with the above statements, it should bother Christians (and those who engage with them) that there is no one definition of "discipleship" out there today. There is no one clear clincher verse of Scripture that points to what this concept is. It should cause Christians to pause that the word "evangelism" has been taken by the business world as another term for "sales & marketing".
If Christians find themselves saying things like, "You may be an evangelist, but I'm a discipleship person," then they should recognize that they've drifted from the truth of Scripture. It's as if they are saying, "You're in sales, but I'm in branding."
When I read John Leonard's book (and also this book by Everts and Schaupp), I began to wake up and see that I had pulled these concepts apart in an unhelpful way. Rather than dissect the problem any more in this post, let me repeat what I believe is a helpful corrective:
Disciple the Skeptic & Evangelize the Believer
The verb form of"to disciple" is only used four times in the New Testament. Each time it refers to taking someone who was skeptical and moving them to a place of putting their faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus talks about making disciples he implies that it is for those who are outside the people of God.
The verb form of "to evangelize" occurs more than 50 times in the New Testament. It refers to something done to both believers and skeptics. In other words, once someone receives the gospel by faith, they need to keep getting it again and again. Why else would Paul say to the Romans - an established church of Jews and Gentiles - that he longed to come and preach the gospel (literally evangelize) to them?
So how does this corrective work?
Disciple the Skeptic
If you're a Christian, take people where they are. Answer the questions they ask. Tell them how you began to put the dots together in the Christian story. How would anyone help a person learn to fish? You wouldn't give them a pole and say, "You're a fisherman! Now let me disciple you." Instead you would loan someone a rod and reel. You would listen to them when they said, "This feels funny!" You might make thoughtful comments about how it felt funny when you first started fishing. At some point along the way, you would recognize how far they had come. You would mark success as that point when they said to you, "Now I'm a fisherman!"
Evangelize the Believer
One pastor has said, "The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom." In other words, to evangelize (preach the gospel) is not a "sales job". It is the beginning, the power, and the progress of Christianity. The life giving message that Jesus is the true king and that He has won victory over sin for you by His death and resurrection is how someone begins, presses on, matures, and ends the Christian life. The power of this good news is what teaches Christians to identify and say no to ungodliness. So those who believe need to keep hearing this truth again and again. It actually should give them more compassion for the honest questions of the skeptic.
Disciple the Skeptic & Evangelize the Believer - a helpful corrective to Christianity in America today.
As we prepare to plant in Pantops, this is a core part of the new church's DNA.
Keep an eye online this Thursday (August 3rd) for the big reveal!