The Morning After

“I often wonder if we are so obsessed at counting conversions that we forget that our mission is to make disciples?” – Nirup Alphonse

In reading this question, I can’t help but pull out the make-disciples soapbox. Yes, believers should applaud the decision of every soul to follow Jesus. However, this joyous beginning is often marked by a penitent “prayer of salvation” and is viewed as the goal of Christian work. This goal, surprisingly, is never duplicated in the first-century Church. There’s no record of anyone uttering a prayer of salvation. How did the Church grow? New converts believed that Jesus was the Son of God and were immediately immersed into relationships with other disciples to become a disciple.

As the morning-after effect of Easter Sunday settles in, Christians across America will consider the exorbitant cost of Easter programs, weeks of labor, and resources that were passionately dispensed to compel congregants to recite a one-minute prayer of repentance. On this Monday after Easter, many will also discard the work needed to lead converts into a life of following Jesus. Today it is evident how the quick and mass conversion methodology is failing the Church. Many converted Christians know nothing about Jesus’ commands and have no direction in becoming like Him. To add to the confusion, contemporary pulpits parrot speeches to promote ideologies of making converts a better moral version of themselves. It seems we can pack out stadiums, but all this activity, across the nation, rarely affects growth in the Kingdom of God. These realities lead one to question if the fervor spent on crusades, church productions, and large-scale evangelistic campaigns betray nothing more than a need for activity among those who hope to quantify their spirituality.

Over the last few decades, the images of masses praying for salvation have mesmerized audiences. We’ve heard the declarations of influential super-evangelists. Sound bites of “We led thousands to Jesus” and “This nation will be saved in a day” are the buzzwords of many celebrity preachers. Though the last phrase completely misrepresents Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Israel’s re-birth, its frequent use exemplifies the biblical illiteracy and equal shallowness of preachers who market conversion campaigns under the guise of evangelism.

As I consider the cry throughout churches for revival in our nations, I am astounded by the minimal efforts made to change people’s lives by mentoring them in the faith. Too many vainly hope for God to descend and transform masses of unbelievers into disciples. They eagerly await this glorious moment as friends and neighbors enter an eternal Hell.

Why do many Christians feel that disciple-making is optional? First, I would venture to say that they have not been discipled. A true disciple of Jesus makes obedience to His commands a top priority. Above one’s career, personal time, social media broadcasts, and leisure time, the follower of Jesus must prioritize obeying His command to make disciples.

Secondly, disciple-making feels optional because many wait for a quick and convenient method to make disciples. We’ve heard that the method of reaching a new generation should fluctuate with culture, but that is not true. As my friend Eli Gautreaux recently taught, “Neither the message nor the method of evangelism has changed.” People can only receive the full impact of life transformation through consistent relational discipleship. The face-to-face dynamic of mentoring and teaching young believers how to follow Jesus is the only proven way to evangelize the world.

I conclude with a final thought on the frailty of momentary mass evangelism. One of the greatest evangelists of our time, Billy Graham, made a significant deduction as is recorded in the book Five Evangelical Leaders by Christopher Catherwood. Christopher writes, “In Graham’s view, his kind of mass evangelism had only become necessary because of the broader weakness and even failure of the church in evangelism, and once this was addressed, he felt that the need for mass-evangelism organizations like his would cease to exist.”

What is the “broader weakness and failure of the church”? We don’t equip our believers to lead a lifestyle of making disciples. Here are a few questions to consider on the day after Resurrection Sunday. Are you making disciples as you follow Jesus? Are you hoping God will magically save the lost around you as you utilize His blessings to accommodate other priorities? I know these questions can feel harsh, but there’s no alternate route by which Jesus will be made known to the nations. The hope of the resurrection will fade into a celebratory thought if you do not follow through and obey the directive He gave after He rose from the grave. He rose so you could lead the lost to Him through a lifestyle of disciple-making.

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