Converts or disciples?
I WAS RECENTLY PRIVILEGED to present the leaders of a large ministry with our Following Jesus programme as a tool to make disciples. They are a well-organised church planting mission, with Bible schools and excellent training programmes and I didn’t expect to add much to what they were doing. But surprisingly, they had no process or tool for nurturing new believers.
They are very effective at preaching the Gospel and making converts, often in the midst of intense opposition. And no doubt, in some sense they are making disciples. But it has not been their emphasis. One of them tried enthusiastically to speak my “discipling” language. He assured me that after he calls people to the altar in his crusades, he tells them to read the Bible, pray and find a church! Do you think that’s enough?
Jesus did command us to preach the Gospel to every creature. The word “preach” is more about the content of the proclamation than the size of the crowds. Still, He and His disciples did preach to crowds and called them to make an immediate response. But in our minds, let’s overlay that picture of Jesus’ preaching to the many with another image, His ongoing lifestyle of raising up a few, through personal coaching. “Proclaim the Gospel,” He said, and “Go and make disciples.”
We are not midwives who show up to deliver the born again baby and then move on to the next delivery. We are parents who care for the baby throughout the pregnancy, rejoice at the birth and then walk together through its life – and then have the unbeatable joy of working together with our mature children. Our goal as we go cross-culturally is not only to lead many people to Christ but to raise up a core of disciples within our host community who will themselves go on to raise up many more disciples. And if you have to choose between the two…
Would you rather have a handful of passionate disciples (who by definition make more disciples) or a thousand converts?
Jo and Jenny’s passion is to help a new generation of young people, many sons and daughters, to make disciples of unreached ethnic groups.
Jo and Jenny live in Osaka, Japan.