Converts or Disciples?
The recent passing of the great Billy Graham has caused me to ponder evangelism. Evangelism is a wonderful thing. All of us should be willing to share our faith (2 Tim 4:5), but God has given some of us the gift of evangelism (Eph 4:11), and those individuals may feel that God has called them evangelism.
Billy Graham was a great preacher. His crusade events drew huge crowds, and his evangelistic gift was obvious. After he preached, people would flood to the front, weeping, wanting to know the Lord. Hallelujah, what a marvelous thing! However, there came a point where Billy realized that statistically, most of the people who received Christ at those events did not remain actively engaged with Christ even one year later. This was of great concern to him.
He began to meet with churches in the areas where his crusades took place, coordinating with them so that there would be follow-up after the crusades. He understood that a commitment made in an emotional moment at a single event would not carry a person through in their new-found faith. Something more was needed – discipleship.
Evangelism was never intended to be a one-time event when a person has a wonderful emotional experience causing him or her to surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Yes, a person may be gloriously saved. They have become a convert!
Then, hopefully, they begin to attend a church. Often, they spend the rest of their lives in Christ seeking out more emotional experiences. They want to maintain or re-attain that emotional high. Their lives do not necessarily change – they just go from one experience to another, maybe even from one church to another seeking some kind of validation. Unless they become a disciple of Christ, they will remain immature, being led by their emotions, and they will find no stability or strength of character in their lives. Do not get me wrong, I am not knocking emotional experiences. I love those special touches from God!
Conversion is only the beginning point of our life with Christ. We must add discipleship to our conversion. Discipleship builds our character, our reputation, and our witness for Christ in the world.
We need to know God. In The Disciplines of the Christian Life, Eric Liddell wrote, “You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.”
Let’s move beyond a mere acquaintance level relationship with Him and go deeper, into becoming like Him. That is what discipleship is all about.