How to Emphasize Both Evangelism and Discipleship

discipleship or evangelism

Leading your church to a deeper commitment to spiritual growth.

Every church leader has at least a slight bias toward either discipleship or evangelism; it’s part of how each of us is wired. Knowing which direction you lean helps you lead toward the fullness of the Great Commission.

• Which direction do you lean?

• Where does your passion draw you?

You may be just 51% inclined toward discipleship or evangelism; other leaders will acknowledge they lean much farther in their passion toward one or the other.

We know that discipleship and evangelism are completely integrated biblically, yet it’s surprisingly easy for a church to favor one over the other. That impacts the outcomes of your overall ministry.

Some churches lead many to Christ yet acknowledge that their new Christians training or discipleship processes need improvement. Other churches have strong discipleship processes but are low on evangelistic fervor.

Either way, how can we bridge the gap?

More importantly still, how would you assess your church?

You can make that evaluation by assessing the levels of effort, energy, passion, staffing, resources and your visible outcomes.

There is no need to create a chart for the “perfect blend” of discipleship and evangelism. The Holy Spirit moves at his discretion, not ours, in and out of certain seasons; however, eternity will reveal that both were always in play.


1. It’s Good to Embrace Your Passion for Either Discipleship or Evangelism.

It’s good stewardship to embrace your passion for either discipleship or evangelism, but always address the question about bringing leadership to both sides.

What is your natural passion, evangelism or discipleship?

You will have a gifting that matches your passion, so don’t waste your passion. Your effort and energy, for either discipleship or evangelism, will increase momentum and therefore help advance your church’s progress toward the vision.

At the same time, it’s important to make sure that leaders near you and around you cover the other side with equal commitment and enthusiasm.

Discipleship and evangelism can be championed simultaneously. For example, many churches give an invitation to receive Christ every Sunday and also have strong discipleship programming.

But that doesn’t work for every church.

Some churches find it challenging to cast vision and create energy toward both discipleship and evangelism at the same time, so they employ a rhythm of emphasis between the two. For example, they give an invitation to Christ every few weeks and in between emphasize new believers, first steps and small groups.

There is no one right way, so long as you direct measurable ministry energy to both components.  

Most importantly, discipleship and evangelism are not limited to the ministry of your Sunday programming. In fact, they gain their greatest momentum when leveraged throughout the week in everyday life circumstances and opportunities.

2. Discipleship by Design Always Starts With Communicating the Gospel.

Nearly all churches, over time, experience a natural drift toward discipleship over evangelism.

The drift toward discipleship is understandable because there is a natural gravitational pull toward what (and who) we know.

Evangelism often takes us into unknown territory, off the script, and engages people who have tough questions and different perspectives.

Our purpose is to make disciples, that is clear (Matt. 28:19–20), but we can’t skip the starting verb “Therefore go.” Discipleship by design always begins with communicating the gospel in some way or style.

Sometimes we communicate the gospel through loving acts of kindness; other times, it’s directly speaking the message of salvation. But the gospel is always central to the gift of new life in Christ.

It can be argued, especially in the case of our children, that you can disciple someone to the point of salvation. That is true, but it is also limited in scope when considering that everyone needs to hear the gospel.

The point I’m making is simply that without evangelism and salvation in the process, we are not experiencing the fullness of the Great Commission given to us by Jesus.

3. Healthy Discipleship Moves Toward Maturity and Has an Outward Bias.

It’s not always easy to qualify spiritual maturity; however, Christ-like behavior is not a mystery, and Scripture points the way.

I love the process of spiritual formation. To be even a small part of someone maturing in their faith is deeply rewarding.

At some point in that process of spiritual formation, there is a level of maturity that allows for the beginning of and continued self-growth.  

None of us ever arrive, and good spiritual coaches continue to guide us along the way, but the difference is that at some point, we take responsibility for our own growth while the coach continues to guide us when needed.

But what is that point of maturity?

At what point does a believer take ownership of their own spiritual growth?

Again, let’s not make a formula, everyone is different, but Scripture gives some clear characteristics to consider.

John 15 — We bear fruit, stay close to Jesus (in the vine), remain obedient to Jesus’ teaching, and demonstrate love for others.

Ephesians 4 — We will serve according to our gifts, no longer confused by the world’s teachings, and become mature in the body as each part “does its work.”

Galatians 5 — Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Colossians 3 — putting off our “earthly nature,” we put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We bear with each other and forgive each other.

There are so many more passages you or I could add.

The “lists” could become overwhelming if not for the grace of God!

When it comes to Christian maturity, it’s more about the life you live than a list to perform, and Scripture guides your steps. 

But would it be helpful to have a summary that is something like this?

Christian maturity is demonstrated by devotion to worship and prayer, loving and serving others, and telling others about Jesus as opportunities arise.

You could create your own summary if you find this idea helpful.

4. The Holy Spirit Brings the Power That Gives Evangelism and Discipleship Eternal Impact.

Your spiritual care for those who do and do not know Jesus is so important; it is undoubtedly at the core of ministry.

Your leadership efforts to organize and steward resources and energy toward salvation and spiritual maturity are absolutely essential.

Yet, as vital as your love and leadership are, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings true and eternal life change through evangelism and discipleship.

Walking in the Spirit is just as important, if not more so, than our programs and leadership. But, like evangelism and discipleship, you can’t have one without the other.

It’s a divine partnership—God’s power and your leadership.

What do you do to stay connected to God’s presence and power?

Read more from Dan Reiland »

From Outreach Magazine  Evangelism and the Bible

This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.