EDITOR’S NOTE: In what follows, M. David Sills, A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology, discusses his new book, Hearts, Heads, and Hands, with Southern Seminary Magazine writer Annie Corser.
How are evangelism and discipleship related?
I think if you are truly evangelizing a person, they are coming to know Jesus and seeking to be the person he would be if he were them, and that is truly the definition of discipleship. When I come in, if I present the truth to you and you raise your hand and say, “Yes, I would like to have that Savior,” what we’ve seen around the world is that oftentimes they simply heard me say, “If you accept Jesus the Holy Spirit will come and live in you and he is greater than all the spirits you fear in the jungle,” and they think, “I want this Great Spirit on my side.” They don’t truly understand that they’re sinners, that Jesus is the Savior, who he is, what he’s done. They’re not genuinely born again but somehow now they think they are. And they may come together once a week in a building that has a cross on the top, but they’ve never really been discipled so they don’t understand what the Bible teaches, who Jesus is, and they certainly can’t pass it on to someone else. We have to remember that God has many children around the world but he has no grandchildren. Every person has to understand the gospel and be born again to have eternal life. So we want to not just reach these people, but as our ministry is named, Reaching and Teaching.
What would you say your hope is for this book?
The hope for this book is that pastors and leaders around the world, anyone who wants deeper discipleship and to be trained in understanding God’s Word, that they would have a resource available to them to receive the training they need in an accessible way that is also culturally appropriate. Being biblically faithful and culturally appropriate is my initial goal. But the heartbeat of Reaching and Teaching, and my own understanding of what God set us in the world to do, is 2 Timothy 2:2. We want these guys to take what they’re learning and teach others, and we tell them that from the very beginning. On the first day, I tell them, “Look, guys, this class is absolutely free. It won’t cost you a penny. But it’s also very expensive.” And they look at me funny when I say that. And I say, “The cost is we expect every one of you to have someone you’re teaching the book to when I’m gone.” My bigger goal of all of this is they are learning how to teach peers. They are learning how to teach other people like them- selves, whether it’s women teaching women or men teaching men. So my goal is that they would go farther into the jungle, farther into the mountains, and train people I don’t have access to.