I have claimed, for some time now, that evangelism is not the first priority of the church. I have faced some significant opposition from friends, but my study of scripture leads me to believe that bringing glory to God is the first priority of the church. As such, evangelism takes on an incredibly important role, just as does discipleship, ministry, fellowship, etc. I came across a quote today from Dallas Willard that I thought was particularly good and I thought I would share it with you. I’m curious to know your thoughts.
It is, I gently suggest, a serious error to make “outreach” a primary goal of the local congregation, and especially so when those who are already “with us” have not become clear-headed and devoted apprentices of Jesus, and are not, for the most part, solidly progressing along the path. Outreach is one essential task of Christ’s people, and among them there will always be those especially gifted for evangelism. But the most successful work of outreach would be the work of inreach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.
A simple goal for the leaders of a particular group would be to bring all those in attendance to understand clearly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be solidly committed to discipleship in their whole life. That is, when they are asked who they are, the first words out of their mouth would be, “I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ.” This goal would have to be approached very gently and lovingly and patiently with existing groups, where the people involved have not understood this to be part of their membership commitment.