Is it possible that the church has missed Jesus' intent to evangelize? Are we making converts and not disciples?
Many Christians believe that salvation gives us a ticket to heaven and avoids going to hell. Make the step to the altar and you're saved, thank God! True enough. But what about the Scripture that says, "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose?" (Philippians 2:12-13)
I am not saying that being born again is not essential. And I am not saying that living eternally with Jesus is not critical. Salvation is about having a relationship with God. God's main reason for sending Jesus was to restore fellowship.
John tells us that as Jesus spoke many things, many came to believe in Him. To those who did believe in Him he said, If you continue in my word (obey my teachings as one translation puts it) you then, are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:3-32)
Allow me to note two things. Jesus said, "If you continue," implying that we chose to stay in the process. Those two uses of "shall" are in the future tense indicating something that is going to happen ... not has already happened. Continuing in the process, along the way, we "shall" discover truth that will make us "free." Don't' you have to ask yourself, "Didn't I become free when I made my decision to become a Christian? Is there more?"
Discipling is a process. It is salvation being "worked out." "Continue to work" and "God who works" shows us there is a change process that evidences changing of a person over time. It should become evident. Paul, said "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation." Behold the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Can I see it happening in you? Would it be appropriate to ask you, "What's new?"
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "I would have been a Christian if I hadn't met one." He went to a church service for the purpose of learning about confessing Jesus. But because of the color of his skin, they wouldn't let him in. Apparently the "saved" people in attendance did not have enough of the nature of God to look past his color. It is believed that he led 750 million people into a pagan religion.
I haven't been able to find anywhere in Scripture where Jesus tells us to go and make converts. Look up what is called the "Missio Dei" or Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Let the church message be that God calls us to be, become, and make disciples everywhere. And that begins with making a decision to follow the Lord.
Leaving people believing that all they need to do is be "born again" is lowering the standard and shortchanging the benefits. It just so happens that as we restore our relationship with God through salvation, there is a great benefit - that we miss hell and gain heaven. But, Jesus said we are to make disciples. His purpose for visiting us was "to set the captives free" and that we might "have life and more abundantly." Discipleship is not just to mature, but for those who really want to have a good time ... "a blast" as they said in my day.
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers' Association.