How do we move a seeker from “I like Jesus, He is a great man (prophet/teacher)” to surrender and a shift of allegiance? Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. Hindus have little trouble calling Him one of the gods. Buddhists believe He was a good man, and atheists think He was a great philosopher.
Jesus didn’t call us to make church members. Nor did He call us to start discovery groups or plant churches. He called us to make disciples. We need to remember this.
What is a Disciple?
A disciple is someone who is completely surrendered to Jesus. They have shifted their entire system of allegiances to make Him Lord of their lives. They commit to obeying His commands and following His ways, though they stumble and fall.
We need to see a shift in allegiance if we are to make disciples who multiply. Those with unclear allegiances may share stories (which is good), but they will not make more disciples.
Loving Prabhu Yeshu – Is It Enough?
In a Hindu context, this issue takes particular forms. It is different in a Muslim, Buddhist, or post-Christian context. The principles are the same.
“We love Prabhu Yeshu,” they said pointing to the newly purchased, slightly tacky, Catholic-looking picture of Jesus. They had found it in the local market and taped it up on their bamboo wall. Was this a good sign?
In some ways, we were excited to see this. In other ways, gazing up at Jesus, our Lord, and Savior, taking His place right alongside Ganesh and Laxmi on the wall… made us a bit uncomfortable. Was this a step forward? Or a misunderstanding of the Gospel?
We took it as a step in the right direction. Our team continued to visit them weekly, sharing stories about Jesus (Prabhu Yesu) and letting the Word of God speak. Months went by. The photos on the wall remained the same. They continued to worship idols and participate in all the local Hindu festivals with no change.
This high caste family was happy enough to accept Jesus as one of the gods. This was easy. What they were not willing to do was accept Him as the only true God, or to acknowledge that salvation was found in Him alone.
After months of investment, our team decided we needed to present them with an allegiance shifting opportunity. If they were ready to commit to becoming disciples of Jesus, we would continue to invest time and effort to train them. If not, we would move on to look for other Persons of Peace.
Singing Yeshu bhajans first (which they loved to do), we went through the look back, look up, look forward steps. We reviewed the previous story. Some of them had shared it with others. “Our story today is about the Ten Commandments God gave through Moses,” we said. At the end of the story-learning time, we asked – “What must we do to obey?”
We had prayed much before this session with them. “Lord, please help them be ready to step away from their idols!”
Sadly, they were not. This story opened their eyes and they saw the truth…that following Jesus meant they must stop worshiping all other gods. It was too big a price to pay.
Their answers to the obey question were not very specific. The next week when we went to visit at our normal time, they were not home.
We asked ourselves, do we continue to pursue them, or “shake the dust off our feet” at this stage?
It was hard to let go. We had called them to a shift of allegiance, and they had made a choice. We would move on, looking for others who we could invest time in. We would search for those who were ready to not only like Jesus, but to make Him their Lord…to become disciples of the Master. As we did that, God led us to others who were ready to make that change.
Whether a Process or an Immediate “Aha Moment” – Allegiance Shift Must Come
Jesus didn’t always call for immediate commitment. It always came eventually. He didn’t allow so-called disciples to be comfortable following Him, without giving up their old ways. They had to be all in.
Some heard His parables and followed Him, wanting to hear more. They walked through a process that went from…
1) I have no idea who Jesus is to
2) I’m greatly interested to hear more from this teacher to
3) I can’t get enough of this man’s strangely life-giving words to
4) This man is the Son of God, the Messiah to
5) I am ready to lay my life down for Him.
For others, they heard Him once, were healed, touched, and immediately repented and turned completely. An example of this was Zaccheus, the tax collector. A few hours with Jesus and he was completely changed. His allegiance shifted from the god of money and wealth to the worship of Christ.
I am not a big “sinner’s prayer” person. Praying a prayer can have value and I’ve certainly had people pray one at times. What is more important than a prayer, however, is a shift of allegiance from other loyalties and other gods to obedience to Jesus in all things.
If we do not see this shift happen naturally, we can create opportunities for decision-making to take place. The timing of this requires prayer and discernment and can not be given a specific time frame. It depends on the person and context. For many, the shift comes before obedience to Christ in baptism.
What Do We Mean by Shifting Allegiance?
To be clear in our terminology, when we say shifting allegiance we mean their loyalty changes. They no longer look to the prophet Mohammed, but look to Jesus as their source of truth and direction in all things. They no longer serve money and wealth, they obey Christ and choose a life of loving and giving to the poor. No more do they worship all gods and bow to idols, they acknowledge Christ Jesus as the One True God, the Way, Truth, and Life. Family and community are important, but faced with a decision, they will choose obedience to Christ in all things.
This is what we mean by a shift in allegiance. It must happen; whether gradually, or at a specific moment. Without that shift, we will not make disciples, but only gather followers or seekers.
Here are some principles to consider as you think about this issue.
1) True persons of peace are those who shift allegiance. It can take time to identify them.
Someone may welcome you and even invite others to listen. But if they do not shift allegiance and begin to obey, they will not be someone through whom you reach the entire community.
2) Millions wait to hear, invest your time in those ready to commit to obedience.
Especially as we work with those who have never heard the good news, we can not afford to invest huge amounts of time in seekers who don’t commit. Move on and keep looking for those who are ripe for the Gospel. They wait for your message.
3) At the Holy Spirit’s direction, boldly give a call to complete surrender.
Peter did this quickly with the crowd on the day of Pentecost. “Repent and believe,” he said. Repentance is necessary for becoming a disciple. There are times when we wait as well. Avoid being pushy and preachy. Let the Holy Spirit do the work of conviction. For some, especially from other religious backgrounds, or who have deep woundings from the church, more time can be needed. They need time to be drawn in by Jesus’ incredible love.
What has your experience been with seeing the shifting of allegiance in those you are discipling? Share in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.