Converts or Disciples?

The Christian life is designed by God to reproduce other Christians who live whole heartedly for Christ. Granted, you don’t save anyone – Christ alone, by grace through faith, does this by His work on the Cross. It takes anywhere from five minutes to an hour for a Christian to tell someone about the Gospel and for them to begin a relationship with Christ. But that short time span will never make a disciple out of them.

It takes on average anywhere from 20 weeks to a couple of years for that new Christian to get on a road to maturity in Christ.

Finding victory over habitual sin and problems of years past cannot be solved in a one minute prayer to receive Christ. That’s where discipleship comes in. A new Christian must be shown how to live a life for Christ and not just pray a prayer to receive salvation, a prayer ironically that isn’t listed in Scripture.

Here’s something you may not have thought about when it comes to discipleship, the moment you begin discipling someone you just doubled your ministry. Now you have someone else you are growing in Christ other than yourself. A new believer in Christ needs someone to guide, warn and instruct them in reading the Bible and living it out.

I would say that when you are actively discipling someone in Christ you more than double your ministry. You teach them how to do just what you are doing. The result is they also disciple someone and the cycle continues. How much more effective is a disciple than a convert? How much more effective is a child who has been raised by loving and caring parents than a baby who is left alone after birth?

It is not enough to just lead someone to the Lord – we must train them to walk with Him by our example and edification. An effective Christian is one who is fruitful and multiplies. Making disciples is the true litmus test of personal discipleship.

If you don’t have any then you probably aren’t growing yourself. Before his name change and New Testament writings, Paul spent a year with Barnabas at the Church of Antioch (Acts 11:25). This year long discipleship was the catalyst that launched Paul’s ministry, causing him to do greater works than Barnabas.

All believers must see the Biblical mandate of making disciples. Matthew 28:18-20 tell us to make disciples and baptize people. The latter is easier (or rather takes less work) than the former. I believe the discipleship process happens as we take someone on one-on-one and do the next statement of the Great Commission – teach them to obey all I (Jesus) have commanded you. That takes a while.

It can’t be summed up in the sinner’s prayer and “hope you can join us for church.” We must follow hard after Christ and chase harder after new believers if we desire to see them go beyond conversion to discipleship. The only reason they aren’t discipled to the level you expect them to be at is because you haven’t taken them there.

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Stephen Harrison is associate pastor of Family Church at White Hall.

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