No More Converts

The church should stop trying to make converts.

To convert something is to change US dollars to Canadian dollars – but its still money – or take liquid water and freeze it – but its still water. When we attempt to convert someone from Buddhism to Christianity all we’ve done is get them to change religion. 

Our preoccupation with making converts – getting people saved – has grown exponentially to become a serious blind spot. We have allowed the goal of conversion to distract us from real Kingdom work. We’ve become so concerned with getting people saved that we’ve actually forgotten the Great Commission. Jesus did not charge us with converting people; the Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction and regeneration.

Matthew 28:18-20 reads: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

We’ve been duped. We piously sit in our church buildings waiting for people who are far from God to come to a service to hear a “gospel” sermon complete with 11 verses of “Just as I Am” for an “invitation hymn” and maybe be converted. We think people are being discipled just because they show up on Sunday morning. We conduct 13 week courses on discipleship and give people certificates of completion: You have been discipled. We who have been duped go right on duping others.

Jesus told us to GO.  Maybe we need fewer church services so we can concentrate on spending time building relationships with people who are far from God. They have to know we are real right along with believing that the God who dwells in us is real.

Then, after we witness the miracle of people deciding to follow Jesus, it’s our responsibility to make disciples. Jesus commanded us to teach these disciples everything He has taught and is teaching us! In other words, discipling is a life-long task.

The basic definition of the word “disciple” is learner. It is our responsibility to learn, to be taught, and then, in turn, to teach others. No 13 week course can produce a disciple because a disciple is never done. To be a disciple is to be a life-long learner who is both being discipled and is discipling others.

We need to make sure our attention is focused on making disciples.

Preaching on Sunday morning does not produce disciples. It may be a piece in the process, but it’s just one of many pieces. Small groups by themselves are not enough. Working in the food pantry does not make someone a disciple. We need a holistic approach for disciple-making that embraces listening, teaching, self-feeding, serving, and group interaction. 

And we must not be afraid of measuring results. We have to learn to use surveys, profiles, group inter-action and personal, one-on-one interviews to determine if people really are moving forward and growing as disciples.

It’s a bit of exaggeration, but let’s adjust our focus: No more converts! Make disciples!

10 thoughts on “No More Converts”

  1. ….ok, thinking this through…learn then teach, learn some more, teach some more and so on goes the cycle of discipleship, right???

  2. ” ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations’ – not ‘Go out and save souls,’ but ‘Go and make disciples.’ It is comparatively easy to proclaim salvation from sin, but Jesus comes and says, ‘What about you – if you would be My disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.’ It has nothing to do with eternal salvation; it has everything to do with our temporal worth to God. All we are concerned about is being saved from hell and put right for heaven. There is something infinitely grander than that, and Jesus Christ gives us a marvelous chance of giving up our right to ourselves to Him in order that we might become the devoted bondslaves of the one who saves us supernaturally.” – – – Oswald Chambers

  3. Jim,
    I agree with my whole heart! I was told recently that the church is the salvation station, and that it was the pastor job to tell people how to be saved and the peoples job to get the lost to church so they could hear the message. Where has this kind thinking come from?

  4. I agree wholeheartedly! Many people, any many experiences lead me to the ultimate decision to follow Christ. For me it was @ the age of 33. Had I been introduced and exposed? You bet. Grew up going to church, even spent a little time in FL with a beautiful family who begged me every Sun and wed to become born again!{Jim and Tammy Fay Baker on tv and bible reading before bed….?????/ Only Christian music.. Whatever.} “Wasn’t my time,” I’d say. “I’m not ready to be saved>”
    Then, I’m taken to a time with my husband and youngest daughter Sophie. We are at a message presented by Tom Staamen here in Ottumwa. Tom is ending with the opportunity to raise your hand and profess that you will make Christ your savior. There is a deafening silence and open silent prayer and all you can here is “Do it Dad! Do it! Just raise your hand in the air! Do it! Sophie is whispering under her breath and an elbow with each prompting. Priceless! Rob and I still giggle about it. However My Husband did not accept Christ that night. Why not?? Its not our time its Gods time! He did accept Christ as his savior, but somewhere else hearing a totally different message! God came through! He always will. It just is not gonna look like we think or want it too.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly! Many people, any many experiences led me to the ultimate decision to follow Christ. For me it was @ the age of 33. Had I been introduced and exposed? You bet. Grew up going to church, even spent a little time in FL with a beautiful family who begged me every Sun and wed to become born again!{Jim and Tammy Fay Baker on tv and bible reading before bed….?????/ Only Christian music.. Whatever.} “Wasn’t my time,” I’d say. “I’m not ready to be saved>”

    Then, I’m taken to a time with my husband and youngest daughter Sophie. We are at a message presented by Tom Staamen here in Ottumwa. Tom is ending with the opportunity to raise your hand and profess that you will make Christ your savior. There is a deafening silence and open silent prayer and all you can here is “Do it Dad! Do it! Just raise your hand in the air! Do it! Sophie is whispering under her breath and an elbow with each prompting. Priceless! Rob and I still giggle about it. However My Husband did not accept Christ that night. Why not?? That’s where I was touched by God as Rose My hand in the air! Why not Rob? Its not our time, it’s Gods time! He did accept Christ as his savior, but somewhere else hearing a totally different message! God came through! He always will. It just is not gonna look like we think or want it too. We all touch people lives in different ways. The tapestry is woven of all different colors of threads! Trust. God is so good! Thank you again for all your words Jim! :]

  6. Jim,
    That’s good stuff. However, I was just pondering. What should discipleship look like. Sunday morning is a part of it. Small group ministry is a part. Taking people to do servant evangelism is a part. Sunday School is a part. But how can we disciple as Jesus did. How practicle is it for us to be with 12 men most of our time. How do we “do” discipleship in our day effectively. I know we need to do it, and I feel that at our church we are (to some degree). However, I am concerned with the “How.” What does it look like in our culture on a day to day basis? I wan’t to do a better job at this. Just being open and honest. I’m not completely sure what this would look like and could use some improvement. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  7. @Brad Colley
    Discipleship looks different from the outside than what the experience is for the participants. Trying to figure out what to “do” may be more problematic. Jesus’ style of discipleship seems to be more about “being” than “doing.” Being in relationship. Being in prayer. Being in the Word of God. Being in service. Being responsible for my own growth and development as well as being in relationship to others. Being.

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