In previous posts (here and here) I suggested that since the gospel contains truths for all aspects of temporal and eternal life, then “gospelism” (aka evangelism), is anything we do, whether word or deed, which reveals these truths to others.
But the question may arise (at least, it did in my thinking), “If gospelism is basically just teaching and living the truths of the gospel, then what is the difference (if anything) between gospelism and discipleship?” After all, doesn’t discipleship take place when we reveal the truths of Scripture to others through word and deed? Isn’t this the same as gospelism?
Gospelism and Discipleship are Similar
I think the first thing to remember is that disciples are followers of Jesus, whether or not they have believed in Him for eternal life.
I find that a lot of people think that only believers in Jesus can be disciples of Jesus, but this is not supported by Scripture.
A cursory reading of the gospels reveal that there were many disciples of Jesus who were not believers in Jesus. People followed Jesus and learned from Jesus for many reasons, even though not all of them believed in Him for eternal life. Judas is the prime example.
So I take from this that discipleship is open to all people, whether they believe in Jesus for eternal life or not. This is true of gospelism as well, so at least in this regard, gospelism and discipleship are identical.
The Primary Difference between gospelism and discipleship
But there seems to be a few primary differences between gospelism and discipleship. As I read Scripture, it seems that discipleship is more intentional than gospelism.
That is, rather than simply living the gospel as a way of life before anybody and everybody, discipleship is when we live and reveal the gospel to a select group of individuals for an extended period of time so that they might learn to model their life after ours and ultimately, after Jesus.
So here are a few distinctives of discipleship which separate it from gospelism:
- While gospelism is somewhat random in who it touches, we either seek out others to disciple, or they seek us out. It is intentional in who it touches.
- Discipleship must be regular. It is for the same group of people, over an extended period of time, with a specific goal in mind.
- All who are discipling others must themselves be a disciple of someone else.
So while gospelism is for all people, discipleship is when we gospelize a select group of individuals.
Tomorrow, I will share a story showing how some of this looks in real life.
See more on this gospelism series:
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 1)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 2)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 3)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 4)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 5)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 6)
Want to learn more about the gospel? Take my new course, "The Gospel According to Scripture."
The entire course is free for those who join my online Discipleship group here on RedeemingGod.com. I can't wait to see you inside the course!
Peter Kirk says
Thanks for this. It reminds me of how Rick Warren was recently ridiculed, for example by Henry Neufeld, for suggesting that people took a 60-day trial of Christianity. I suppose these would be people trying out discipleship for a couple of months without actually believing, or at least committing themselves in true faith. Is that the sort of thing you had in mind when you wrote “discipleship is open to all people, whether they believe in Jesus for eternal life or not”? Would you agree with me (see my comments on Henry’s post) that Warren’s suggestion is actually quite a sensible one?
Randy Siever says
What is really interesting is that Jesus never asked his followers to go make “believers” or “converts” of all nations and tribes. He asked them to go make disciples. Period. And when did the original “Disciples” become Christians? Nobody knows. Under our current obsession with counting, we could argue that didn’t happen for sure until Pentacost (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit sort of ends the discussion, I would think). So what were they before then? Disciples.
Matt. 28 verses 16 and 17 (the ones we skip over to get to the Great Commission) offer a disturbing moment of insight. The eleven (twelve, minus Judas) gather on the mountain where Jesus told them to meet him. They arrive, and when they see Jesus they begin to worship him. All good, right? But wait, there’s more: “But some doubted” says the NIV. The Message version says it this way: v.17: “The moment they saw him they worshipped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.”
What? Some of the eleven held back? They weren’t sure about being “all in”? They had spent three years, 24/7 with Jesus, and had just hung out with him for nearly 40 days POST RESURRECTION, and some of them STILL weren’t sure? What more could Jesus do to win them over?
Say what you want about Jesus’ ability to read the future here, but the text is stunningly simple and clear. There were “some” who weren’t all in at this late in the game meeting. By our standards these doubters would have been disqualified from being core leaders…let alone pastors or elders. This is THE team…Jesus’ guys. No plan B. Notice Jesus’ response to this situation that would have totally buried me in despair:
“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to…” You know the rest. The Great Commission. First given to eleven guys, some of whom still weren’t all in. That fact didn’t even make Jesus think twice. He huddled them all up and gave them the game plan. You’re all qualified. Nobody gets cut that shows up when I tell them to. You’ll get it later. For now, just keep showing up and, well…”train everyone you meet in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the three-fold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Wow. What qualifies any of us to be part of the great rescue mission of God? Same thing: Keep showing up when Jesus asks you to. He’ll give you the gameplan. You go do it. You don’t have to understand, worship him, or believe the correct things about him. Just show up and obey him.
That should rock your world.