I recently attended the North American Christian Convention as it afforded me the opportunity to see one of my favorite speakers, Francis Chan. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Chan, I would highly recommend that you check out his books (“Crazy Love” and “Forgotten God”) or listen to one his messages at the website of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. Chan’s topic for the day was the issue of being a Christian versus being a disciple. As he pointed out, there really is no difference, at least by Biblical standards. However, Western Christianity at large seems to be perpetuating the lie that it is possible to be a Christian without being a disciple of Jesus. This resonated deeply with me as one of my own personal mantras is “repenting of Christianity for a life of following Jesus.” One of the ideas promoted by the modern church is that by simply having someone pray a prayer and raise their hand, we have added one to our convert count for the year. Chan stated that he believes this is the most dangerous teaching in the church today. I couldn’t agree more.
Jesus told the people of His day that if they would follow Him they had to leave everything behind. They had to sell their possessions, they had to give away their money, and they had to forsake their friends and family for the sake of following Jesus. There is no hesitation and no compromise in the life of a true follower of Jesus. For someone to be a follower of Jesus, they must be “all in” or left out. From my study of Scripture I just don’t see any wiggle room on that. If you would call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must be willing to give up absolutely everything for Him.
Incredibly, some of the comments posted after Chan’s message were very negative. People were complaining that Chan was only saying that Christians must be disciples rather than giving them practical steps on how to become a disciple. I want to be as sensitive as possible here, but the last time I looked, those steps were quite clearly defined in the Bible. I think we have become a people that expect others to teach and lead us to such an extent that we no longer seek answers for ourselves. Worse still, in our ADD influenced society I think we often fail to even think at all. If something requires any level of depth it seems most are eager to move on to the next shallow but stimulating topic. Let me reiterate what is becoming a recurring theme here: following Jesus is hard. It’s not for the weak or the squeamish, but it is for anyone who loves Jesus with absolutely everything they have.
We need to stop being concerned with counting how many our church has “led to the Lord” and start making sure we invest in each one of their lives to encourage them to grow and mature in their faith. In other words, we need to be following through on the great commission and not just tell people about Jesus, but make disciples of all people. We need to spend enough time with new believers to ensure they understand what the next steps are and what God expects of them. Following Jesus is not a one time commitment, but rather a commitment that requires renewal every second of every hour of every day.
In summary, let me voice my agreement with Francis Chan. God didn’t call us to make Christians; He called us to make disciples. Let’s be certain that we as a church are not more concerned with someone raising their hand saying they’ve made a decision, than we are with discipling and nurturing that person. Leading someone to Christ and having their lives immersed by the Holy Spirit is only the first half of the commission. The second half requires that we make disciples of these individuals, so that they do not fall away from the faith and can positively impact the world with the love of Jesus.