I recently read a blog posting from a pastor I know sharing his burden for the lost. In his post, he implores his congregation to bring anyone and everyone to church on Sunday with the hope that they might hear the Gospel and be saved.
Nothing wrong with that.
Still, I would like to play devil's advocate for just a moment and present a few thoughts.
Let's say you do indeed bring your co-workers, friends, and neighbors to attend services with you Sunday morning. At some point, they hear a strong presentation of the Gospel, leave their seat, and make their way to the front. Here, they are encouraged by the pastor or a counselor to pray a simple prayer and receive the free gift of salvation from the heart of a loving God.
Nothing wrong with that….BUT
What happens then?
At the end of the service, that man or woman will eventually make their way home and immediately begin to wonder, "What the heck just happened?"
Now, here's my point. IF there are folks ready to step up and begin the process of discipleship in that person's life, that question gets answered.
But…does that happen?
Many times, this new convert is encouraged to join a class at church and possibly seek out a small group….if they're lucky.
Unfortunately, more times than not, they are left to figure out what this Christianity thing is all about…all alone. The result is a person who feels as though they were duped into something that felt right in the moment, but now just seems very confusing. At this point, the person is left with two choices: Jump in and hope that somewhere down the line things will come together, or simply walk away.
Before you disagree, or dare I say become "offended", consider this:
A few years back, the Southern Baptist Convention cited a huge number of baptisms for that particular year, sadly they said little about the fact that statistics showed that almost the same number of folks had left the church that same year or were considered missing in action.
Question: Are we truly impacting this world for Christ if we're losing as many as we gain?
So, what's the problem?
Well, I believe it is the abominable failure of the body of Christ to make disciples. Yeah we're great at introductions, but not so impressive when it comes to walking this thing out with someone.
Please know that I do not consider attending church with others discipleship, nor should you.
I could say a lot about what it means to disciple someone, but I think the Bible does a better job. By the way it's no great mystery. Just pick up the book and read what Paul has to say about the subject, or watch Jesus in action. I would cite the following verse from 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8:
We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing MOTHER tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
Like I stated earlier, we tend to be great at introductions, but "imparting…our own lives"…not so much.
At the end of the day, I really believe we would rather just place blind trust in our programs and services and hope they will somehow get the job done.
Unfortunately, this will never do. Discipleship is personal, intimate, messy, and time-consuming. It requires far more than any slick program or well written Sunday school literature could ever hope to provide. It requires flesh and blood interaction…and lots of it.
Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and make "disciples" not just converts.
Consider this: If I told you I would like to take your for a ride in my plane, would you strap in if you found out my training consisted of a one hour introductory class on the basics of flight? I don't think so...unless you're a nut! And yet, we seem more than content to send folks out into a sin-rotten world with no more than a quick "Hey dude, you're going to Hell" message and a quick prayer.
In the end, I really believe this does far more harm to that soul and an unbelieving world than any of us truly realize.
So my dear pastor, please preach the gospel. The world needs to hear it. BUT, do not forget that babies need a lot of care. Leave them to fend for themselves, and you'll end up with a lot of dead bodies on your hands.
And yes, there's certainly something wrong with that!