Converts or disciples


Our Associate Pastor, Wayne Bridegroom and I were exchanging thoughts on evangelism and discipleship the other day when he wrote, “I fear that there is a huge disconnect because we make such a big issue of ‘getting saved’ as a transaction assuring heaven that sanctification (in most evangelical circles) simply translates into being a good American and adding on prayer, Bible reading and church attendance.”

Wayne’s comment deserves a good deal of thought. I agree, that as evangelicals in America we focus so much on salvation that we skirt over what happens after that — what it means to be a disciple of Christ. There are undoubtedly many Muslims who know more about the teachings of Jesus than we do. It’s as if once we get saved that’s the end of it. Like Wayne said: go to church, read your Bible once in a while, pray when you’re in trouble … that’s about it for discipleship in America.

Did Jesus tell us to go into all the world and make converts? Get as many people as possible to accept Jesus as their personal savior? What is that anyway? “Accepting Jesus as your own personal savior” is nowhere in the Bible. As if you could have your own personal Jesus. That doesn’t sound like a person who makes any demands on my life. That sounds like God in my back pocket. Want to see my own personal Jesus? Here, I think I might have a selfie of us in my phone.

No, Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples, “Teaching them everything I have taught you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Everything He taught His disciples in three years of walking and talking, spending every moment of every day together? Do you know that? Can you say you’ve got that down? I don’t, and that’s supposed to be my job. So, how are we doing on the Great Commission? Not too well, I would venture to say. I doubt there are many Christians who can tell much, if anything, about what is in the Sermon on the Mount, much less the rest of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels.

Not that the teachings of Jesus will save you, but once you are saved, don’t you think you would want to know and follow everything Jesus actually said? Don’t you think that would be the most valuable thing you own — the thing you know better than anything else — access to the words of Jesus? They are precious to us. Jesus makes it pretty clear that a disciple of His is one who knows and follows everything that He taught His disciples. I don’t think you can do that in a seminar, a booklet, or a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. More like a lifetime of walking and talking with others who are pouring over the words of Jesus.

This is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we’re talking about. The one through whom all things were created in whom all things exist. He’s so much more than our personal savior. He is our Lord. Hear Him and follow.

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9 Responses to Converts or disciples

  1. Thomas E Branscom says:

    Nailed it! I think Jesus said to rejoice in the presence of the (Wayne) Bridegroom, and we should. What if Jesus’ statement about “salvation” was really Matthew 7:24-27, and being saved included an abundant life, and not just an event? How different our message would be!

  2. David says:

    Was that a test? Surely you are aware that you misquoted Matthew 28:20 in a way that most people in our culture would like to rewrite it. My bible says “Teaching them to obey everything I have taught you.”

    • jwfisch says:

      I see. I left out the part about obeying. That’s rather important isn’t it? You can teach people stuff or you can teach them to obey stuff. Big difference. thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Toni Petrella says:

    Great message. I hope that everyone when your saved you follow Jesus and never stop doing this each day and learning more all the time. Sometimes folks back slide and I speak from experience but, I was glad I found my way back and hope I always stay on the right path. Take care, God Bless, and have a great weekend.

  4. Toni Petrella says:

    Try Again

  5. peter leenheer says:

    The message I glean from this post is that many are saved but few become true disciples. One in ten finishes strong of all those who are saved-Steve Farrar Romans 8: 17,18 states, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs to God’s glory. BUT IF WE ARE TO SHARE IN HIS GLORY, WE MUST ALSO SHARE IN HIS SUFFERING.
    Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
    Salvation is like a beginning, Becoming like Jesus is….well read the following quotes:

    1. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton-the way of Jesus has not been tried and been unfruitful. It has been found too difficult and left untried.
    2. Dutch Sheets says in Intercessory Prayer page 83, “Let’s accept the fact that the Scriptures are filled with principles that put responsibility on us , which must be met to receive God’s promises. Let’s realize this doesn’t cancel grace and promote salvation by works. Grace does not imply no responsibility on our part. Let us realize the love of God is unconditional, but his favor and blessing are not.
    Let’s cast off all laziness, complacency and apathy. Let’s realize we fall short at times and not feel condemned when we do.
    3. Surface change is often mistaken for deep change. When the medication of exciting worship and inspiring preaching relieves the symptoms of sin, the need for the surgery of brokenness is no longer recognized. ( Sixty Six Love Letters by Larry Crabb, pg. 175)

    Being saved is one thing but being a disciple requires deep change and a deep commitment to repent daily. David Benner says the following; The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self-the real me. But master of delusion that I am, I have trouble penetrating my web of self-deceptions and knowing the real me. I continually confuse it with some ideal self that I wish I were.

    it is sad that only 10% of christians finish strong because they chose to find the narrow gate that Jesus says few find.

    I have found that narrow gate, and it is tough and at times unbearable to go through. I cringe every time I rededicate myself to that life. I hope to someday be like Jesus who asked the Father to forgive the soldiers who nailed him to the cross. All of Jesus’ 11 disciples died , 10 a martyrs death.

  6. peter leenheer says:

    Habakkuk 3:17

  7. TOM F. says:

    I have been in 12 step recovery for 36 years now. When I read the steps on the wall the first three reminded me of my experience with evangelism back in the 70;s. But it was step 4-11 that today makes me think of sanctification. They involve self examination of my life in bondage to self wanting to be rid of the things that stem out of that . Repentance of wrongs and making amends for harm done. Then there is the daily self examination that has me craving to know GODS will and pray for the power to carry it out. Step 12 is the making disciples. , the daily walking along side. I sit in the rooms and watch people do the 123 shuffle and they relapse ( backslide). We never seemed to here anything after making the decision to have Jesus as my personal savior. And looking back I could see me doing alot my will in God’s name. This Catch also reminded me of the Tues. podcast while back with th RED LETTER Christians.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I think you put your finger on what I feel is the problem with the Jesus Movement. It comes across as inward-looking. I am awful — Jesus saves — Jesus is my personal savior — you too should make Jesus your personal savior.

    I really appreciate John’s emphasis on outward-looking instead of inward-looking. Grace Turned Outward.

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