"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.
Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I entitled my post today, "Making Disciples, Not Converts". The post is based on the Dallas Theological Seminary “Evangelism” Session #7, the last session in the series.
Dr. Barry Jones said, “After we bring people to the gospel, which is in 10 simple words: ‘Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead’—now what?”
Dr. Jones said that Jesus in The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 has two great assurances: One is the great authority He is passing down to believers to share the gospel, the other is that He’s got our back all the way “to the very end of the age” in sharing the gospel.
Dr. Jones said that The Message Bible says it even more plainly: “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life . . .” Christianity is not just about gaining converts . . . but it’s about discipleship toward a “way of life”.
He said there is a difference between belief and trust. He gave an example Billy Graham occasionally used of a tightrope walker who asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk this tightrope with someone on my back?” Everyone in the crowd enthusiastically agreed that he could do it. Then the tightrope walker asked, “Which one of you then will be first?” He didn’t get one taker. Dr. Jones said it’s one thing for a person to believe someone, but another to trust enough to get on the back of the other person, and in the case of the Great Commission, on the back of Jesus.
Dr. Jones talked about the importance of immediate follow-up discipleship, and long-term follow-up discipleship: He said that follow-up discipleship sets people on trajectory toward growth and maturity.
At this stage new believers are vulnerable. Immediate follow-up discipleship helps them to understand the assurance of salvation talked about in John 5:24, where Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
It also helps new believers to stay away from false teaching such as Jehovah Witness, Mormon, and other beliefs.
When I worked in mental health, I had one vulnerable elderly client in a wheelchair. I tried to link him to nearby church, but they didn’t go out of their way to reach out to him. On the other hand, two young Mormon missionaries were johnny-on-the-spot to visit him regularly and offer a form of emotional support he needed. They in essence were there for him when the Christian church was not.
New believers may continue to struggle with sin, with non-answers to prayer, about how to have and maintain healthy relationships, how to deal with a waning of enthusiasm for living the Christian life in the face of difficult circumstances. Follow-up discipleship can help them to navigate these things and can increase the probability and speed of positive spiritual development.
Dr. Jones said that follow-up discipleship should involve linking new believers to a local church, which he said is vital. Dr. Jones, however, did an exercise with the students in the class that showed that many of the students didn’t come from totally healthy churches, in that most of their churches were not good at “introduction” to the gospel, or evangelism. And most were not good at “integration”, or discipleship. He encouraged his students, however, as future church leaders to accept the responsibility of changing churches into being healthy options for new believers.
Dr. Jones said that a focus on new believers reading and understanding scripture should be a prime concern of follow-up discipleship. He said, “The Gospel of John is a great place to start.” He said “John is so deep and rich! It’s a really accessible and a beautiful telling of Jesus’ story.”
He secondly recommended the reading of the Gospel of Mark, which he said is a “basic Jesus-story”, which is the shortest gospel, and is very “action-oriented”.
Dr. Jones recommended Mac Anders’ “30 Days to Understanding Your Bible”, or some other similar book that tells how the Bible fits together.
Dr. Jones encouraged emphasizing the importance of prayer in the formation and development of new believers. He said there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to pray. It’s just talking to God and trying to listen to what He has to say in return.
Lastly Dr. Jones talked about long-term follow-up discipleship. He talked about the importance of catechesis, which in simple terms means instruction before baptism.
He shared the fact that the early church had examples of immediate baptism of new believers, of which Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch were prime examples. He said, however, that what set them both apart is the fact that they were what was termed “God-fearers”, in that they were Gentiles that believed in the God of Israel, the moral codes, and thought processes of the scripture.
Dr. Jones said that longer term training was adopted, and is needed today for new believers to unform negative Greco-Roman and unwanted cultural norms, and reform into Christian biblical norms before baptism. He said they also need training to understand the implications of becoming and living as a Christian so that they can in essence “know what they’re signing up for”
That’s it. In conclusion, I think this series of evangelism lessons from the Dallas Theological Seminary were a very informative and thought-provoking way to approach evangelism. I plan to refer to the teachings often to refine my approach in introducing Christ to people.
See you next time,