“People are opening up like never before…” he said. My friend works in a restricted access nation. He described an unusual openness in his country. “Persecution has reduced by many, many times. There is almost none right now,” he told me. We continue to talk. Those he trains are leading people to Christ on the phone every single day. While excited about this, a question arose in my mind. Are they making converts or disciples?
Are these what we might call rice Christians?
I wonder if a new term will surface. Will we call them COVID Christians? Those who in a time of global crisis prayed a sinner’s prayer but were never disciples? When the crisis is over, will they return to their former lifestyle and ways?
My intention isn’t to be negative about the incredible levels of openness we see across the globe. The harvest has never been riper! It’s almost as if the fruit is falling off the trees. We rejoice!
Short-Term Converts or Disciples Who Make Disciples?
I fear that if we do not make disciple makers, what could have happened during this time will not. If they pray a prayer, but we are not immediately training them to obey His commands, what will happen? We may not see lasting fruit and Disciple Making Movements result.
As people come to faith, we must make disciples, not converts, or church members. We must train them quickly to become disciple makers. DMM principles of obedience-based discipleship still apply during global disruption.
Too Busy Distributing Food to Make Disciples
Every day she gets ten or fifteen phone calls. There are visitors at her door. People are suffering. They are looking for answers and help.
Migrant workers walk many kilometers to return to their villages. Food is scarce. There is no work for these day laborers who used to send home rupees to their families. Unpaid school fees loom like a dark cloud over the heads of parents. How will we pay? How will we feed our families?
In the midst of this suffering, Rupa has a message of hope to share. “Jesus loves you. He is a God who cares for your needs and can provide.” She tells stories of how He fed the five thousand with a few loaves and fish. People are ready to listen, ready to receive a God who will provide for them.
As she gives out food packets she prepared, she invites them to pray and receive Christ. She gives a tract explaining more about the gospel. They are open. They want to hear more. “What must we do to follow this Jesus?”
“I will try to come to your house later this week, or I will call you,” she says.
The same scenario happens several times a day for Rupa.
“When the crisis is over, I will teach them more. Right now, I’m just glad they have accepted Jesus!”
Following the Bread Giver
In the gospels, we see that Jesus faced a similar problem. As He fed the multitudes, many followed Him as a means to fill their physical hunger. Jesus pointed them quickly to the hard reality of what it meant to be a disciple.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”John 6:26-27 NIV
In Matthew 14, Jesus feeds five thousand. In Matthew 15, He feeds four thousand. In Matthew 16, He tells them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matt 16:24-25).
Jesus quickly introduced the full picture and cost of being a disciple.
A Season of Openness
We face an unprecedented time of responsiveness. As we share hope, food, and help, we must call people to enter a life of obedient discipleship.
If our message is only one that says, “Jesus is loving, He will provide for you,” it is not complete. The message must be “Jesus is Lord. He deserves your allegiance. If you follow His ways, His commands, He will give you a brand new life.”
One of the important steps of obedience for a new believer is baptism.
Another is regular study of God’s Word with others.
If we are leading people in sinner’s prayers, but they are not challenged to obey His commands, the fruit of this crisis will not last.
Three Important Calls for the Person Opening Their Heart to Jesus
1. Call to faith, repentance, and total surrender to Christ’s Lordship.
As you lead people to Jesus in this season, don’t take short cuts. Explain the full gospel. Call them to a place of repentance, turning from brokenness and sin. Clearly invite them to become a disciple, not only to believe in Jesus.
2. Call to immediate baptism.
As you share the gospel message, include baptism. Then, make it available to them immediately. Say something like, “Most people who decide to follow Jesus immediately obey Him. They go through a special ceremony that symbolizes that decision. We call it baptism. Would you like to do that today or tomorrow?”
Make the step of baptism easy and available. To do this means we must change our traditions. We need to empower the person who leads someone to faith to baptize them. It doesn’t need to be an ordained pastor. You don’t need a baptismal tank, and it doesn’t need to happen in a church building! See more about this in my free e-book.
The step of baptism must be connected to their decision to put faith in Christ. That was the pattern of Peter and the Apostles. We see this in Acts Chapter Two.
They asked him, “What must we do to be saved?” Peter’s response was “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” Then, they went and got it done, for three thousand people!
3. Call to join a community of obedient disciple makers.
Getting people into a relationship with others who are also obeying Christ is vital. Together with number two above, it will determine whether they become converts or disciples who make disciples.
If possible, invite them to form a group with friends and family. Begin to train them and those in their oikos. Make this a priority, even if it means you distribute fewer food packets or do less social work.
We can not neglect this! A ripe harvest means you must rapidly multiply groups, and allow new believers to lead and start groups.
Unusual Openness – Will We see Lasting Fruit?
We are in an unparalleled time of openness around the world. This will increase in intensity. It will not last forever. Be intentional about the fruit God gives you in this time. Steward it well and make disciples, not converts.
Learn more about how to multiply disciples in my Online course! Enrollment opens soon.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or any questions you have. Share them on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group or in the comments below.