What does evangelism truly require of a Christian? How do evangelism and disciple-making fit together? What role does apologetics play within both evangelism and disciple-making? In this interview, Pastors David Platt and Mark Dever discuss the relationship between disciple-making and evangelism, and the role of apologetics within these practices. Pastor Mark Dever develops the notion that evangelism is an early stage of disciple-making. The process of spiritual maturity through the formation of disciples is initiated first by evangelistic encounters.
- Apologetics in Evangelism
- Evangelism vs. Disciplemaking
- Salvation and Evangelism
- Spiritual Gifts and Evangelism
Apologetics, which would be offering a defense for Christianity, for the faith. Pros and cons of apologetics when it comes to evangelism?
Apologetics and Evangelism in Missions
Well, lots of pros. I mean, God bless Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel and R.C. Sproul, and just so many brothers who have served us so well in showing the sensibleness of God and of His truth.
Limitations would just be if you’re the kind of guy … Let’s say 10% of people are really fascinated of evangelicals, are really fascinated by apologetics. Well, if you’re one of those 10%, just be careful, because not everybody has those questions. Not everybody’s so fascinated by them. And when you look in the book of Acts, they’re not doing apologetics so much as they are evangelism. Apologetics is me letting the non-Christian set the agenda, and then I’ll try to answer their questions. I’ll give apologia, a defense.
Evangelism is me telling the good news, saying what God has done in Christ, telling the truth about themselves, and that’s what we’re called to do. And we’ll do apologetics if that’s helpful or needed, but evangelism is what we’re called to do.
That’s good. Okay, so evangelism, disciple-making: How would you see relationship between the two? Same, different? How do evangelism and disciple-making fit together?
Evangelism is the Early Stage of Disciple-Making
Well, you’ve put it well. I mean, I think they do fit together. I think evangelism is just the early stage of disciple-making, and I think you begin with evangelism. Now, if you encounter somebody who’s already a Christian, then obviously, the disciple-making you’re doing is going to be disciple-maturing. As you share your journey in Christ together, share from the Word, love them, try to serve them. But the disciple-making begins with the making part, with going and telling the Good News: Romans 10, Matthew 28. That’s where we begin. So that’s what we want to do.
And we want to make it clear from the very beginning, I think, that an essential part of being a disciple is helping other people be disciples. So if we have an idea that there’s some way to follow Jesus, where you’re not helping other people follow Jesus, well, I don’t know what that would be. I just want to say, “Show it to me.” It’s like the guy in James 2, where James says, “Okay, you say you have faith without works. All right, you show me your faith without works. I’ll show you my faith by what I do, all right?”
So when people are saying they want to have disciple-making without evangelism, or evangelism without going on and continuing to disciple, I just go like, “I don’t understand what that means.” If you love other people and you’re a Christian, part of your following Jesus, part of the basic package, not the optional extra, part of the basic package, is you helping other people follow Jesus.
We are Different Parts of the Same Body
Now, some people are going to be better at the front end of that: evangelism. Other people are going to be naturally more gifted in doing the ongoing discipling, if somebody’s already converted. So it’s not that we’re all the same; they’re different parts of the body. But all of us, as Christians, have a vital interest in obeying Jesus’ commands to love, to go, to tell. That’s a basic part of following Him, I think.
So practically, probably many people who would identify themselves as followers of Christ maybe are not actively telling, going. I’m not talking about going overseas or going next door or going down the hall of the office or not. And so what is that? How can the church more effectively mobilize brothers and sisters who are doing exactly what you’re talking about, doing what a Christian is, the basic package involves? Yet so many are not. But I guess why are so many not, do you think? And what should the church do to change that?
Well, no point in trying to make a corpse dance, so I think you got to begin by seeing if this person who’s not acting like a Christian is not acting like a Christian because they’re not a Christian.
Do you think that’s probably the case in a lot of it? Yeah. In many circumstances. I fear it’s the case in millions of people’s lives.
So let’s pause real quick, before you go into the sermon. Mark’s T4G message, a couple of weeks ago, that you can find at t4g.org, on False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church, was extremely helpful for me, as a pastor. And not just a pastor for church leaders. For Christians to realize the danger of false conversion in the church and the effect of that on people’s souls, for eternity, and ultimately, on the glory of God. So I would highly recommend listening to or watching that message. So thank you for that message. Thank you, brother.
So 2 Corinthians. Yeah, there’s a scripture that I would just ask them to think about. It would be 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” There are a lot of Christians who don’t know that verse is in the Bible, and they don’t understand it, because they think, “Well, I believe in once saved, always saved. I pray the prayer; therefore I know I’m saved.” Well, this is in the Bible, inspired by God’s spirit. What do you think it means? It’s a good thing to talk to your Christian friends about. Try to figure that out.
How Do You See Yourself?
Paul, in Galatians, he lays out the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, and he does that like a kind of mirror he’s holding up to your soul, saying, “Do you see yourself? Do you see yourself in the works of the flesh? Or do you see yourself more in the fruit of the Spirit?” I think it’s to fulfill that same role.
So I think we have to realize that we are not the world experts on us. We can deceive ourselves. Now, once somebody has examined themselves and their friends, their church, says, “Yeah, for anything we can tell, you’re a Christian. You’re trusting the Lord. You seem to be born again. You have the fruit of the Spirit in your life. You’re not perfect, but you repent of your sins. You give yourself in holy love to others.” Well, then the question is just simply, “Okay, well, why aren’t you evangelizing?” Or “Why aren’t you helping other people to follow Christ?”
How Personality Affects Evangelism
Sometimes it’s going to be simply personality. There are some people who are more introverted, who are going to have a harder time initiating other people. That’s fine. The Lord has a purpose in the way He’s made each one of us. So then you figure out, “Okay, with the gifts God has given me, what is he calling me to do?” Get wise Christian friends around you, to know your life well, to pray with you about that, to listen, to think, to see what opportunities there are in your life that you could take.
So don’t beat yourself up over what you’re not doing; you’ll never get anywhere that way. Start to ask what you can do. What’s appropriate for the opportunities the Lord’s given you, the stage of life that you’re in? And then start doing that, and watch and see what God will do. That’s good.