Evidence-Based Discipling

By G. Lee Southard, PhD

Jesus made it very clear in Mathew 28: 19 and Acts 1:9 that our goal as disciples is to make disciples. But when the going gets tough and it will anytime you are talking about your faith to unbelievers, how many of us can make reasoned arguments to help others become followers of Christ?
For example, how would you answer the following questions?
Does God exist?
Did Jesus rise from the Dead?
Did God create the universe?
You replied “yes” to each of them because they are true.
Now consider what evidence can you give someone for them being true? If you said “because the Bible says so” you are correct but incomplete. Anymore saying “the Bible says so” to a large segment of Americans will not reach them. It is not convincing for a variety of reasons. They are likely to respond with something like “How do you know that the Bible is true?”
A person asking this question is likely to be one of about 62% of the religiously unaffiliated in America who left the church before age 18 or one of the about 78% of the religiously unaffiliated adults in America once raised in a faith. That includes 66 million adult Americans. On the youth level, the 60% of Christian sixth grade students that leave the church before high school graduation would be less if those questions were answered with evidence.1
They would all have tuned you out if you could not provide evidence on “how you know”. This is because all were lost for one reason; they did not believe. If they sense you do not know either you have lost them. An appeal to their intellect and ability to reason with evidence along with scripture provides an opportunity to keep the discipleship discussion going.
Discipling applies to all Christians. It requires a heartfelt desire to do so by the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. But today’s culture requires you have more than desire. You must have knowledge of the scriptures and the abundant evidence from history and science that support the Biblical narrative.
Most do not have the knowledge to disciple others using evidence. Are you one of them? When confronted with a challenge to having faith in Christ, if you cannot provide evidence, the opportunity to help someone take a step towards being a disciple of Christ is lost.
There are resources to help.
To Know with Certainty: Answers to Christian Student’s Questions Upon Leaving High School, pg xxvi,2 and other resources3-7 noted below provide evidence for knowing with certainty and creating confidence to defend and contend for the faith. Consult these resources along with your Bible study and be prepared to use evidence to support the claims of the Bible and the Christian faith.
Given the command of the great commission, I cannot understand why anyone would not make a genuine effort of being prepared to disciple others.

Resources:

  1. Southard G, The Battle We Must Not Lose, Faithful Life Publishers, North Fort Myers, Florida Publishers,
  2. Southard G, To Know with Certainty Bloomington, Indiana (2017). Chapter 1. www.toknowwithcertainty.com https://toknowwithcertainty.com/resources/
  3. McDowell, J and McDowell, S, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson Publishers (2017). https://www.amazon.com/Evidence-That-Demands-Verdict-Life.
  4. Ross, Hugh. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God. Covina, CA: RTB Press.
  5. Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998. (Also as DVD)
  6. Bierle, Surprised by Faith: A Skeptic Discovers More to Life than What We Can See, Touch, and Measure. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. 1998.
  7. Dannemiller J, Answers to Your Greatest Questions: A Journey in Discovering God’s Wisdom. Living Dialog Ministries, Richmond, Virginia (2019).

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