And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19
Something is terribly askew in the typical Christian approach to evangelism and discipleship. We participate in a turnstile of training programs on how to share our faith using memorized scripts. We successfully graduate from such programs and can impress – and perhaps even lead to Christ – some of the lost. But then what?
Even within our own households, we tend to focus on that key moment of salvation while failing to equip new believers for the arduous journey ahead. We leave that to the professionals. But let’s say you have a small church with only about 15 children in a department. Can someone effectively disciple 15 young people on his own? I don’t think so. And is that even the sole responsibility of someone outside the household? Not as I read my Bible. But that’s a topic for another post.
Catch and release may be a good policy with fish but not so much with souls, and neither we as individuals nor we as a corporate body are off the hook. Leading someone to Christ is so much more than a moment. It is a day-by-day imparting of truth, a constant nurturing and admonishing in the Lord.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
As a new college freshman who was finally free to attend church – something forbidden in my home – I deliberately chose a rules-based church because I craved the structure I never had at home. But I (not surprisingly) floundered in my faith, and the rules no longer mattered. And no one noticed when I fell away because most of those around me had as well.
Then years later, as a young mother, I became involved in a church plant in which discipleship was a core value. Mature Christians, including my pastor, took me under their wing, and I thrived. Finally my faith made sense. Finally I understood the importance of spiritual disciplines and the concept of life application. Finally I was able to give a reason for the hope that is within me. It was as if I were a homeless person introduced to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I ate till I was filled, and then I was able to fill others.
Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. That is the operative phrase. The whole counsel of Scripture embodies the “all I have commanded you” because ours is not a red-letter faith if Christ is the author of it all. Biblical illiteracy is perhaps the greatest blind spot of the common Christian and the identifying mark of a lack of discipleship.
If you were never discipled by a more mature Christian, it’s not too late. All it takes is time, patience and humility. Find someone you admire and ask her to invest in you. And then share the wealth. Over. And over. And over. You’ll be richer for it, now and forever.