How often have you heard it said about evangelism: “We just sow the seeds, and we’ll never know how they might grow. We may never see those people in our particular church, but that doesn’t matter.” It sounds noble and is usually said unapologetically. But it sounds like very poor farming to me.
Consider Evangelism as just one of four broad stages of our mission to make disciple-making disciples: Incarnation, Evangelism, Discipleship and Sending. When we fail to connect them together, when we fail to do one stage with a view to the next, we significantly hinder the broader process.
Consider a car assembly plant. One worker may be faithfully unpacking windscreen wipers, but if she is not stacking them within easy reach of the next worker who fits them, is she being effective? Or if the wiper-fitter is absent or slacking off, is it enough for her to simply keep unpacking and stacking more and more piles of windscreen wipers everywhere? No! Her specialty may be unpacking wipers, but the Boss doesn’t want her to just look busy doing that. The company’s mission is to assemble cars.
Or imagine a man who decides to reproduce himself by sowing his wild oats all around the district. He hopes that the children he fathers – though he may never know them – will be raised by, well, someone. That part doesn’t matter to him. Would any of us consider such a man to be truly productive? No, we would call him incredibly irresponsible. Fathering without parenting is not God’s style at all!
And yet how many of us practice evangelism without a view to discipleship – the long, hard journey of spiritual parenting? Without any real care for what might be next for the people we encounter? There’s much more to evangelism than “spreading the love” throughout the district. Who goes fishing and doesn’t bother to take a bucket?
Jesus’ call “Come, follow me” is Evangelism with a view to Discipleship. And it even has a view to Sending: “and I will make you fishers for people”. Sacred agents, let’s not dress up irresponsibility as faith. Real faith is truly mindful of our Master, His style, and His desired ultimate outcomes, in all our various actions.