Making Disciples or Marketing Jesus?

Finding the way of wonder in our Great Commission task.

By Virgil

This article was originally published on

Few people start their missions journey as great disciple-makers. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. So, we look for training in how to share the gospel and how to disciple new believers.

Maybe it’s a class at your church or a video series from your favorite leader. Maybe you’re even studying to get a missions degree in college. Every training has a different approach, and we begin to build a suite of discipleship tactics. We learn punchy questions to ask and catchy methods to share truth. We practice and time ourselves so we can get our gospel pitch down pat.

Then we cross cultures and expect our gospel salesmanship to win the day.

But there’s a problem. It doesn’t work.

I know because I tried it. I earned master’s degrees in religion and cross-cultural communication. Then I arrived in West Asia and learned that carrying a burden to convey Jesus is a recipe for burnout.

In my studies, I was taught — albeit subconsciously through our American worldview — that our task as disciple-makers is to market Jesus. We learned strategies to market Jesus the way we would market a business. But while capitalism may be a great economic philosophy, it’s a terrible way to do missions.

You don’t market the King of the cosmos.

If I think my job is to deliver Jesus to a needy market, I might as well be playing cricket on a soccer field. I’m living in the wrong mentality, and I’m going to ruin the very relationships I’m trying to form.

But what if my role is not that of an entrepreneur but an explorer? What if instead of working to start Jesus franchises, I’m to discover where Jesus is emerging and draw as much attention as possible to Him there?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that his work among them would not be complete “until Christ is formed in you” (4:19). We assume our job is to get Christ to [fill in the blank]. But it isn’t. It’s to nurture and grow what Christ is already doing, until that work is complete. Until Christ is formed in Galatia, London, Tokyo, and beyond.

What does that look like, practically?

When I lived in the marketing mentality, I walked out my door each day with a burden to deliver Jesus to everyone I met. Conversations sounded like this:

  • Let me tell you about…
  • You need to hear this…
  • You don’t understand about…

But when I walk out my door looking to catch a glimpse of Jesus anywhere I can, I’m eager, expectant, and hopeful. Now, conversations sound like this:

  • Your experience reminds me of…
  • See the glory of the King in…
  • Look how these connect — I think Jesus is chasing you.

One a way of obligation, and the other is a way of wonder.

Which will you choose?

Virgil moved to West Asia with his family in 2009. He served there eight years and now serves in leadership with Crossworld in Spain. 

This article is submitted by Mallory Barks of Crossworld. Crossworld is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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  1. What an insightful article. Thanks! This line ” We assume our job is to get Christ to [fill in the blank].” reminds me of my very first year with Wycliffe about 17 years ago. I listened to a speaker from India who challenged me and other young, enthusiastic missionaries by reminding us that we are not taking Jesus anywhere, cause he is already there! He is the ONE taking us there. Of course now many years later I know exactly what this means from experience but most of all understanding that Missions is about presence it is a transformative process- and more for me even than for those I seek to “win for Christ” . We follow Christ and He makes us….he transforms us and those with whom we interact. We are not the ones with the winning formula. Christ is at one in us and through us.

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