Church tradition vs Kingdom culture. Making disciples vs making converts. If we get this wrong, we miss the mission of the church.
Reading through the books written about Jesus, I’ve yet to see Him give a sermon and then end it with an alter call, or ask the crowds if they want to invite him to come live inside their heart. He never led a single person through the sinners prayer. Which is ironic because these practices are a staple in much of our church tradition these days… Perhaps not in every church, but I have heard so many sermons in my short time on this earth and I cannot count the number of services I’ve sat through that ended with a salvation alter call. Literally, it has to be somewhere in the thousands.
Jesus didn’t do alter calls.
He did ask people to follow him though.
I love reading the Bible because it really messes up a lot of the traditions we cling to so tightly.
When Jesus would preach to crowds, it was to explain His kingdom, and the goodness in the heart of His father. It was to reveal that heaven is accessed only through Him and not by our own efforts.
I’m not trying to ignore the significance of conversion. The word converted does appear twice in the New Testament (NKJV):
Let me repeat: Two times. Not a hundred. Not fifty. Not ten. Just two.
But it’s still there, which means it is significant and important.
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
Matt 18:3 “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This word is visually translated into the act of turning. It basically boils down to leaving one way of living behind and purposely walking in a new direction.
It’s interesting that if we apply this visual to the word “convert” it becomes less a matter of thinking or believing and more about a new way of living.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that we can’t know if someone is a convert by a raised hand in a church service. It seems that by definition, there would have to be something different in the way they live to indicate that a conversion has taken place.
Believing is a starting place. But it’s not the whole package. Consider this: the disciples didn’t know that the guy they were following was God, until long into the process of doing ministry with him.
It’s interesting to contrast the use of the word “Convert” with the use of the word “Disciple”.
“Convert” appeared twice.
“Disciple” appears 29 times. That’s just the singular use of the word. If we added the plural form, the numbers would be much higher.
My favorite thing to throw at people is the fact that back in the day, Jesus-followers were not the ones to don the label “Christians”. The first people to be called Christians were labeled that by those outside the church, because the world around them recognized that their life so resembled that of Jesus, that the only fitting label for them would be “Little Christ” which translates to the word Christian. Sometimes I even like to bother people by throwing them the idea that in keeping with early Christian practices, we don’t need to call ourselves Christians, we can just let people figure it out as they see Jesus through our lifestyle.
I love that the conversation of discipleship is becoming more common in church world. We are collectively seeing a bigger picture that all the alter calls in the world and all the raised hands in services cannot be the goal or success of kingdom pursuit.
I love Jesus’ approach to ministry. Ha! Duh… As if there could be any more brilliant way than the way Jesus does it…
His ministry approach consisted of:
1. Selecting someone who wasn’t really involved in church stuff.
2. Telling them to follow him.
3. Letting them be with him nearly 24/7.
4. Showing them how to do what he was doing.
5. Sending them to try it on their own.
6. Eventually leaving them in charge and having them do the same stuff he did with other people.
Our church traditions put so much emphasis on what happens inside the realm of a service. But Jesus ministry style put more emphasis on what happened outside the realm of a service. In fact, a ton of his recorded teachings didn’t even take place inside the temple, which would be our version of a church.
Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people. And that is the framework for discipleship.
Being with people. Demonstrating Kingdom life. Shaping mindsets and building character. Impacting communities together.
This is discipleship.
Jesus had a different approach to ministry than what we have been left with over the years. So much of what we do is organization based, and we often miss the simplicity and depth of what discipleship is meant to be, -Revealing the heartbeat of God as we rub shoulders with the people we are around on a daily basis. This is where discipleship starts.
The problem is, we often take the idea of discipleship and turn it into a church program.
We have this idea that first a person must become a convert. They must understand the work of the cross and redemption, they must believe and have faith, etc etc…. and then they can become involved in our discipleship program. We make it a meeting that people should come to where we will teach a concept and ask questions and pray for people. And we call this once-or-twice-a-week interaction, “discipleship”.
Its not totally bad, and it can be effective, its just a lot different than how Jesus did it.
People who are invited to share life with you come to some pretty accurate conclusions about what Jesus and Christianity is about, which is much more difficult if we are convinced that a conversion has to take place before a person can begin the process of becoming a disciple.
I actually think people follow Jesus BEFORE they believe in him when discipleship is working properly. (That’s how it was for Jesus disciples….)
Why? Because if they are following us and we are doing Jesus stuff, they end up being a part of the process even if they haven’t made their mind up about God yet.
Jesus wasn’t very church-y. He would just see someone out doing their job and He would tell them to come follow Him. He didn’t make them sign a contract or repeat a prayer or make a faith declaration. He just told them to stop what they were doing and come hang out with Him and be a part of what He was doing and go with Him wherever He was going. And it worked. Which is weird. And awesome. Jesus is so cool.
I’m just gonna make a bold statement here and say that discipleship is not designed to happen in a church building. In fact, it is even limited in a weekly home-group structure.
Is church good?
Is it important?
Are we supposed to gather together with other believers regularly?
But! the majority of the training that Jesus did with His disciples happened OUTSIDE the synagogue!
Ok that’s it for now.