Skip to main content

Disciples versus converts.


Go and make disciples is the commission of Christ. Notice He does not say converts.  The distance between a convert and a disciple is a vast gap between mere believer and devoted follower of Jesus Christ. In too many congregations, at too many neighborhood outreaches, in too many streets being “evangelized,” the goal is to win souls and not to make disciples. The gospel message has been perverted into some sort of sales pitch to enable the meeting salvation sales quota. Discipleship, not conversion is the ambition of those hoping to walk in Christ’s footsteps.

At the Des Moines Farmers market this past weekend, men were seen on boxes warning of the torments of hell for those who have broken the commandments and the horror of standing before a Holy God without redemption from Christ. There is a grave reality in their words, and the urgency and boldness in these men’s hearts is no doubt admirable, but what fruit is borne from distant shouting on a soap box? These are desperate attempts to force converts from fear. 

Jesus, however, beckoned followers, and created disciples. Jesus was delicate and deliberate with His outreach. However brief in His encounters, He strived to know the person He sought, and those He intended to shape into followers He invested in heavily. He uncovered the hidden secrets of the woman at the well and struck a blow to her heart where it was tender and ready for the hit. In the case of His followers, Jesus walked with, dined with, relaxed with, had fun with, and lived life with them. He stayed close and available to mold them into a likeness of Himself. Those who have believed the gospel of grace, need imitators of Christ to come alongside them and do the same.

A contributing factor to the many conversions with little fruit is the limited view of what the gospel message entails.  So often the gospel message is whittled down to a mere three point statement. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, and was raised on the third day. The gospel is absolutely hinged on this magnificent truth, but the gospel does not end at the message. The gospel is proclamation of freedom to the captives of sin, it is healing to the broken, it is rebuke to the proud, it is humiliation to the haughty, it is redemption to the shattered. The message of the gospel is also a life well lived walking in Christ’s footsteps. The gospel swallows the life of the follower whole; this must be understood to fulfill the call to make disciples. 

Perhaps the church should stop trying so hard to win souls, and focus on making disciples with deliberate and careful and tedious strife. People accurately imitating Christ, is how faith will penetrate the darkness of the surrounding world without Christ. Followers, not believers are needed to begin to heal a broken world, and disciples not converts are the fruit of the gospel of grace. 


  • gmc4jesus 5 years ago

    This speaks of an issue that is older than I am. I remember it being addressed by my brother-in-law some 45 years ago. There are many great evangelistic efforts today and all should be encouraged, not condemned. But what good is it if someone accepts Jesus at some sidewalk soapbox, stadium crusade or church evangelistic campaign if they don't get plugged into Jesus? Too many churches get them converted, but don't disciple them to become more like Christ. What good is it to wear the name if they aren't going to live like a Christ-follower?

    Getting To Know Jesus would be a good program for any new believer to help them learn about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and see how they can become more like Him. Getting To Know Jesus is a discipleship program that helps the disciple learn about every event in the life and teachings of Jesus. They are changed from the inside out and become more firmly grounded in the local church.

  • Paul 5 years ago

    Hello. I'm one of the men you saw speaking at the Farmers Market last weekend. I wish you would have taken the time to talk to us during your visit; please stop by next time you're around. I'd like to explain the ministry the Lord has given us - what we are doing, and why. Your comments about what we preach are a little misleading: yes, we use the law to bring the knowledge of sin (Romans 7:7), and we do warn about future judgment and Hell. But it is done in love, and we also preach the good news of salvation for all who will repent and trust Jesus alone as all their righteousness.

    While not every Christian is called to public preaching, we are all called to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8). Furthermore, whether you approve of me or my methods, you should rejoice that Jesus Christ is being preached (Philippians 1:18). May God richly bless you.

  • Jim Bagbey 5 years ago

    Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" Matthew 10:27 (Jesus)"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops." Mark1:38 But He (Jesus)said to them, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come." Luke 24:47(Christ)..."and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem...". Acts 3:19 (Peter) "Repent therefore and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." (Paul)Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

  • A new creation 5 years ago

    While many things that you say are true, I can't help but notice a theme in your writings. While you talk about love and not judging, you are judging those who are called by God Himself. You seem to come down hard on churches in a spirit other than love.

    Our calling to make disciples may be hindered by condemning the outlet into which believers must plug. God gave us the old testament and the new testament to reveal his character and his standards. He gave us the law to show that judgment is real. He gave us the new testament to reveal true love. We cannot delete either from our consciousness.

  • Angela Disney 4 years ago

    I love Taste of Home Cooking School Magazine probably better than Disciples of Christ Magazine. Always having to look for a place to live? 45 places in 54 years............