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What is the End Goal of Evangelism?

7 minutes to read

A group of well-intentioned Christians in our city came together for a few months every alternate year to pray together. In addition, they would invite their unbelieving friends, colleagues, and students from different colleges for a three-day gospel event. As expected, people from different backgrounds would turn up for this event. There were songs, choreographed dances, and interactive sessions for the attendees. The organisers made efforts to present the gospel faithfully, and many seemed to respond to it. Subsequently, a group of counsellors would guide such responders by giving them further steps to grow as Christians. In all this, the organisers were content with the number of people who supposedly responded to the gospel call. And that was it! The process stopped there! There was no mention of getting integrated into a healthy local church or the importance of biblical discipleship.

Sadly, this is the usual modus operandi for many Christians and churches in today’s world. The focus is merely on the number of converts or responders. However, are numbers the end goal of evangelism? This question needs a biblical answer. Many today seem to have misconstrued the purpose of the Lord's Great Commission to be a version of evangelism that abruptly stops at conversion. 

The goal of evangelism is to make disciples of our Lord.

Of course, as Christians, we ought to be vigorously interested in evangelism. People come to the saving knowledge of God only through the gospel. And so, preaching the gospel is vital for us to live out the Lord's mandate for our lives. But, is the end goal of evangelism just merely sharing the gospel? Is there something else that is mandated for us? The answer is yes. The purpose of evangelism is not only to make unbelievers believers; it is more than that. In this article, we will explore the biblical goal of evangelism.

The Goal of Evangelism
Before His ascension to heaven, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20). This commission infers that unbelievers, by nature, will not come to us and take a spiritually inclined interest in the gospel. The church must make an effort to go. However, the focus of our going must be more than just merely proclaiming the gospel message. The focus of our Lord's Commission in the above verse is to make disciples—the goal of evangelism. Christian discipleship aids us in our journey of becoming more and more like Christ Jesus. 

The commission prescribes certain indispensable aspects of making disciples:

  1. Preaching the gospel to unbelievers.
  2. Baptizing believers.
  3. Baptized believers become members of the church.
  4. Teaching them the Word.
  5. Equipping them to serve.

The well-intentioned Christians that I had mentioned at the start of this article may have thought that God would care for those who believed the gospel and that there was nothing else required on their part as evangelists. Yes, a clear understanding of the gospel is the beginning of a believer's Christian journey. But what do the scriptures reveal regarding God's means of caring for His people? To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” A disciple is actually a learner, and teaching is essential to discipleship. All gospel believers should receive these teachings systematically so that each disciple is grounded in God's Word. The goal of evangelism is to make disciples of our Lord.

The Local Church: Ground Zero for Discipleship
With that settled, we arrive at another question—what is the ground zero for discipleship? We live in an age where para-church organisations have occupied the scene along with the organised church. While such organisations have noble commitments towards evangelism, discipleship, or something else, there is no biblical premise for them to become substitutes for the local church. 

Discipleship by the Word of God will aid a believer in being a disciple of Christ, both in belief and practice.

The purpose of this article is not to undermine the work of para-church organisations. We must acknowledge that God has used para-church ministries to aid the church at various times. However, we must resolve to recognise that these organizations can never become substitutes for the organised life and ministry of a local church. Instead, members involved with para-churches ought to be part of a local church, support the church's vision, and even help revitalize the church if such a need arises.

Despite such organisations' focus on discipleship, it is common practice for that sort of discipleship to happen outside of the life of a local church. There is absolutely no biblical warrant for this. Discipleship is intertwined with the life of the church. We understand from the reading of the Bible that people, after they had believed the gospel, were added to the church (Acts 2:47; 5:14). This shows that God's ordained arena for the discipleship of believers is the local church. Christ established the church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:10-12) and appointed leadership to teach, oversee and build it (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:9). The leadership equips fellow disciples to serve the church (Ephesians 4:11, 12). Christ's disciples also encourage and build up other disciples (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Such work finds real meaning and life when it takes place among a particular local body of believers and not apart from it. Therefore, every believer should strive to be a committed local church member. Neglecting its gatherings is not an option (Hebrews 10:25). 

With that in mind, let's return to the first question—what should we do after sharing the gospel? Guide them to a healthy local church where the leadership teaches the Word faithfully and spiritually cares for the flock. 

Once that's done, the various aspects of discipleship are apparent according to Jesus' design in the Great Commission. Jesus' master plan for discipleship involves baptizing and teaching all that the Lord has commanded (Matthew 28:19). A disciple comes under the leadership of disciple-makers—the church's leaders. The leaders then systematically teach God's Word and help the disciples obey and observe God's commands. The teachings of God's Word progressively shape a disciple's life. Therefore, discipleship by the Word of God will aid a believer in being a disciple of Christ, both in belief and practice.

Paul echoed the same when he wrote to Timothy, a disciple and a leader, to disciple men who could disciple others (2 Timothy 2:2). Elsewhere, Paul mentions that the leaders are responsible for equipping the church for the ministry so that the church would be built up (Ephesians 4:12). He goes on to assert that such ministry in the church is the means through which believers progress in maturity (Ephesians 4:13). 

Paul says this maturity in Christ is also the goal of discipleship. He writes to the Colossian believers in Colossians 1:28-29, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” He gives the Roman believers this blessed assurance in Romans 8:29 that “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.

Therefore, biblical and intentional discipleship is not an option but essential for the maturity of a believer; it is a necessary means to our glorious end. The next time you share the gospel and, in God's mercy, the person responds positively to the presentation of the gospel, think about the person's transition into a life of biblical discipleship at a healthy local church.

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