Almost a year ago now, I had a quick discussion with the author of Living Dangerously: Seven Keys to Intentional Discipleship in the comments of one of his blog posts.
Before I knew Shawn Anderson was the author of any book, I disagreed with the YouTube video he posted and with his related comments.
One of my points of disagreement is one I’ve argued many times before. Some people seem to think that “converts” are the lowly dregs of the Christian world, getting into heaven by the skin of their teeth. “Disciples,” on the other hand, are the real go-getters for Christ. However, there is no distinction between converts and disciples in the Bible. People are either dead in sin or born again. There’s nothing in between. (That being said, there are false converts and false disciples.)
The other point of disagreement is also a common misunderstanding based on the incorrect definition of disciples and converts. When Jesus commanded us to make disciples in the Great Commission, what exactly was He asking believers to do?
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) has four parts that we should obey:
- Make disciples of all nations.
- Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Teach them to obey everything He has commanded us.
What does it mean to “make disciples”? To me, it’s obvious that making a disciple (part 2) is different from discipling someone. Discipling someone is teaching that person to obey (part 4). Was Jesus being repetitive? I don’t think so. Making a disciple means guiding an individual toward salvation through Jesus Christ. How does someone get saved? By hearing the gospel (Romans 1:16). The portion of making disciples that God has entrusted to us is proclaiming the gospel (Romans 10:14–15).
(I want to note that the discussion on this aspect of the blog post ended very strangely. The author of an entire book that promotes a viewpoint that is opposite to mine said he agreed with me. I doubt that I convinced Anderson he was wrong. If I had, he would have taken Living Dangerously out of print. I don’t know why he ended up saying he agrees with me other than to shut me up. I would have preferred that he block me rather than patronize me [if that’s what he was doing]).
What makes Living Dangerously appalling is that approximately half of it was spent explaining research about what aspects of a “discipler” caused the non-Christian to come to faith. On page 36, Anderson writes, “The next several chapters are devoted to examining the character traits that influenced people to become disciples of Jesus.”
For example, the characteristics that most influenced women to come to Christ (filtered to exclude related “disciplers”) were, in order: knowledgeable, trustworthy, caring, faithful, authentic, passionate and loving.
Christians should be all of those things. However, no one should get saved because of the qualities of another Christian. We should submit to Christ because we see the truth and love of Christ in the gospel. We love Him because He first loved us. We don’t love Him because a Christian was knowledgeable.
So to summarize, I don’t recommend the book. I think it shows a basic misunderstanding of what causes someone to come to Christ—the gospel (Romans 1:16). There are many more examples in the New Testament of people coming to salvation by a seemingly chance encounter with a stranger willing and ready to give the gospel than people being saved by a long process of the non-Christian getting to know a really lovable Christian. True disciples are made by Jesus when He raises someone from spiritual death when they hear the gospel and believe. In our evangelism, we need to focus more on getting ourselves out of the process and simply telling His story.