EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & Understanding the 4 Verbs of the Great Commission

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

Biblical Support for an Ongoing Journey

As seen earlier, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is the apex toward which the Great Commandment (Mark 12:31) aims and instructs.[i] Within the Great Commission are four verbs: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. Though in the English they appear identical, in the Greek only one of these verbs is the main verb, and the other three describe it (the other three are participles, i.e. helping verbs that modify or explain the main verb).

Which then is the main verb, the one that the other three are describing? The Greek language holds the answer, for the unique spelling of matheteusate indicates that “make disciples” is the main verb, and thus “to make disciples” is Jesus’ choice for the goal of our going, baptizing and teaching.

But what exactly is this disciple that we are commissioned to foster? Matheteusate is derived from Greek word for “learner” and means to “make learners.” McGavran stresses that matheteusate means “enroll in my (Jesus’) school.”[ii]

And yet, the Greek grammar holds more surprises. Matheteusate has a unique Greek spelling, indicating that it is in the imperative voice and the present perfect tense. These grammatical constructions tell us the following.

  • The imperative voice indicates that to make learners is a crucial and urgent
  • The present tense denotes that making learners should be a current
  • And the perfect tense carries the idea that making learners should be a continual and ongoing

Therefore, the present and ongoing imagery of a journey becomes a welcome metaphor. Engel said,

In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age. In this broader perspective, the Great Commission never is fulfilled but always is in the process of fulfillment.[iii]

In our search for a culture-current metaphor we see the image of a “journey” emerging, with “traveling wayfarers” moving forward to encounter new “waypoints.” For churches to focus too narrowly on a few waypoints, slows and disconnects the process as travelers will have to seek out new churches to help them travel on the next leg of their journey. Many wayfarers will find the change too awkward, and many will not make the leap at all.

In the following chapters we will carefully examine each waypoint. In the process we will encounter personal stories that illustrate each waypoint and learn what churches can do to help travelers negotiate each point on life’s most important journey.

[i] Still, the mandates are two parts of the same process. Engel however makes a persuasive argument that Wagner (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 12 [July, 1976], 177-180) separates too greatly the cultural mandate from the evangelistic mandate (Contemporary Christian Communications, 66-68). Engel argues from Scripture and from practicality that it is a “grave missiological error” to separate the cultural mandate from the evangelical mandate at all. It is toward re-coupling these mandates that metaphors of a journey and waypoints are employed.

[ii] McGavran, Effective Evangelism, 17.

[iii] Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 66.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints Introduction & Appendix

keywords: make disciples

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT & Clinton’s 6 Phases for Developing Leaders

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

Clinton’s Phases

Bobby Clinton from Fuller Seminary focused on the phases of the journey after new birth (Figure 2). Though other authors have offered similar process models,[i] Clinton’s is one of the best organized and defined. In addition, Clinton emphasizes that these phases overlap and are indigenized for each person.[ii] Let us look briefly at each of what Clinton calls “Six Phases of Leadership Development.”

Figure 2

Clinton’s Six Phases of Leadership Development[iii]

I Sovereign Foundations

New birth: A New Disciple is Born

II Inner-life Growth

III Ministry Maturation

IV Life Maturation

V Convergence

VI Afterglow


  1. Sovereign Foundations. Clinton suggest this phase begins in the period before new birth. Clinton sees God imbuing His creation with certain personality characteristics that after new birth will correlate to spiritual gifts. During this phase God is preparing a leader through experiences and character traits.[iv]

A New Disciple is Born. Between Phase 1 and 2, Clinton sees “an all out surrender commitment, in which the would-be-leader aspires to spend a lifetime that counts for God.”[v] Here Engel offers here more depth as he charts the minute, but important, mental steps that lead up to a “surrender commitment.” Therefore, Engel’s preparatory steps to this experience will contribute more robustly to our waypoint approach.

  1. Inner-life Growth. In this phase Clinton describes the mentoring and modeling that the new Christian experiences. Clinton neglects Engel’s insights regarding the post-birth evaluation, yet Clinton adds to our understandings the influence of both informal apprenticeships and formal training.[vi]

III. Ministry Maturation: Ministry as the Prime Focus of Life. This phase occurs as the disciple senses ministry is increasingly becoming a focus of their life. The disciple is motivated to explore ministry options and spiritual giftings.[vii] At this juncture, Clinton offers the most satisfying insights, pointing out that much of the growth in the new disciple is self-directed, meaning the disciple must take it upon themselves to look for opportunities to volunteer, minister to others and evaluate effectiveness. Ministry is thus often organic, unpaid and unscripted.[viii] Though Clinton notes that “most people are anxious to bypass Phase II and get on with the real thing – Phase III, ministry,”[ix] in hindsight Phase II can be very satisfying because all options are possible and hope abounds.

  1. Life Maturation: Gift-mix With Power. Here Clinton offers a critical insight into the powerful synergy that is unleashed when a person finds a ministry that corresponds to their gifts. Ministry priorities are also established during this phase, which Clinton describes as a phase of “mature fruitfulness.”[x]
  2. Everything Converges. In this phase personality, training, experience, gifts and geographical location converge to release ministry that is not only effective but also widely appreciated. Clinton points out that not all disciples reach this stage, but by just defining the stage Clinton gives us a mental picture of God’s potential for the individual. “Ministry is maximized” sums up Clinton.
  3. Afterglow. This is a phase when a person’s ministry is so influential over such an extended period of time, that the person enjoys the afterglow of effective ministry. Thought a end that should be considered, Clinton notes that in reality few get there. However, travelers should not be discouraged nor surprised, for the Scriptures are replete with examples of saints who never attained (at least in this life) afterglow.

Clinton provides an interesting roadmap toward the growth of influential and effective leadership, even if the higher phases are often not realized in this lifetime. It is in the phases of leadership development that Clinton bests Engel.[xi]

[i] I.e. John C. Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1999); Max DePree, Leadership is an Art (New York: Dell Publishing, 1989), Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths-Based Leadership (Washington, DC: Gallup Press, 2009); Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (New York: Portfolio, 2008).

[ii] Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988), 30.

[iii]Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader.

[iv] Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 31.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] While Clinton addresses the influence of personal mentoring, he does not address the influence of the Christian community to the degree of Engel. Research shows that the health of a church community is an important factor in fostering leadership development (Whitesel, Growth by Accident, Death by Planning, and Inside the Organic Church, along with parallels in the business world, Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz, The Dynamics of Organizational Identity [Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004] and Mary Jo Hatch, Monika Kostera and Andrzej K. Kozminski, Three Faces of Leadership: Manager, Artist, Priest [Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005]).

[vii] This would be Engel’s sub-stage of “discovery and use of gifts.”

[viii] For “A Comparison Between Institutionalization and Improvisation” see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church, 119.

[ix] Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 32.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] While Engel emphasizes spiritual disciplines, there is no guarantee in Engel’s scale that spiritual maturity will correspond with these actions. For example, just because a person is experiencing Engel’s +8 Stage of stewardship of resources, or +9 Stage of prayer, does not mean that person is actually growing in maturity. These are actions that should accompany maturity in faith, but do not necessarily do so. Thus Engel emphasizes the artifacts of the journey, but Clinton emphasizes their influence.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints Introduction & Appendix

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & The Hidden Power of Engel’s Scale

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

To visualize this process, (James) Engel began with what he called “the Great Commission in common dress”[i] and viewed this as a process of stages. Let us look briefly at each stage (Figure 1) in what Engel labeled “a model of spiritual decision processes,” [ii]

Figure 1: Engel’s Stages of Spiritual Decision[iii]

-8 Awareness of supreme being, no knowledge of Gospel

-7 Initial awareness of Gospel

-6 Awareness of fundamentals of Gospel

-5 Grasp of implications of Gospel

-4 Positive attitude towards Gospel

-3 Personal problem recognition

-2 Decision to act

-1 Repentance and faith in Christ

New birth: A New Disciple is Born

+1 Post-decision evaluation

+2 Incorporation into Body

+3 Conceptual and behavioral growth

+4 Communion with God

+5 Stewardship

-8 A person at this stage might label themselves an agnostic, knowing there is a god but not knowing who that god is.

-7 Here a person becomes aware of Good News about God (i.e. the Gospel) through the deeds, words, testimony, etc. of Christians or others.

-6 A deepening awareness of the fundamentals of this Good News could include the traveler experiencing charity, forgiveness, graciousness, reciprocity, etc.. This could be exemplified in acts of mercy, sacrifice, justice, etc., which fulfill the Great Commandment (Mark 12:31) to “love your neighbor as yourself” (sometimes called the “cultural mandate”). A sizable portion of people today may lie in this realm, appreciating the good deeds of Christians but not moving into the next stage (-5) where they grasp the personal implications of the Good News.

-5 This indicates the person understands the personal requirements of the Good News. Here is where major disconnects may occur, when people see good deeds but fail to grasp that the Good News has requirements and obligations upon the hearer. Jesus noted this many times, for instance when he said, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

-4 The person develops a positive view of the Gospel. Again, because of what was noted above, many unchurched people today probably reside in a realm between -7 and -4.

-3 Here a person recognizes a personal deficiency, incapable of being addressed without divine interaction and assistance.

-2 A person makes a decision to act and reach out for supernatural assistance to address the deficiency.

-1 A person recognizes they have not lived up to God’s standards, and that only by faith in Jesus Christ and His death on their behalf can they escape the penalty of their sins.

New birth. God creates an intersection between the spiritual and physical words; and a new person is born (John 3:3-8).

+1 Here the person reviews what has happened and whether the decision was worth the effort and/or the emerging criticism. Some, after reevaluating their decision, lapse back to -3 or -4 with either a decision not to act, or to revaluate their positive attitude toward the Good News.

+2 If forward progress occurs a person will seek out a support network of fellow Christians, fulfilling the admonition of Hebrews 10:24-25 to “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”

+3 Here spiritual growth is observed in faith and action. In Acts 2:42-47 we observe three types of church growth that should emerge: growth in maturity (growing in passion for the Bible, fellowship and prayer), growth in unity (growing in harmony with others ) and growth in service (growing in service to others both inside and outside of the church).[iv] Engel places traditions associated with new birth, such as adult baptism or confirmation, in this stage.[v]

+4 At this point Engel clouds the picture a bit, referring to this a stage as communion with God “through prayer and worship.”[vi] Though he acknowledges that this happens earlier too, by stressing it here Engel gives the unintended impression that supernatural encounter mostly flourishes later.[vii]

In fact here is a weakness of the Engle Scale, it is stronger and more descriptive of the pre-birth process than of the post-birth journey. If both aspects of the journey should be balanced as Engel suggests[viii] then further waypoints must be added to the upper realms of Engel Scale to make it truly holistic.

[i] Engel and Norton, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest?, 45.

[ii] James F. Engel, The Church Growth Bulletin (Fuller Institute of Church Growth, Pasadena, CA: 1973). Engel stressed that his decision scale emphasized how a church’s “communication ministries” must change as the traveler journeys through the spiritual decision process, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest?, 44-45. Unfortunately, the published designation, “Engel’s Scale of Spiritual Decision” clouds Engel’s emphasis upon the elastic role of the church’s communication, and thus this scale’s designation does not correspond to its content.

[iii] Engel’s Scale of Spiritual Decision has been codified from several of Engel’s variations, c.f. James F. Engel and Wilbert Norton, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest? A Communication Strategy for World Evangelism (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1975); 45, James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979), 63-87, 225; James F. Engel and William A. Dyrness, Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong (Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000), 100-101. The current example has been adapted by the author.

[iv] For an explanation of each of the four types of church growth found in Acts 2:42 along with measurement tools to track each, see Bob Whitesel and Kent Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 207-218.

[v] Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 81. Scot McKnight’s observations indicate that some denominations might disagree with Engel’s placing baptism at +2. McKnight notes that some liturgical traditions place baptism earlier, at Engel’s New Birth juncture. McKnight offers a helpful overview of when and how different denominations view baptism as corresponding to the conversionary experience. He notes that evangelicals and Pentecostals view “personal decision” as the place of conversion, while some mainline Protestants see conversion associated with a long nurturing process (McKnight calls this “conversion through socialization”). He then notes that some liturgical traditions may view conversion as attached to liturgical acts such as baptism, the sacraments and “official rites of passage,” Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 1-7. Subsequently, depending on the tradition and practice, baptism may be viewed as occurring anywhere between the stages of New Birth through +2.

[vi] Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 82

[vii] Engel sometimes talks about communion with God (+4) and Stewardship (+5) as subsets of +3 Conceptual and Behavioral Growth. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 83; What’s Gone Wrong With The Harvest, 45, 52-56.

[viii] Engel in Contemporary Christian Communications, 66-68.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints Introduction & Appendix

keywords: make disciples

WAYPOINTS & 16 Waypoints in a Spiritual Journey

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

A New Roadmap for a New Era

Engel’s and Clinton’s scales provide helpful visual reminders in a world increasingly comfortable and dependent upon symbols and icons.[i] But both Engel and Clinton are still rooted in a modernist world where inflexible stages and lock-step phases rob the journey of outreach of its elastic and local flavor. Who would want to blindly follow someone else’s travelogue, and not experience surprises, scenic byways and flexibility in route?

A new postmodern era is emphasizing the importance of learning through experience, not just from books.[ii] These are people who want to experience the journey, not just live vicariously through someone else’s diary. For these people a new roadmap is needed, a map that draws from the best of Engel and Clinton, but also emphasizes how each traveler experiences the journey uniquely. This new map must emphasize that there are common waypoints that each traveler will encounter though at different times and with different facets. Our new map must focus less on stages and phases, and instead concentrate on the natural experiences that the traveler will encounter on the journey.

To begin to chart this new route, let us see how (in Figure 3) both Engel and Clinton contribute insights, but on different segments of the journey.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS A.3 Engel & Clinton p. 231.jpg As seen in Figure 3, both scales have their strong points. By combining the two, taking out some overlap, updating terminology, and focusing on the process rather than static stages/phases, a new roadmap can emerge that is more attune to today’s traveler. Therefore to provide a more elastic and organic alternative, I suggest that the stages and phases become less prominent, and they be replaced with moveable waypoints that give a general understanding of where one is within a certain segment of their journey. Figure 4 then is a new scale, born from the above,[i] but with emphasis upon indigenous waypoints for tracking the traveler’s progress.

FIGURE ©Whitesel SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS Map A.4 p. 232.jpg

[i] For examples of the widespread use of icons in contemporary communication, see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon Press, 2006).

[ii] See also the author’s analysis of postmodernal church patterns in Inside the Organic Church and Preparing for Change Reaction. Especially note Chapter 3 on change and culture in the latter volume.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 231-232.

NEED MEETING & Examples of Need-based Church Programs from Maslow’s Hierarchy

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/7/15.

When undertaking need-based outreach, leaders often have trouble getting their heads around the idea of “what kinds of needs” should be addressed. One student put it this way:

“A few years ago the local community needed an area of the county ditch cleaned up.  There was a lot of debris and junk in the water way that needed cleaned out and basically a lot of manual labor was needed.  Our church volunteered to do it and we ended up cleaning out the ditch for the county.  Is that more what you’re saying?”

First, let me say the most critical need of all humankind is a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father which can only be brought about by a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  In addition in today’s skeptical environment, we sometimes need to demonstrate God’s care (and our care) for non-churchgoers beforehand by meeting their needs in the name of Christ even before they are Christians.  This demonstrates to them that they have a “good” and “loving” Heavenly Father, who sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit and who we (as followers of Christ) represent.

But what are the needs people have, that sometimes need to be met before salvation?

Cleaning out a ditch might be a need, but outreach may be more effective if it is meeting “pressing” needs that are pulling people to their need for reconciliation with their Heavenly Father.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow helped visualize this in a pyramid (see the attached pages below).

So, to help you visualize and deploy programs that meet the felt needs (that usually must be met before a person is ready to focus on reconciliation with their Heavenly Father), I have attached with permission a couple pages illustrating this from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey, see pages 19-26 in this draft version (footnotes for your citations are in the published version).

Here you will find church programming ideas that can address the needs that non-churchgoers have and that prevent them from investigating their relationship with Christ.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS Maslow + ideas 1

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS Maslow + ideas 2

Download the chapter and charts here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 16, 15, 14

Speaking Hashtags: #SalvationCenterTX

WESLEY & A Comparison of His 3 Types of Existance

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/5/15.

John Wesley noted that people generally existed in a journey through three waypoints (or stages): natural existence, legal existence and evangelical existence.  Put forth most famously in Wesley’s “The Spirit of Bondage and the Spirit of Adoption” (1746), Thomas Oden’s helpful introduction prepares the reader to understand these important waypoints in spiritual discovery.

These categories are not too dissimilar to my friend and colleague Ed Stetzer’s categories of “cultural Christians” (somewhere between Wesley’s natural-legal continuum) and “conversion Christians.”  In Stetzer’s typology, Wesley’s conversion took place at Aldersgate. But since in Wesley’s day “evangelical” did not have today’s negative media connotation (and hence perhaps Stetzer’s aversion to its use), I believe that if Wesley lived today, due to his emphasis upon conversion, he would embrace Stetzer’s designation of “conversion Christian.” Wesley certainly after his Aldersgate experience places conversion as the fulcrum upon which his methodology and theology would emerge.

Here is a screenshot of Oden’s helpful introduction to the idea:


Buy the book at … https://books.google.com/books?id=8qqtss5N6cYC&pg=PA277&dq=John+wesley+natural+legal+evangelical&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipxrLx_MTJAhUF6CYKHSUsDTYQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=John%20wesley%20natural%20legal%20evangelical&f=false

Hear more about John Wesley’s conversion and his experience of the interplay of these three existences at …http://livestre.am/5fQ0e

SPIRITUAL GIFTS & Inventories to Help You Find Your Giftings

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/5/10.

…Traits, abilities, skills or behaviors[iv] can become supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit as manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that these can be understood as gifts or manifestations. Theologian James D. G. Dunn observes that they are “gifts” because they are given, and “manifestations” because they attest to the reality of the unseen Giver.[v] And, according to the Scriptures these are given to all Christians:[vi]

1 Cor. 12:7     “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Eph. 4:7          “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

(Robert) Clinton states that at this waypoint the leader now “recognizes that part of God’s guidance for ministry comes through establishing ministry priorities by discerning gifts.”[vii] Discerning or determining a leader’s gift-mix can take place through the following four actions.

Action 2.1: Learn About Your Gifts

The route toward discovering a leader’s gift matrix begins with a study of the gifts in Scriptures. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary gift lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14; Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe approximately 25 gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, because none of the gift lists are complete in themselves, it is reasonable to conclude that there may be other plausible gifts if they can be Scripturally verified.[viii] Therefore, I have listed an additional gift of “artist” that is not mentioned in the main gifts lists, but which appears to have attestation in Scripture and church history.

(The above is excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey [2010] or click on this link for a list of gifts and the rest of the chapter.)

Below are Spiritual Gift Inventories that can help you or others find your spiritual gifts:

The United Methodist Church’s Explore Your Spiritual Gifts, http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1355371/k.9501/Spiritual_Gifts.htm.

My friend Larry Gilbert at ChurchGrowth.org produces The Team Ministry Spiritual Gifts Inventory, available at https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1

An easy to take, online inventory has been produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is available here: http://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Faith-Practices/Assessment-Tools

The Rock Church in San Diego produces (and updates) their Spiritual Gift Inventory at http://www.sdrock.com/giftstest/new/

But probably the most carefully crafted is the Spiritual Gifts Survey by my friend and colleague, Dr. Elmer Towns available at http://elmertowns.com/?page_id=5