The Order of Things

I have always imagined evangelism/ disciplemaking process working through a four step process:

  • Relationship
  • Verbal witness
  • Invitation to church
  • Involvement in other church activities like fellowships and social events.

I would invite you to think of turning this process on its head, but before we get into that, let's spread this out a bit. Here is what I mean.

I have always been taught that evangelism starts with relationships. We have contacts with people who do not know Christ though work, neighborhoods, and a variety of social networks.

These relationships lead us to an opportunity to share a verbal witness. We are taught to do so using FAITH, the Four Spiritual Laws, or some other means.

After they respond, the discipling begins. We invite them to church. They come to worship, small groups, Sunday School and discipleship programs.

As an added bonus, we will invite them to come to church socials, fellowships and informal, after-church activities. Hopefully, through this four-step process they will move from an outsider to a fully devoted follower of Christ.

I would like to invite you to think of a different, and I think more workable, order:

  • Relationships
  • Fellowship
  • Invitation to church
  • Verbal witness

We still begin with relationships, but from there, this path is totally different. The next step I suggest is to invite people to fellowships. These could be fellowships sponsored by the entire group or Sunday School class, or they could be informal "Friday nights for Jesus" kind of events. In these contexts, they get to know Christians.

Humans are very social creatures. We are highly influenced by what our peers think, do, wear, read, and eat. This is why fads work. This is why we tend to buy best-selling books. (All those other readers can't be wrong.) It is why we like to shop at crowded stores and eat at restaurants where the parking lot is full.

There was an old episode of Candid Camera that illustrated this point. They had someone come into a doctor's office where everyone was doing what people do in doctor's offices-crossword puzzles, reading magazines, holding quiet conversations and so forth. Only one thing was different. They were all dressed (or undressed) down to their skivvies. The person on Candid Camera was not asked to take his clothes off. What did he do when he entered a room full of people undressed down to their skivvies? You know the answer. He undressed down to his skivvies. We are all influenced by what the people around us do, think, eat, dress and undress.

This is why inviting outsiders into our social networks is so powerful. Once they have a dozens friends who are all practicing, fruit-of-the-Spirit Christians, the odds that they are interested in becoming a Christian go up dramatically.

Further, this plan is just much more workable. The odds that we will see a large number of believers verbally sharing their faith is...well...show me where it is happening. Asking believers to do what they can do—invite people to the party—is much more workable.

The magic of this plan is the next step. I have seen it happen more times than I can count. If I can get them to the party, I would not be able to keep them away from class. Why? People like to hang out where their friends are. There is an epidemic of loneliness out there.

Once they come to church events, it is normal for them to share the gospel. It is easier for me to share the gospel in the context of a group (like a teaching setting) than it is one on one. Most people who come to faith do so in a large group—a church service of some kind.

So, let me invite you to think of this order:

  • Relationships
  • Fellowship
  • Invitation to church
  • Verbal witness

Instead of this order:

  • Relationship
  • Verbal witness
  • Invitation to church
  • Involvement in other church activities like fellowships and social events.

I think you will find it much more workable (your people will do it) and effective (outsiders will respond).

Start with your New Year's Eve party. Let me invite you to invite every member and every prospect to your New Year's Eve party this year and see if it is not truly a new year for some of them.


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