To hear many people present the gospel, you would think that Christian were called to make converts. Do you know that in Jesus’ entire life, he never once asked us to make converts. Simply filling auditoriums with people is not our mission.
The temptation, which comes from our desire to win others, is to filter out the more inconvenient or demanding parts of being a disciple. Our culture wants us to cater to them. Often, the result is responding with a much weaker, much less effective form of the Gospel.
In an effort to win as many people as possible, some take part in an unfortunate form of reductionism that goes something like this: You don’t have to do anything different. Just believe.
Picking up and bearing one’s cross has been transformed into an ersatz gospel of cheap advertisements, discounts on tuition at the local Christian High School, and christian jewelry and t-shirts. Being a disciple has been turned into a free ticket out of eternal suffering.
This consumerism form of Christianity, we should not be surprised, is effective at attracting a secular crowd. But the problem is when people bring those same attitudes into church – “it’s my way, my preferences, my desires that are important” – the result is – “if I don’t get my way, I’ll take my business elsewhere.”
This obsession to neuter the message of the cross, removes Jesus from the center of the universe and replaces Him with our selfish, narcissistic desires.
Jesus is a part of our lives when He should be all our life. He is life. Following Him requires all our life. The disciples ate, drank, sweat and slept ministry from when Jesus called them, to the day they died. Jesus wasn’t a part of their lives. He was their life.
We all are guilty of putting things above Jesus. Whether its health, wealth, comfort, causes, dreams, hobbies or interests, we all come to Jesus with expectations of what He will do for us. We all have our passions and causes.
Converts are new believers. We all start as converts. Too often we stop there. We make Christianity all about what we believe. Converts aren’t bad or wrong. They are like babies. There’s nothing wrong with being a baby. The problem comes when that doesn’t change. When a baby acts like a baby it’s cute. When a 35-year-old does, it’s sad. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
At Playa Christian Church, our mission isn’t to win converts it’s to make disciples. So what is the difference?
1.) The are no appreciable differences between the life of a convert and the life of the unbelievier. Disciples are believers who model their life after Jesus.
2.) Converts are focused on their values, interests, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on becoming like Christ as revealed in God’s Word.
3.) Converts go to church. Disciples are the church.
4.) Converts are participate in ministry. Disciples are committed to making the Church a success.
5.) Converts encourage from without risking anything. Disciples have skin in the game.
6.) Converts know about God. Disciples experience a relationship with God.
7.) Converts focus on following commandments. Disciples focus on grace.
8.) Converts are never inconvenienced. Disciples sacrifice.
9.) Converts believe in private religion. Disciples share what God has done in their life.
Jesus offers us grace and love without condition but not without expectation. When we try to water down the message by saying things like, you don’t have to change, you don’t have to die to yourself, you just need to believe – we depriving people of the truth. We are denying them access to a real, transforming relationship with the almighty God.
Jesus doesn’t call everyone to leave everything everyday. But He does call us to be willing to give up everything at any point.
His call for each of us is different. He has uniquely gifted every person to carry out a unique and valuable function in His kingdom. While what we are called to may be unique, the call is an extreme standard: Jesus must be greater than everything else.