Which is more important, discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people?
I try to affirm any question because, like it’s always said, there are no wrong questions. Even the questions that seem out of place or misguided can lead us to greater truth.
It’s like taking the long, long, long way home. Again, we can get to truth through those. And it’s when we do that we realize we should’ve been asking better questions all along.
So, is discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people more important? It’s a misguided question. How do you complete a breath if you only breathe in or breathe out? You need both. There’s no question.
How I’ve seen this play out is the overarching attitude that people take. On one hand, we should dedicate all our resources to the people who show up every week. They’re the ones who are here. They’re the ones who pay the bills. Yes, people have told me that we “owe it to them” to give them all our attention.
On the other hand, we should steer everything we do to those who are not yet here. They are the future. Our sole purpose is to preach the good news to those who have not heard it. The people already in church should grow up and get over themselves.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve heard that, too.
You might suspect I lean one way or the other. I consider myself a wobbler. I know there is a Spirit-filled purpose in both discipleship and reaching out. One moment I’m writing a devotional meant to deepen our discipleship. The next moment I’m having a conversation about life and faith with someone outside the church.
One is not more important than the other. Now, your spiritual gifts may lead you to emphasize one aspect. That’s great. That means you know what you’re spiritual gifts are and you’re learning how to use them.
God told the prophet Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Did you notice what God did?
He expanded Isaiah’s vision. Most likely, someone like Isaiah considered himself to be God’s mouthpiece to God’s people, Israel. And that’s what Isaiah did, he spoke to the people of God. The people might have thought God’s Messiah would share the same sole commission.
But the Lord’s plan included more. It was too light to only do one thing. So, Messiah would be a light to all nations. Is one more important? Of course not.
So, when it comes to our shared ministry, let’s not take the long way home. Here are a couple of questions that take us a little deeper.
As the church, if we aren’t reaching out to new people, how do we suppose God wants to reach them?
And if we aren’t discipling, what are we inviting people to join?
Let’s reflect on those questions and see where God leads us.