Go and Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

image
Farewell Discourse from the Maesta by Duccio (1308-1311)

 

At any given Sunday service, youth retreat, children’s church, Christian concert, etc, there is typically what is known in American Christianity as an “altar call.” It is usually an invitation of those who want to make Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior and those who already are Christians but want to rededicate their lives to Him. Some attribute the popularity of alter calls to Billy Graham and his popular crusades. While there is no direct biblical reference to alter calls, I cannot speak negatively of them. Many have come to Christ by the way of altar calls.

I want to talk about what happens after the altar call. I think we falter when we see altar calls as a litmus test of how well a ministry or sermon or gathering is going. We like seeing crowds come to the front. We like knowing that (x) amount of people filled out commitment cards. But there is a danger of a false sense of accomplishment here.

How many of these decisions to come forward were caused by family or peer pressure? How many of these decisions to come forward were based on emotions being drawn by the worship leader? What happens after the music stops? Are these conversions genuine? I’m sure millions are. But, who seeks to pour into spiritual growth afterwards?

In what is known as The Great Commission found in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  While making converts is vital to the growth of the Church, there has to be a continuous maturing of the believer after that. Otherwise you’re left with large amounts of spiritual infants who, often by no fault of their own, haven’t moved from milk to meat. They were simply a face in a crowd. While the angels were rejoicing at their salvation the elders bragged about the number of hands that were raised.

If a man has been working at a job for 20 years and showed very little knowledge or skill in his work, you might believe something to be very wrong, either with him or the training program. If a man is a Christian for 20 years and can’t name something elementary like the four Gospels and shows very little spiritual fruit, we should be wondering what went wrong. He is spiritually a 20 year old infant.

Wikipedia defines a disciple as a “student”. Merriam Webster defines a disciple as “someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person.” In traditional Chinese, the disciple was a person “who believes in the ideas and principles of someone famous and tries to live the way they do or did.” In the original Greek of Matthew 28, disciple (didaskalos) is a pupil of a master or teacher. The root Latin word that we get disciple from (discipulus) actually means “scholar”.

As we can see the meaning of disciple is far from someone who stays in spiritual infancy. A disciple should be steadily growing in knowledge and holiness. While the Holy Spirit has His part to play, so do other believers. When Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, he left it up to his family and friends to make sure he didn’t stay in his grave clothes. In other words when we are saved from our spiritually dead selves, it is the responsibility of those who have been waiting and praying over us to help us look like the spiritually awake individuals that we become. This is one reason being an active member of local church is so vital.

I know of many churches that don’t just leave the new believer alone after their conversion. Many send mail, call, or even visit to help ensure the believer is growing. Many churches have discipleship programs where the new believer or even the 20 year old infant can learn to grow in Christ. There are missionaries who don’t just leave the people they find with a new faith but actually ensure the natives they converted learn and grow to become new pastors and teachers. These are the churches and believers that are fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to make disciples.

If you are a new believer or believer who realizes that you haven’t been growing since you got saved, then my advice is to surround yourself with believers who are maturing spiritually. Find a church that encourages Bible reading and group study. And make the time often to study for yourself.

Helping believers grow in knowledge is one of our goals here at Theologetics.org. Every believer must also mature in spiritual fruit. It is our prayer that reading this will cause us to evaluate ourselves and motivate growth in both aspects of your Christian walk.

Applicable verses:
Matthew 28:19
Hosea 4:6
Psalm 1:1-3
2 Peter 1:5-6
2 Peter 3:18
2 Corinthians 13:5
Colossians 1:10
Ephesians 4:15
Galatians 5:22-23
Titus 2:1-8
Hebrews 5:12

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Go and Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

Thoughts, Prayers, Amens and Lies

Praying-Child
Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985) Praying Child Notecard

I had a discussion about prayer with a few individuals online that brought up some interesting ideas, this is just part of that conversation. It all started when this statement was made:

Person A “Any of us who tweet or post “prayers” for people in tragedy and do not follow through on them are in sin. Any of us who merely tweet or post “thoughts” going out to people in tragedy are painfully mistaken. And any of us who broadly dismiss the honest prayers for people in tragedy are tragically blind to true power.”

Now this first statement seemed pretty straight forward to me and a rather truthful statement as well but the conversation that ensued brought up some interesting questions about prayer.

Person BJust making the statement “you are in my prayers” requires the conscious thought in reference and affirmation [of] a higher power and if sincere IS in essence ……a prayer

So as I see it, here is the “theory” being presented for lack of a better word;

A Christian’s thought is a prayer.

If someone has a prayer request and you say to them “You are in my prayers”, because you think it, agree with what they are saying, and have a relationship with God, because God knows your thoughts, you in essence just prayed. Let us continue…

Me “Person B, your statement is an interesting one, at first thought I’ll admit it sounded like a cop-out to actually taking the time to say a specific prayer but when I thought about it, I’m wondering if there could be a little something to that statement…

Person A “Not sure that I agree with that person B. Tacitly referring to a higher power and affirming the existence of a higher power is not in essence communicating with that higher power. Prayer is directed to God. Telling someone “you are in my prayers” is directed toward that person. Also, what is the content of this “prayer” when you say “you are in my prayers”? It seems rather vacuous. In other words, when you say “you are in my prayers”, what are you actually praying for or about on behalf of that person?

Person BIf a person is in your thoughts even and you have a personal relationship with God – any conscious thought of that person while thinking of God would be as sincere and direct a petition to God as any plastic prayer one could muster.

One could go to church and pray every prayer in the book standing or kneeling or arms raised….it matters not.

I would say the almighty needs not for you to do that. Your own relationship with God and your conscious and heartfelt sincere thought is enough. …”

Person A “…When you say “my prayers are with you,” there is no specific petition attached to that, and that is directed at the person and not to God. Prayers can be communicated all sorts of ways, but there must actually be a communication, which implies specific content. So, I’m not sure in what sense simply saying it makes it true…

So, what is being presented now is that saying you will pray for someone is not a prayer because prayer is a conversation between you and God, but that conversation has not happened yet when you simply tell someone you will pray for them. A valid point.

Person BDo you believe God knows your intent? God has grasp of your conscience? God is aware of your conscious and subconscious? That God knows exactly what you are thinking?

Person AIf you do not actually pray, did you have intent to pray?

Person BI agree that if you say that (with intent to pray) and never pray- you’re right (right about not praying being a sin). However if you have a conscious contact with God- and you tell someone you will keep them in your prayers- God can take it from there- you just prayed.

MeThe one point that has not been specifically brought up is that the Bible, and Jesus Himself, commands us to pray specific prayers beyond just agreeing with others needs. The agreement is basically the amen part of the prayer. I personally think that person B is onto something if the comment to someone’s request for prayer was “amen” because that implies “I hear your need, I agree with you and stand with you and believe God’s will will be done.” But if someone were to say “I’m praying” since the Bible is clear on what prayer is, that person should actually take the time to say a prayer.

A few more things were said but one last statement stood out to me:

Person BIf God already knows your specific content whether it be verbalized or not- what need there be for an Amen. God already knows you are in agreement. God already knows if you’re NOT in agreement!!

So one last point I would like to make is that by this logic, one could argue that prayer is not needed at all. If God knows all and is all powerful, then who are we to think that making requests to God in prayer will make any difference?

Well, the problem with this line of thinking is that, like I brought up in the conversation, the Bible and Jesus Himself commands us to pray. Prayer is for our benefit not Gods and is specifically defined. Prayer allows us to grow closer to God, and while God is unchanging by nature with His immutability and impassibility, we can change, so the outcome of a situation can change because we pray.

An example of this is in Genesis 6:6

“And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Did God make a mistake in making men on the earth? Did he change his mind about his creation? If he was grieved in his heart, does that mean he has changing emotions the same way we have changing emotions?

No. No. And no.

The simple answer is that God does not change, we do. God is holy and we are not. When sin enters the picture, God must act, he is unchanging in this way. So the same principle can be applied to prayer. While we cannot change God’s mind, I believe prayer can move God to act in ways we cannot fully understand and no matter what, prayer lets us become more intimate with the one who made us, we can draw closer to him through our prayers. Who wouldn’t want that?

By Clark Campbell with quotes from a random online conversation
Theologetics.org

Thoughts, Prayers, Amens and Lies

What is MOST Important to God?

michelangelo-buonarroti-creation-of-adam
Detail from The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 of Sistine Chapel ceiling.

To start, let’s define the terms.

Definition of most:
Greatest in amount or degree.

Definition of important:
Strongly effecting the course of events or the nature of things

So with God, what specific thing strongly effects the course of events or the nature of all things in the greatest amount or degree?

To me, three answers seem to stand out; there is love, there is free will, and there is holiness.

John 3:16-18
16 “For God so loved* the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes** in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned*** already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

*We know love is important to God because He died to redeem us so we might be saved from sin.

**We know free will is important to God because He gives us the opportunity to choose His Son, to choose to spend eternity with Him, and this is evident even from the beginning when God created man and woman in the garden of Eden.

***And we know that holiness is important to God because those who do not choose to believe in Jesus don’t just get a free pass, but condemn themselves to an eternity apart from God.

In contrast, we know it cannot be any of the three by themselves because the others clearly exist, as this is evident throughout all of the Bible.

What does this mean for us?

Well, with all the beliefs in theology, there seems to be 3 levels of importance.

A. Matters of Salvation – How one is saved, the most important. Jesus is God in the flesh. It is only through belief in Him that you can be saved. This is not by works but by faith.

B. Matters of Witnessing – Effecting salvation of others, second most important. Some beliefs can affect your witness to the lost and possibly the salvation of others. Such beliefs include the authority of Scripture, the role of Christians as missionaries, views on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, etc…

C. All Other Beliefs – The least important. These are the denominational differences that seem to divide believers but are really trivial beliefs; the proper way to baptize, types of acceptable music, religious traditions, etc…

Other theological stances on certain issues may inadvertently lead to violating A or B, for example: condoning homosexuality, gay marriage, or theistic evolution may seem innocent enough but by doing so, one would have to compromise on what Scripture says about those issues and could thus compromise the authority of Scripture leading to that person’s effectiveness in witnessing.

Also, taking something that falls under C too far could effect one’s witness, for example: if believers fight and argue about religious traditions instead of agreeing to disagree and acknowledge that traditions don’t save people, only Jesus does – that can tarnish the view of the Body of Christ for those who observe this division.

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because we can deduce that love, free will, and holiness are so important to God, we know that each person is first solely responsible for his/her salvation. After that, we all share a responsibility to present ourselves worthy to be called followers of Christ and to bring the good news to the lost. And lastly, anything else we believe should be laid aside and not cause contention among one another. Let us strive to build each other up and spread the Gospel to all.

For further insight on love click here
For further insight on free will click here and here and here
For further insight on holiness click here

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

What is MOST Important to God?