Sunday, June 26, 2005
NOT reaching out and converting
And (unfortunately) it sounded all too typical: we need to reach out to the unsaved and convert them. We tend to measure church results by number of conversions and baptisms (or taking a series of courses, as if God cared about the number of courses we took or even what order we took them to become (better) Christians).
Yet, Matt 28:19 makes it clear that we are commanded to make disciples, not merely conversions. A conversion is only a single point in the long process of discipleship:
1) understanding one's sinfulness
2) understanding what the Gospel is
3) verbal confession and acceptance
Many churches end here and say "go and do likewise." In fact, "anyone" can do it, be it an grammar student (my 10 year old son claims to have 5 under his belt) or an elderly convert. We even have classes on getting this down to a science (with books like "Becoming a Contagious Christian"). We also have summer "specials" where teens go through boot camps to get 4th grade or younger children to get converted in 4 days or less.
But if you read the N.T. (and even examples like Elijah discipling Elisha), true leaders take months and years to mentor the younger disciples. And doesn't end after they are sent out.
Jesus Christ spent 3+ years with His 12 and then promised Holy Spirit to continue to disciple them. So it didn't end with His death. And He knew that Holy Spiriti will be working with them. However, He made it very explicit in that they are to make disciples, not "convert and then teach them to 'let go and let God.'" (For those who don't get it, it was a phrase I recall being popular in my youth, with the emphasis on trusting God to run our lives rather than trying to do everything our own way -- but I like how Patrick Morley uses Neh 4:9 to point out how we need to pray to trust God completely but we need to do our task with all that we got or, to put it differently, "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.")
Granted, we all can still get direct guidence from Holy Spirit today, but God's plan is for people to mentor and raise up followers of God, not convert and move on.
The battle imagery of today is to train a little (few weeks of boot camp) and then send them off. But the more appropriate imagery is raising a knight, of going through several years of the various stages: page, squire, knight. And then off to battle. (And then come back to mentor the next generation?)