We spend a lot of time doing and talking about a lot of stuff. Politics, church, family, finances, programs, music, etc seem to dominate our already busy lives. We seem to neglect many routines, disciplines, or priorities that should be evident in our lives. I believe there are two disciplines that I consistently notice are neglected in people’s lives. Prayer and evangelism/disciple making are completely lost in the culture of American Christianity. We have programmed and plugged events until they are almost completely gone. The question is why?
When do you pray? Stop. Honestly ask when was the last time you just spent time with God? I know for much of my walk with Christ my prayer life has been reserved for brief prayers when I need something. Jesus has become my “Santa Claus” or “Genie in a Lamp.” I never just sat down and talked to Him or had the prayer life of some of the giants of Christian History.
So what do you do? Practice. Read the Scriptures and pray through them. The disciples felt praying was so important they specifically asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gave them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Start there. Pray through the Lord’s Prayer. There are also many books and tools to develop this discipline. Three I would recommend are:
Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (short read, my copy is less than 100 pages)
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by Charles Spurgeon
If prayer is the way we communicate with God, then this should be a primary characteristic in all believers’ lives. At the end of the day I believe Jesus has the final word on prayer.
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.
“Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:5-13 HCSB)
I think these two words describe the same thing but have very different meanings to many Christians. Some only do “evangelism” and this typically turns into a “convert” that never materializes. Discipleship is a hot buzzword right now. However, sometimes we disciple, disciple, disciple and never release the disciple to encounter and combat lostness.
The truth is the two are really one concept. When Jesus gave the Great Commission He commanded us to “make disciples” or turn people into disciples. This encompasses both the evangelizing part and the discipleship part to follow. For the rest of this post I will refer to this as discipleship but know that I am talking about both concepts as one.
Discipleship is lost. We have replaced the evangelism part with catchy programs, attractions, and shameless church promotion. The training part has been programmed into more programs that ever repeat and never release. This produces a well trained, ineffective Christian. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you have sat in 1000 evangelism classes and go to “the greatest church” on earth. If you, as an individual, are not engaging in taking the gospel to the lost you are far from where you need to be.
What is needed are more disciples who are active in taking the gospel to the lost. We need to look back to the church in Acts. We need to model the simple model carried out by them. Loving one another, loving our neighbors (even when we disagree), and praying for boldness to share Jesus.
At the end of the day the most well ran programs and greatest attractions are not as effective as a believer who boldly takes the gospel to the people God places in his/her path.
Some recommended readings:
Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
Witnessing Without Fear by Bill Bright
Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 ESV)
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-27, 29-31 ESV)
What We Will Wish We Had Done More
I believe we will wish one day that we had prayed and shared the gospel more while here on earth. At the end of the day what two things could be more important in the life of the believer? The only way do to either of these more is to practice and do it.