Convert Or Disciple?

Many people focus their efforts on being active in churches instead of pulling back and allowing themselves to be transformed by the Word. In one sense it feels almost as if the Church has become more focused on producing converts instead of disciples. Converts fill seats and can be put to work immediately. Disciples require a long-term commitment. A church focused on discipleship making historically will not have the quick growth seen with a seeker friendly church, but it will also not have the turnover seen in a church focused solely on converts. One church in our area has two teaching services a week and a midweek prayer service. They have formed service teams where members can become involved by serving in areas like children’s ministry, ushering, etc. Beyond the two services and service teams there are no other opportunities for one on one discipleship. Attendees are encouraged to get involved immediately by joining a service team. I have witnessed many people developing a focus on being active in service. There is nothing wrong with serving in the local church, but it should not be at the expense of allowing our minds to be transformed by the Word of God. This will not happen by just attending one or two teaching services on a weekly basis. We have seen that it will require us to be setting aside time on a daily basis to be immersed in the Word. 

It is possible to be busy doing the “work” of ministry without us entering into the plan of God for our lives. I have known people that serve on every team imaginable at church who ended up burning out. Several have even walked away from God. We can always correct our course but can save ourselves a lot of difficulty but placing our focus on the Word. Our goal is not to become an internationally known evangelist or to have people patting us on the back. A wall full of awards for our service in the local church will not mean anything when we stand before God. There have been many prayer warriors who stood faithfully in the gap throughout church history. Most have never had their names recorded in the annals of Church history. Some became known after they died. These people have been the catalyst behind the greatest moves of God without ever being recognized. Each has a great reward that may be even greater than that received by those who were in the spotlight. Our self-nature feeds on recognition and accolades but this is not the way of the Spirit. We can make things happen in our own efforts. How more will we accomplish though if we will learn to rest in Him and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. It does not matter if man recognizes our efforts. 

Over the years I’ve seen people rise to positions of leadership in the Church that were not spiritually ready for promotion. Some of these achieved success as a result of hard work (i.e., self-effort), some because they had the right connections, and some by riding on someone else’s coattails. Many of these people are no longer in church and others lead powerless lives mired in the traditions of men. We see ministers fall and this often is because they were placed into a position of leadership as a result of self-effort and were unable to resist the temptations that Satan sent their way. I’ve also seen people start out on the right track by taking the time to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. These people were patient and allowed the Holy Spirit to promote them. As their ministries grew so also did the spiritual temptations and attacks. Some were able to stand but I’ve seen many succumb to the pressures and fall. People condemn ministers in these situations instead of helping them turn back to the Word. 

It is only natural for us to have a desire to rise to the top of our professions. We will not have the spiritual foundation to not work in our own strength if we do not present our bodies as living sacrifices and then allow ourselves to be transformed by the Word. This will lead to our taking the credit for our success. Anything done to lift up through selfish efforts will pull us further away from the plan of God. This is one reason God does not always show us more than a few steps ahead at a time. He will only reveal the amount we will be able to receive. He is not going to show more than a glimpse of what is ahead if we cannot be trusted with it. Our part is to build a strong foundation in the Word. We will not launch out in our own strength into what He has revealed to us if we do this. This is the reason why presenting our bodies as living sacrifices and giving ourselves to meditation in the Word will always be the first steps in our journey of discovering the plan of God. God does not want any of us to fail. He knows that we will be exposed to the strategies of Satan if we launch out in our own strength. Jesus’ disciples traveled with Him for three to three and a half years. He did not send them out immediately when He left. He told them to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Satan will attack us when we launch out into the plan of God. We will have the foundation to successfully resist him only if we are patient and spend time meditating in the Word of God until our minds are renewed.

God wants each one of His children to succeed. This is why He will only reveal His plan to us in bite sized pieces. He wants to provide us the opportunity to mature and grow in spiritual things before rushing out into the ministry. New believers are often handed a stack of tracks and sent out to win the world. This is not the model that we find in Scripture. God knows that the enemy will oppose us when we step out. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them because it first had hated Him (John 15:18). It will be impossible for us to step into the plan of God without being persecuted. People will criticize us, fellow believers may think we are being too radical, and family members may shun us. All of this is part of the price that must be paid to pursue the plan of God for our lives. As we learn to yield to the Holy Spirit it will become easier to be patient and wait for God’s timing. He will promote us when we are ready. Our focus should remain on the Word. We increase our usability by deepening our foundation in the Word. 

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