A Growing Church Understands the Interconnection between Discipleship and Evangelism


Rev. Dr. Michael L. Henderson Sr. describes how a church he planted grew to over 7,000 members through an intentional process for developing disciples grounded in the core belief that discipleship and evangelism are organically interconnected. 

Decades ago, I planted New Beginnings Church (NBC), a solo church plant located in Matthews, North Carolina, outside of Charlotte. NBC started with 12 people in a recreation center without outside support or a launch group. It has organically developed over time to see over 7,000 members and three locations. One unique aspect of NBC is that it is a multigenerational church that seeks to reach several demographics, including young families and Generations X, Y, and Z. 

To grow the church, we recognized early on the necessity of being intentional with a systematic plan of discipleship and evangelism.   

Evangelism and discipleship are one and the same.

Evangelism and discipleship are not two separate entities, but one and the same. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples. It is a mistake to separate evangelism and discipleship. When Jesus says to go and make disciples, conversion is implied. There is no harvest without intentionality around evangelism and discipleship.  

Many faith traditions and churches have separated the two; however, I don’t believe you can. God has set it up so when we win people to Christ, there must be a family to help the child develop in Christ. That is the role of the church. 

For churches to be effective in this arena, it is crucial to set up programming and ministry to take people from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. Thus, true discipleship has an intentional organic element. John 13:34–35 states, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Discipleship has to do with our relationship with God and how we relate to each other.  

Come, grow, serve, and go.

At NBC, we have an intentional organic discipleship process employing our core values, which are Come, Grow, Serve, and Go. We encourage converts to come to the church and learn more about Jesus Christ. We have discipleship points to help them take the next steps in their relationship with Jesus and to share their testimony and the gospel with others. These initial steps (the early stages of their spiritual adolescence) enable them to grow in their faith as they go deeper into the Word, attend Bible study, adult life classes, life groups, and other areas for spiritual growth. These are all tools to aid in discipling. 

As they graduate to the next level in their walk with God (this would be considered spiritual young adulthood), they are now able to identify their spiritual gifts, which allow them to serve in the kingdom to edify the body and glorify God. At each step, dynamic discipleship happens, enabling these believers to grow into mature Christians (grown-ups in the faith), and go disciple others in various ways.  

The ultimate goal is to continue deputizing disciples through an organizational process set up to display organic discipleship and be a missional and attractional church. 

Ready, set, grow.

NBC aims to teach people how to share their faith and how to have spiritual conversations, including teaching people how to develop relationships so they can share the gospel to get others on the pathway to discipleship. 

Our discipleship process is set up to move people to their spiritual next step. When a guest or convert is at a point of decision making or pre-decision about salvation, membership, and/or rededication, we take them through a formal orientation where we start building a relationship with them. Those who attend the orientation learn what we believe as a church, the mission of the church, what drives our relationship with God, and our commitment to our community. 

After the orientation, members and nonmembers are encouraged to attend our Connect Institute. In three segments, it teaches participants what God commands us to do as believers. Segment one is Discovering Church Membership. Segment two is Discovering My Spiritual Maturity, where we suggest methods on how to grow in their Christian faith through prayer, Bible study, and daily devotional time with God. And segment three is Discovering My Spiritual Ministry, where participants learn about their spiritual gifts. 

Our weekly large-group Bible studies enable us to continue to develop people and teach them the principles of faith. We have also seen effectiveness with our weekly adult life classes (aka Sunday school). Specialized discipleship at NBC includes the Ministers in Training Program for those who sense a call to ministry. It is a one-to-two-year process that covers in-depth scripture study, character development, and the major doctrines of the faith. We also have mentoring programs designed for men and women. 

Any ministry can experience organic evangelism and discipleship when intentional training and development is implemented. 

This article was originally published in Outreach Magazine and is shared here with permission.

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About Author

Michael L. Henderson Sr. is founder and senior pastor of New Beginnings Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He serves as the Executive Vice President of National Ministries for Converge, and Vice-Chair of the Wheaton College African American Church Evangelism Institute’s (AACEI) Oversight Team. He also sits on AACEI’s Executive Team and serves as the Coach Developer.

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The Be the Welcoming Church Video Tool Kit will help you develop a congregation-wide ethos of hospitality and institute best practices for greeting newcomers, making them feel at home, and encouraging them to return. The resource includes engaging videos, a Study and Discussion Guide, and more. Be the Welcoming Church may be used for hospitality training or in adult classes or groups. more. Learn more and watch introductory videos now.