At random points during the course of a year I get asked to fill in surveys on youth ministry and other fun topics and the other day one of those requests landed again. I’m not sure if you are an avid survey “filler inner” but I’ll be honest with you; I try and do them as quick as possible, I mean, I’ll do it accurately but I’ll do it quick and often not give tonnes of thought to my answers.
(Hopefully that should cut down the number of surveys I am sent from this point on)
As I worked through the page there was a multiple choice question that grabbed my attention. It went something like this;
- What would you say your Youth Ministry mainly focuses on?
This was a promising question; I quickly scanned down to see my choices and was a bit put out by my options.
The choice on the left extreme was “Mostly Evangelism” and as I scanned to the right I saw “Mostly Discipleship” as the other extreme. Naturally the other 2 boxes offered a sliding scale with the middle box giving a 50/50 option. The reason this got to me was because it highlighted a fundamentally flawed perception I have seen repeated, and if I’m being honest, held, throughout the Church with a big C;
The thought that Discipleship and Evangelism is an either/or option
We see it as an “in and out” kind of deal. One of the options is a clean up operation which focuses on us and our stuff, preparing us and training us for something else and the other is when we decide to do something for someone else. In fact we have even pitted them as competing forces and used them to snide at one another. A ministry seen to be “discipleship” orientated is tagged by “evangelistic” ministries as to “me” focused, selfish and inward thinking and the reverse situation labels the evangelistic ministry as being all about numbers and the results without seeking any depth in making disciples.
Even as I write this I find myself shaking my head and wondering if I’m making it up but it has definitely been a repeating argument I have heard in my life.
The thing that confuses me is that I wonder where in the life of Jesus, the greatest disciple maker, does there ever come a point where He thinks like this. From my reading of the Scriptures He didn’t see these two stances as separate at all, He saw them together, wrapped and intertwined, indistinguishable, making it difficult to find where one ended and the other began.
Following Jesus as one of the first disciples looked to be a crazy, all in one affair. They’d go out and heal people, challenge some theology, go fish, teach for a while, heal some people, lead people to follow Jesus, go fish, release a demon, pray……………….. you get the picture. It was not an either/or operation. Jesus focused on doing what the Father was doing and the Father was doing all the above so they had no other choice but to partner with Him in these things.
Following Jesus as a disciple a couple of thousand of days later unfortunately looks different for many of us but I don’t think the Father has changed his stance on what He wants to be doing so why have we? Some of the stuff Jesus had His disciples doing makes no sense to me given their obvious lack of theological knowledge but this was part of their discipleship. He saw no need in training workshops and exclusive intensive knowledge based groupings. He also modelled a need to lead a life that honours and praises the Father; a life that connects with Him on all occasions and fights for health.
Today I call a truce between Discipleship and Evangelism and call them to unite together in our minds. I could call it “Discpelism” but I’m not sure that will catch on so lets just call it; Following Jesus
Ps. For those of you interested I ticked the middle option as the computer didn’t allow me to tick all 5 options – pah