This article has been excerpted from Worship and Witness: Becoming a Great Commission Worshiper by David Wheeler and Vernon M. Whaley.
A discipleship process that depends on education alone without simultaneous, consistent mobilization into the harvest fields may result in apathetic worshipers who are indifferent to the urgency of the Great Commission.
Today indifference has become the norm for many congregations. Rather than embracing people's needs, we choose to remain removed from the front lines of ministry. This attitude affects the way the church does discipleship. Instead of engaging with the world to meet needs and share Christ's love, the church remains aloof, focuses on its own needs, and criticizes the world for acting sinful.
Representing Christ in the world
An attitude of selfish indifference is deadly for the development of reproducing, Great Commission worshipers. Some church members move through life with little regard for the needs of hurting people. Their concept of worship and evangelism is limited to the church building on Sunday morning. They're conditioned to be indifferent because they lack biblical discipleship that challenges them to reproduce their faith. They believe ministry is the responsibility of paid staff members, not of everyday Christians. They're loyal to the institution of the church as long as it doesn't interfere with their daily lives.
In contrast, Jesus called us to be reproducing disciples. Recall Jesus' words to His disciples when He appeared after the resurrection: "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Just as Jesus called the disciples to move out from behind the locked doors of the upper room, He calls His church to go into the world to represent Him and share His message. The apostle John described believers' presence in the world as an extension of God's love: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (1 John 4:16-17, NIV)
Great Commission worshipers go on mission with God in their daily lives, lovingly engaging with the community, meeting human needs in the name of Christ, and sharing the message of salvation.
Linear vs. cyclical discipleship
A misunderstanding in today's church is the fallacy of linear discipleship. This concept grows from the idea that true worshipers are created through a discipleship process that emphasizes a lifetime of intense training, usually in a protected environment like the church building.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by most Christians' anemic evangelistic practices, the result is a generation of believers who pursue biblical knowledge without the expectation of joining Christ on mission "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). And regrettably, this linear approach has become the accepted process of discipleship in many Christian circles, where evangelism is often presented as a watered-down suggestion rather than a command.
In contrast to linear discipleship is the biblical concept of cyclical discipleship. In this model when people respond to the gospel and are genuinely born again, they're immediately connected to the process of becoming a reproducing disciple. Because disciples are called to reproduce more disciples, evangelism and discipleship depend on each other. Therefore, evangelism is much more than sharing gospel presentations and seeking decisions. Discipleship is more than simply training people to memorize Bible verses. Neither the process of evangelism nor the process of discipleship is complete unless it intentionally meshes with the goal of leading the person who's evangelized to become a reproducing worshiper.
Reproducing disciples don't have to be prodded by a pastor or church leader to be involved in ministry. They have a keen understanding that the church isn't a building or a location but the people of God. Reproducing disciples understand their faith to be an expression of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Evangelism and worship, therefore, are callings to be lived out and reproduced through their daily routines. And ultimately, real worshipers are motivated by obedience rather than duty.
Paul envisioned a reproducing discipleship process when he counseled and taught the early churches: "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul taught his young protégé Timothy that Great Commission worship is reproducible. Paul discipled Timothy, who would teach "faithful men." Those men would "teach others also."
Our goal as reproducing disciples today is the same: to promote and bring into the body of Christ citizens from every tribe, tongue, culture, nation, and people group so that they can become worshipers too. The principles of 2 Timothy and our role as worshiping evangelists are tied to our responsibility to make disciples.
As a reproducible worshiper, you're responsible for exercising spiritual influence over the lives of those who need to become Great Commission worshipers or who need to be discipled. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can make an eternal difference in the lives of other people.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.