What is the difference between “making disciples” and “equipping the saints?”

Making disciples

In Christian contexts, the terms “making disciples” and “equipping the saints” refer to two interconnected but distinct aspects of ministry, rooted in the teachings and commission of Jesus Christ.

  1. Making Disciples: This process refers to evangelism and the initial and ongoing teaching that helps people become followers of Jesus Christ. Disciple-making involves sharing the gospel, baptizing new believers, and teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded, as outlined in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. It emphasizes reaching out to non-believers or new believers, guiding them to accept and follow Jesus, and nurturing their faith and understanding of Christian doctrines. The goal is to help individuals grow from being new believers to mature Christians who can then make disciples themselves.
  2. Equipping the Saints: This term comes from Ephesians 4:12, where Paul talks about the roles of different leaders in the church like apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, who are given to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” Equipping the saints refers to the development and training of already committed Christians to carry out various forms of ministry effectively. This involves teaching deeper theological truths, developing spiritual gifts, and providing practical training that enables believers to serve within the church and in their everyday environments. The focus here is more on strengthening and deepening the faith and skills of existing believers.

While disciple-making is more about expanding the number of believers and nurturing their initial growth, equipping the saints focuses on deepening the spiritual maturity and ministry effectiveness of those believers. Both are crucial for the health and expansion of the church, and they often overlap and reinforce each other within the life of a church community.

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