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!