The work of disciples and the church is massive: make disciples of all nations. That work is defined in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as baptizing them…and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands. To be obedient in that work, you will need to connect your strategies for assimilation and discipleship.
Allow me first to address the massive nature of the work (all nations). This is not the work of one disciple or one local church. This is the work of the global church and disciples all over the world. We do not do this work alone. We were given the Spirit and Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age.
Similarly, the work of the body is not intended to be isolated. Discipleship and evangelism are not like train tracks. That imagery pictures separateness even if running in the same direction. Instead, you cannot separate one from the other.
Connecting Your Strategies
Here are two quick examples. A class helping new Christians develop spiritual disciplines is most effective with a combination of assimilation and discipleship. Connect involvement (serving) with growth of the disciple and expressing his/her spiritual gifts.
Discipleship fails without the big rocks of assimilation: expectations, relationships, involvement, and groups. (See my post, Good Assimilation Habits.) Relationships with God, the body, and the world are the medium in which discipleship is carried out. Expectations give meaning and purpose to our obedience and work together. Involvement strengthens and encourages the body as we work together. Sunday School classes and small groups gather consistently to meet God in Bible study.
In every effort, look for opportunities to do both assimilation and discipleship. In serving, why not help disciples discover their spiritual gifts? Why not have a quick devotion together before serving together?
In a Sunday School class or small group, trust grows as you relationships develop. A simple opportunity may be to offer regular fellowships and projects inviting absentees and prospects. Organizing to meet needs may also help.
Discussion as a group about expectations can lead to stronger understandings and feelings of ownership about the expectations. This can reduce conflict and bring a greater sense of unity. In turn, that gives greater confidence and competence to the discipler as he or she invests in another disciple.
When we realize that a strategy or ministry is no longer effective, evaluate what we are doing in assimilation and discipleship. But be careful in your evaluation and adjustments not to unplug the two from each other. I have been in churches where the two ministries competed rather than working together. It is not the way the body functions well. Imagine if the human body had major systems that competed (think digestive and circulatory, etc.).
Instead, connect the two in small and large ways. Check on effectiveness often and look for opportunities for improvement and for connection. Make disciples!
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash