Missionary Philip Hunt (Zambia) pointed out the great commission imperative from Matthew 28. Contrary to what we might assume from many of our English translations, the main command in the Greek is not "go" but rather "make disciples." The "go" is a given: it's assumed that we are all going various places. As we go, we're to be making disciples.
Matthew 28:18-21 (GOD’S WORD Translation) is helpful: 18 When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”
This is the idea that the Lord keeps bringing back to me: evangelism and disciple making ought to be the regular way we live our lives.
An Analogy: Crash dieting and binge exercise has very little effectiveness and is actually unhealthy in the long run. Maintaining a healthful diet and exercising regularly--as a way of life--is what makes the difference.
Similarly, effective disciple making doesn't rely on special meetings and once-in-a-while-when-I-get-really-convicted evangelism. This kind of evangelism must be followed up on by building a discipleship relationship if lasting change is to take place. Otherwise we may actually not be helping anyone. We're not after mass professions, remember. Making disciples isn't just "gettin' people saved."
May I be so bold as to say it's also not inviting people to church? The church is the gathering of believers. Evangelism takes place "as we are going" out and about. It takes thought and intentional effort to make contacts and build those relationships. But as you make gospel-living your lifestyle, I'm convinced you won't have to go far--right across the street, over the counter, just one desk over ... all those places you find yourself regularly. It may also mean getting involved in a local group (moms, sports, etc) in order to shine your light (rather than hiding it under a bushel).
Once someone believes and is converted, they are a disciple, but that's just the beginning of making disciples. A disciple is a follower, not just in faith but in practice also. And discipleship continues, following through with obedience in baptism and with teaching obedience in every other area too (being sure we're practicing what we're teaching along the way).
That may take a life-time and it won't be just you and your disciple. You'll see God bringing multiple people into the life of the one that you're bringing along, just as you see Him bring multiple people into your own life to bring you along. That's life-long disciple making, the way Jesus set it up.
"Make disciples" is the command. The question is whether or not we will obey.
Just remember, obedience brings joy. There is no greater joy than to watch God transform lives from the inside out and to know He is getting the glory He so deserves.
I would like to highly recommend both of these books.
Non-fiction: Jerram Barrs, professor at the Francis Shaffer Institute, rises to the challenge in Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible, re-examining multiple female characters in the Bible within their inspired contexts. He doesn't shy away from the tough topics--individuals like Tamar and Rahab, for example, and the prophecy that the young women would prophesy. Both intensely devotional and down-to-earth practical, Barrs' book challenged me to return to Scripture with a refreshed perspective on faith and the great mercy of our God. Probably my favorite book of the year, Through His Eyes is one I plan to reread again and again.
Fiction: Francine Rivers , accomplished author, evidences (once again) in-depth biblical research and a gifted imagination. First published as five novellas, A Lineage of Grace recounts a believable fleshing out of the stories of the five women whom God chose to specifically include in the genealogy of His Son Jesus, recorded in Matthew 1. Unveiled is intense and shows the daring faith of the woman Tamar; Unashamed reveals the dramatic redemption of the harlot Rahab; Unshaken shows the rewarding love of the faithful convert Ruth; Unspoken, the mercy of God in the life of David and Bathsheba; and Unafraid, the humbling humanity of the woman who would bear the Messiah, Mary. Francine masterfully weaves realistic human experience together with throughly biblical research. It may or may not have happened as she sees it--she would say the same--and there were times I thought, Hm, I've never thought that about that particular character, but her brave attempt allows us to realize the reality: these were real people, not mere storybook characters. Somehow fiction does that: it gives us a greater understanding of non-fiction, what's imagined reveals a deeper conceptualization of truth. I love that.
Thank you, Dr. Barrs. Thank you, Mrs. Rivers. The combination of your books read closely together intensified the truths of the greatest Book in my heart.
I am so thankful for God's great love for me as a woman, and I pray these books are an encouragement to you as well. Sincerely, michelle