During these Last Days we should not make the mistake of “sacrificing” or limiting the proclamation of the gospel for the sake of follow-up and discipleship—as important as they are. There can be a healthy balance between the two during the very special times in which we now live.
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
With recent events taking place around the world along with biblical prophesies being fulfilled, many are convinced that we are now in the Last Days shortly before the end. Yet perhaps billions of souls around the world, especially in the Third World, have not heard the gospel even once. Even if they wanted to hear it, the gospel is not available to them in the untouched regions where they live. Therefore there must be—and is now beginning to take place—an acceleration in missions during these Last Days for us to fulfill the Great Commission during the short time remaining.
This acceleration requires a return to powerful and fruitful missions as we see recorded in Acts and even greater. This we are now already beginning to see—especially in India where Acts-like miracles accompanying the proclamation of the kingdom of God are producing a great harvest of souls among the Hindus.
The Great Commission of course involves the discipleship of believers (Matthew 28:18). Some churches in America are doing a very good job in the area of discipleship, providing classes and teaching for every category of believer ranging from pre-kindergarten toddlers to “empty nest” retirees. But there is a category of believer seen in the Scriptures which might not have the opportunity to be taught and discipled in such a way. We see this in the case of the thief on the cross who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah just before he died. He of course had no time or opportunity to be taught or discipled.
In the same way, there are and will be Third World believers during these Last Days who will have little opportunity for discipleship. The time is short. And unlike in America where abundant materials and opportunities for believers to be taught are easily accessed, they can be nearly non-existent in Third World nations. Many such believers will therefore be like the thief on the cross—saved by their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but unable to mature in Him.
During these turbulent Last Days if in Third World ministry we are forced to choose between evangelism and discipleship, we must choose the former. It is believing the gospel of the kingdom which saves the lost, not discipleship which comes afterwards. Many believers want to “hasten” the Lord’s return. It will be by accelerating the proclamation of “the gospel of the kingdom in the whole world as a testimony to all nations”—as Jesus commanded in Matthew 24:14—that His return will be hastened. Follow-up of new believers, as important as it is, should not take precedence over the actual proclamation of the message of the gospel.
During these Last Days when the remaining time is short, the Church must and can strike a scriptural balance between Matthew 24:14 on the one hand and Matthew 28:19 on the other hand—where Jesus commands us to “disciple all nations.” We should not make the mistake of “sacrificing” or limiting the proclamation of the gospel for the sake of follow-up and discipleship. There can indeed be a healthy balance between the two during the special times in which we now live. The times have indeed changed, and missions should follow suit.
Of course, when time and opportunity afford it, we should and must disciple new believers. However, well-discipled believers, such as some living in America, will be highly accountable to God at the Judgement Seat of Christ in terms of their personal lives and works before God. Often this fact is not mentioned. But believers who come to Christ like the thief on the cross will be far less accountable for what they have done following salvation through faith in Christ.
Luke 12:48 …From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Conversely, to whom little has been given, little will be demanded. During the remaining short time before the end, many believers in the Third World will be in this category.
We fully understand the importance—yes, even the “necessity”—of discipleship. Click on In 1980 a motherless, illiterate 12-year-old Chinese-Indonesian boy accepted Christ; today he oversees 80 churches & ministers internationally for the testimony of a servant of God we discipled in our early days. And if the Lord had not discipled us, we would certainly not have the ministry we do today. But not all will have the opportunity of being discipled and to serve God fruitfully during these Last Days.
We each will have a different perspective on this matter of evangelism vs. discipleship. Ultimately our works will be judged by the Lord at His Judgement Seat. He has commissioned us at The Elijah Challenge specifically to equip harvest workers to preach the gospel as He did and as He taught and commanded His disciples. That is what He has called us to do, and we strive to do it effectively, scripturally, and fruitfully. Therefore The Elijah Challenge trains and disciples believers in a very specific area of ministry—that is, reaching the lost. If He has called another servant of God to disciple believers in another area of ministry, then he or she should strive to do it as effectively as possible. We have each been given different talents. Our reward from the Lord will be determined by how fruitfully we have invested the specific talents given to us for the advance of His kingdom on earth.
In order that no one will misunderstand our position above, we offer the following two additional articles…
Can we all receive Christ just like the dying thief on the cross?
Can we all be saved like the thief on the cross?
Endorsements of The Elijah Challenge