Whether you’re talking churches, para-churches, missional communities or small groups, it never seems to fail that each will emphasize either outreach over discipleship, or discipleship over outreach. I’m doing my best to lead a church that splits it’s time well between the two, but I doubt there will ever be a perfect balance.
Perhaps it’s a chicken vs. the egg kind of thing. You can’t have one without the other, and maybe it’s an idle matter to figure out which one comes first.
As Jesus opens the Sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5:13-20, I think I see the lean toward discipleship as the leading edge. He’s talking primarily about doing outreach – being “salt and light” to a world that needs it. That kind of outreach though starts with one’s personal potency – you have to have the qualities of salt and light, to make the qualitative difference those things are known for.
If we take God at his word, and follow with a strenuously literal interpretation, our nature as disciples won’t be able to help but cause questions; questions that serve as their own outreach, and lead people back to the God who made them.