Making Disciples or Merely Decisions?

In our evangelistic efforts, are we making disciples of Jesus Christ, or are we merely seeking to get sinners to “make a decision for Christ”?

Judging by the results, it seems obvious that the latter is the case.

In his book, Christ’s Call to Discipleship, James Boice writes,

There is a fatal defect in the life of Christ’s church in the twentieth century: a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ. But for many of today’s supposed Christians – perhaps the majority – it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity, there is actually very little following of Christ Himself. And that means in some circles there is very little genuine Christianity. Many who fervently call Him “Lord, Lord” are not Christians (Matthew 7:21). (p.13)

That is a sobering observation.  And, sadly,  it still seems to hold true for the church in the 21st century.

We must remember that the Lord Jesus commanded His church to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  And if that were not clear enough, He tells us that the way we are to do so involves not just baptizing them (v.19), and teaching them in general, but rather “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (v.20).

While we must never settle for mere moralism (i.e. just telling us what we need to do), in our preaching and teaching, neither may we settle for a type of preaching or teaching that does not lead to discipleship – to following the commands of Christ as well as believing on Him for eternal life.

Do the ministries of our churches tend toward the making of disciples? (Perhaps that should be one of the questions asked when considering any new ministry or activity in our churches.)

Does our teaching and preaching tend toward making disciples, teaching believers to observe all of the commands of Christ?  (If not, why not?)

May we in the church in the 21st century never settle for “much talk about Christ and even much furious activity” with “very little following of Christ Himself.”

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5 comments

  1. The thing that troubles me about the above quote is the claim that any Christian can make a generalised and sweeping judgement about “most Christians”, hence the phrase: “perhaps the majority”. But how can any man or woman possibly be in a position to assess most Christians’ relationship with God? This judgement presupposes that there are outward criteria by which we can judge the commitment of other Christians. But doesn’t our Lord say very clearly: “Do not judge by outward appearance” ? All my Christian life I have read and heard statements similar to the one quoted, but standing back and thinking about it, I realise that such statements are quite wrong. We have no right to make these kinds of judgements. Yes, we can encourage and challenge one another to greater devotion and commitment, but part of genuine commitment is submission in faith to the authority and sovereignty of God, which means accepting that we cannot make judgements about the lives of people we have not even met! (In fact, making judgements about people we do know and have met should be done with fear and trembling!) Only God can do this, because He knows all things. By comparison we know next to nothing. Concerning discipleship: doesn’t the Bible say: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” ? Yes, we should give our all to Christ, but remembering that the Christian life is not about heavy legalistic “commitment”, but about living in the love, mercy, compassion and holiness of God.

  2. Hi Al! Thanks for taking the time to read the post and make a thoughtful comment.

    To be honest, I find it very difficult to disagree with Dr. Boice’s assertion. And I don’t think he was being judgmental or condescending at all – I think he was simply distressed over the apparent lack of actual discipleship that we see in the church today. He wasn’t claiming to being able to peer into anyone’s heart to determine their true spiritual condition – he was merely stating the obvious, that in a lot of cases there is simply no outward evidence of anything remotely resembling discipleship.

    The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is a call for the church to make disciples. Much of our evangelism (both one-on-one as well as evangelistic preaching) seems to be aiming at a far lesser goal. We often seem content to get someone to sign a card, walk an aisle, pray a prayer, etc., than calling sinners to faith & repentance. (In fact, it is increasingly rare that we ever even hear the clear, biblical call to repentance that so often characterized the evangelism of our Lord Jesus and that of His Apostles.)

    And Boice cites Matthew 7. The same chapter where you find, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) also says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV).

    That is really all that Boice is saying. You can disagree with his “perhaps the majority” comment, but Jesus still says “many” (v.22). And that is a sobering thought (or at least should be).

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