Nowadays there is so much discussion and at the same time, much confusion in Christianity regarding evangelism, discipleship and mission and especially when it is spoken about the way how these three esential aspects of the Christian ministry must interact with each other. In this article I want to suggest you the example of the church from Antioch, that is related in the Book of Acts.
The definition of Evangelism
The first Christian church was planted in the city of Jerusalem and it began in the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down on the earth. The apostles were preaching the Gospel boldly and they were teaching people the Holy Scriptures daily, in the Temple. The persecutions didn’t cease to come, the first martyr was Stephen. After Stephen’s death, the disciples from Jerusalem were scattered all around because of the persecutions.
So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:19–24)(NASB)
Evangelism is the process of preaching the Gospel, of salvation brought by our Lord Jesus Christ and of calling people to become His disciples. So, evangelism is a process of recruit for discipleship. The disciples who were taught well and systematically from the Word of God, when they were in Jerusalem, evangelized. There wasn’t a special under-program for evangelisation, than the one let by the Lord Jesus; to go to the ends of the world and to make disciples of all nations. These people’s hearts were full with the Word of God because they had been studying the Holy Scriptures and so, their life was a proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. They were preaching the Gospel because from the full of their heart, their mouths were speaking. They were a fragrance of the knowldge of the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere. How do you preach the Name of the Lord Jesus and the salvation brought by Him? What do people who work with you know about your Lord and about the salvation brought by Him? Are you a faithful disciple of His? Here is…
The definition of Discipleship
When Barnabas came to Antioch, being sent off by the apostles, and saw those who had been brought to God, he also saw the great need they had for teachers, that would teach them the Word of God. Barnabas was a good teacher, but he knew someone better, that at that moment wasn’t implied in the ministry of the Gospel according to the potential he had. That’s why…
And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch and for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:25–26)(NASB)
Discipleship is the process through which Christians who entered the covenant woth God by faith in Jesus Christ, are taught to keep the Holy Scriptures, that is “all that Jesus Christ has commanded”. Paul and Barnabas taught people from Antioch well and, in a year, at the number of the teachers three more men, prepared by them, were added, as the Book of Acts writes:
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (Acts 13:1)(NASB)
Then in the church of Antioch there were sufficient mature workers prepared to be sent in the ministry of mission.
The definition of Mission
The church from Antioch was flourishing and growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and in number. But the Lord Jesus let the commandment to the disciples to go to all nations, to the ends of the world and to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded. That’s why:
While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper. (Acts 13:2–5)(NASB)
Mission is the process of spreading the Word of God by evangelism and discipleship, the process of planting of new churches in places where they haven’t been until this moment. The mature church is the one who will send and will sustain missionaries to their ministry and the maturity of a church is measured up by this.
How does evangelsim report to discipleship and to mission?
Apostles laid a strong emphasis upon the fact of teaching the Christians God’s Word. This was done daily in the church from Jerusalem, until the beginning of the persecutions of Stephen. Especially because they were teaching people the Word of God, the number of those who came to God was increasing daily still in Jerusalem. When the persecution began, the authorities and other enemies of the Gospel thought that the end of the church from Jerusalem and from everywhere came. But even then, a very powerful spreading of the Gospel took place. This was the result of the well done evangelism in Jerusalem. Now, since a new church appeared in Antioch, Barnabas understood how important was to set to the highest level the process of discipleship, and he did that when he went to bring Apostle Paul. After a year of discipleship, the church from Antioch grew vey much and then they were able to sent missionaries, that, in their turn, repeated the same process everywhere they were going.
Are you a disciple of the Lord? How is the Word of God that you study reflected in your life, in evangelism, in mission daily? If you are the leader of a church or of a mission, what is the place of the Word of God in the whole ministry that you are doing? May God help us to bring the Gospel powerfully to this world, respecting the principles let by the Lord Jesus for evangelism, discipleship and mission.
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Translated by Djugostran Felicia