Why There Are Rules

I’m having a very friendly email discussion with a friend right now. Some of the discussion has come around to me explaining why I have restrictions as to who can join me for evangelism. Here’s an excerpt I found quotable:

We are trying to make disciples of Christ. That task requires the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey all that He has commanded (Mt 28:19-20). Anyone can hold up a bullhorn and basically preach the gospel from the back of a tract. Most Christians can at least hand out a tract or share the gospel 1 on 1.

I am trying to be more biblical than that.

It’s hard work to not only follow Christ yourself, but attempt to lead others. We are called “sheep” by God for a reason.

6 Responses to “Why There Are Rules”

  1. I disagree. We’re all called to do the work of an evangelist. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be rules (like actually being a Christian for one), but a rule that someone be mature enough to teach and disciple shouldn’t be IMHO.

    If someone is willing to preach the gospel rightly, they should. If discipleship or teaching is necessary, the church is available to do that. There’s nothing that says the guy who handed the new believer the tract has to do the teaching.

  2. Michael says:

    I think the distinction you are making between “evangelism” and “discipleship” is one area where we differ. That and the larger context in which my comment was made

    I believe that evangelism IS the act of making disciples. I believe that we are all teaching (discipling) something. The question is, what are we teaching?

    Now let me address your comment inline:

    You said:
    “I disagree. We’re all called to do the work of an evangelist. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be rules (like actually being a Christian for one), but a rule that someone be mature enough to teach and disciple shouldn’t be IMHO.”

    And I say:
    What do you disagree with exactly? I am not prohibiting another Christian from evangelizing. I’m restricting whom I hang out with when I’m ministering the gospel to people with whom I
    1. Feel safe
    2. Trust the gospel they’d preach
    3. Believe have the ability to act with Christian charity during the event
    4. Believe can assist a new believer to find a (good) church
    5. Know are teachable/submissive in a way that allows me to lead a team

    Are you saying you would indiscriminately go preaching with someone who didn’t meet the quals, especially #3?

    Are you saying that if you lead groups of people to the streets to evangelize you don’t really mind if someone else fancies themselves the leader?

    You said:
    If someone is willing to preach the gospel rightly, they should.

    And I say:
    I believe that there are things Christians can do and ways they can act which would make me not want to be around them, even if they are able to say the words which make up the Gospel (see #theonomy) TONGUE-IN-CHEEK :).

    You said:
    If discipleship or teaching is necessary, the church is available to do that. There’s nothing that says the guy who handed the new believer the tract has to do the teaching.

    And I say:
    1. Discipleship/teaching is always necessary. Presenting the Gospel is discipleship in and of itself. Showing someone to a church is discipleship.
    2. I never said the guy handing the tract has to do “the teaching” and I didn’t say that. What I implied is that they need to be ready to do SOME teaching, for example, helping a new convert to pray, leading them to a local church.
    3. I AGREE with you that the local church IS the location where the bulk of the discipleship/teaching will occur. Do you think that’s important? What if the person you are with would not lead people to a good church? Would you hit the streets with a Catholic who preached the gospel accurately?

    In the larger context, this quote is in specific reference to a (maybe) brother with whom I have no desire to minister for a number of reasons. If you would like I’ll give him your info and tell him you don’t care how he acts or what he believes (and would thus teach others) as long as he gets the Gospel right and he can join your team? 🙂

    • Joshua says:

      This is a good discussion. As far as maturity, I can’t help but think about how Jesus Himself was teaching at age 12 (Luke 2:42). On the other hand he didn’t begin his earthly ministry until he was 30 (Luke 3:23)! And this was the Son of God!

      Some other examples of good discipleship would be the example of the Apostle Paul being all things to all men (1 Cor 9:22), making sure we are not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19), and serving the Lord in an orderly way (1 Cor 14:40) and not haphazardly.

      With the above verses in mind, I think there is a LOT of wisdom to have “rules” in place like Michael said. One of my first times preaching open-air, I can recall someone I met who seemed to be preaching the right Gospel but I came to find out later he had never read the Old Testament, nor did he believe in the doctrine of the Trinity! Had he been open-minded to learn, fine. But he did not have a teachable spirit, and I made every attempt to reach out to him but he never contacted me again. On the other hand, do I regret having him preach with me open-air? Not necessarily. It was a growing experience for me. Whenever I go share the Gospel, I sometimes tell my “audience” that I’m not just preaching to them, but also to myself. God is teaching me new things everyday about Himself, and so when I preach open-air I have been known to say something that is unintentionally wrong. If I’m aware of it right then I’ll apologize, but honestly its God’s Word. Its message won’t return void to its listeners. So even if I say something wrong, I believe God can still use it for His glory. I’m not trying to justify saying whatever I want; I’m just saying I believe God can use anyone to fulfill His purposes, because He ultimately knows the results, and the hearts of all involved. I guess I tend to be a little more laid-back with people I share with, as long as they are preaching the right Gospel. On the other hand, perhaps I am being too open-minded and need to be a little more firm. This is what is great about the Christian life; I’m always a work in progress!

    • I was primarily responding to the following quote; of which you seem to be watering down a bit in your comments:

      “We are trying to make disciples of Christ. That task requires the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey all that He has commanded (Mt 28:19-20). Anyone can hold up a bullhorn and basically preach the gospel from the back of a tract. Most Christians can at least hand out a tract or share the gospel 1 on 1.

      I am trying to be more biblical than that.”

      Let me respond inline to that, and we’ll go from there.

      You: “We are trying to make disciples of Christ.”

      Response: I would say we’re trying to begin the process of making disciples because discipleship is a lifelong process. Being evangelized is the first step in the life of almost any believer.

      You: “That task requires the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey all that He has commanded (Mt 28:19-20).”

      Response: Why? Why can’t a believer simply give the gospel (rightly, in a manner that reflects the work of Christ in their life) and point them towards the right people who can take them further than the evangelist can? The fact is that not all Christians are leaders, not all are gifted to teach, not all have even an iota of skill in discipling a new or young believer, and not all even know where to begin with any of that. But they know that they are a great sinner in need of a great Savior. They know who that Savior is. They know enough to tell others that they are just like them.

      Why must a believer know how to help someone stop looking at porn, or know the nuances of burying a life filled with witchcraft, or have the ability to help a bad parent become a good one in order to tell the pornographer, witch, and deadbeat that they are a great sinner in need of THE great Savior? I don’t get the connection.

      You: “Anyone can hold up a bullhorn and basically preach the gospel from the back of a tract. Most Christians can at least hand out a tract or share the gospel 1 on 1.”

      Response: And they should!

      You: “I am trying to be more biblical than that.”

      Response: What’s more Biblical than declaring Law and Grace? What’s biblical, that every believer is an army of one or that every believer is a soldier in an army of many? What’s biblical, that every believer is every part of the body or that some are hands and some are mouths?

      You: “I’m restricting whom I hang out with when I’m ministering the gospel to people with whom I
      1. Feel safe
      2. Trust the gospel they’d preach
      3. Believe have the ability to act with Christian charity during the event
      4. Believe can assist a new believer to find a (good) church
      5. Know are teachable/submissive in a way that allows me to lead a team”

      Response: But that’s different than saying “That task requires the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey all that He has commanded”

      If I come to visit you and help evangelize an OSU game, I do not have the readiness to invest in the lives of your neighbors to whom I would preach. I may have a 15 minute conversation walking them through the Gospel, but if during the course of conversation I encounter a man going through divorce, I cannot spend the time necessary to disciple that man. Does that mean I should refrain from having that 15 minute evangelistic conversation?

      You: “Are you saying that if you lead groups of people to the streets to evangelize you don’t really mind if someone else fancies themselves the leader?”

      Response: That’s a fair point. I suppose I don’t often LEAD others in going to evangelize, but rather am just one of the guys that shows up. I can see the need to be clear about these kinds of things before inviting others along. That’s still different than what you said in the OP though.

      You: “1. Discipleship/teaching is always necessary. Presenting the Gospel is discipleship in and of itself. Showing someone to a church is discipleship.”

      Response: Meh. That’s a rather simplistic definition and I don’t think that’s the definition that resonates within the mind of your readers when you say it. If that’s all you mean (and I mean ALL), then I suppose I agree with you, but still… that’s not what you said in your OP. Or, perhaps, that’s not what was communicated and understood.

      You: “2. I never said the guy handing the tract has to do “the teaching” and I didn’t say that. What I implied is that they need to be ready to do SOME teaching, for example, helping a new convert to pray, leading them to a local church.”

      Response: Your OP: “the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually (pay attention here –>)teach others His commands (read it again) in order to (pay attention here –>) lead new converts to obey (sounds like more than just sharing the gospel and giving them the number to a good local church, doesn’t it?) all that He has commanded”

      You: “3. I AGREE with you that the local church IS the location where the bulk of the discipleship/teaching will occur. Do you think that’s important?”

      Response: Of course

      You: “What if the person you are with would not lead people to a good church? Would you hit the streets with a Catholic who preached the gospel accurately?”

      Response: A) I probably wouldn’t hit the streets with them, but that doesn’t mean that you must be mature enough to “actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey” to know a good church from a bad one, or even to be told what is a good church and what is a bad one. B) No, I wouldn’t. I’d also like to meet such a Catholic. 😛

      You: “I’ll give him your info and tell him you don’t care how he acts or what he believes (and would thus teach others) as long as he gets the Gospel right and he can join your team?”

      Response: I know you’re being facetious, but that’s a straw man argument. I stated already that I care how a person acts. This isn’t about beliefs necessarily -of course a person must believe the right things-, but rather ” the readiness to invest in the lives of others and the knowledge and maturity to actually teach others His commands in order to lead new converts to obey all that He has commanded”.

      Words mean things, Mike. 😉

      • Michael says:

        @Jason

        You have made many really good points – most of which I do not disagree with. Maybe the problem is poor communication on my part as you pointed out in your last comment. When I used the word discipleship, I really meant some very minimal things as you pointed out.

        So in a sense you can call it a bad communication on my part. Which is fine and I am OK with the lack of clarity and the good discussion which ensued.

        I will add that the excerpt you read was a part of a larger context and fit well with the larger context it was in and my recipient understood it perfectly.

      • Michael says:

        Here is the key: You wrote:

        “Why can’t a believer simply give the gospel (rightly, in a manner that reflects the work of Christ in their life) and point them towards the right people who can take them further than the evangelist can?”

        I am trying to differentiate between those who CAN do this and those whose cannot. Either those I am not certain do it “rightly” or those who have not enough discernment to point people to the right people.

        I appreciate you drawing this out and showing the lack of sufficient wording in the original post.

        And, to clarify, I’m not saying that someone CANNOT go out and share the gospel if they don’t meet my criteria…just that they likely will not be doing it “with me.”

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