I think sharing the Gospel is crucially important. I really do. But sometimes I think we as evangelicals can be a little too myopic in our understanding of the Great Commission and somehow reduce it to telling lost people about Jesus. We get it in our heads that the greatest thing one can do is to lead a lost soul to Christ and all other ministries are subservient to that goal.
This topic came up when a friend and I were discussing how engaging in faith-based conversations online leads to different responses. Sometimes, you will find that people who are not Christians will ask questions about your beliefs. This obviously leads to opportunities to evangelize. Other times, you find out that the other person already trusts in Jesus, but that person's faith may not be very mature. Which type of conversation should we spend more time on? Is God more concerned with saving a soul than strengthening a Christian who is only grasping the basics of the faith?
I don't think so. I think that God is as glorified by the teacher who is growing the hearts and minds of believers as He is by the evangelist who reaches out to the lost. In fact, the epistles of the New Testament are not instructions on how to evangelize, but they are letters written by the Apostles to those who already follow Jesus, correcting their misunderstandings and growing their faith. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews even rebuked the Jewish believers for not understanding as much as they should. In Hebrews 5:11-14 he writes:
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.The analogy of parent and child is a good one here. Newly married couples celebrate with their families and friends when they discover they're expecting a child. It is truly a joyous occasion. However, the important part of being a parent doesn't stop at the birth. The goal of a parent is to train up the child to be a fully-functioning adult, who can be self-sufficient and make thoughtful, mature decisions. Sometimes, this means "wasting" time by allowing the child to learn a task when you could accomplish it yourself so much more quickly. Good parents will invest the extra time into their children so they can learn to be skilled and independent adults.
The same is true in the Christian life. Is it better to simply go out and evangelize everyone, counting the number of converts from service to service or is it better to invest in the lives of believers, training them and weaning them off the milk, so o they can also be effective teachers and evangelists? Certainly this takes more time and isn't as sexy as an altar call, but it is crucial if we want to be faithful to the heart of the Great Commission.
Jesus doesn't just want people to be Christians. He wants disciples. That's what Jesus said when He commanded his followers to go out and share the good news: "make disciples of all nations." We have a glorious message in the gospel. We have a clear command in the Great Commission. Let's make sure we are fulfilling all of it.