24 Comments

Living Dangerously: A Dangerous View

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:

  1. Go.
  2. Make disciples of all nations.
  3. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  4. 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.

24 comments on “Living Dangerously: A Dangerous View

  1. Good post, Bill – carefully and accurately drawing the line between “making disciples” and “teaching them to observe all things”. That fella’s book must be a piece of work – he displays endorsements from Dallas Willard and a few lesser offenders who look more to the creature than to the Creator. His entire approach reminds me of John Eldredge and his wretched book, Wild an Heart – tugging at one’s human desire for excitement as the basis for “doing good”, and painting God as one who takes risk.

    God’s people need less new teaching and more gospel preaching.

  2. I’m confused. I agree with you, but didn’t Jesus call Judas a disciple but he was clearly not a convert? Please help.

  3. Anna, the word, “disciple: can one of several meanings. The right meaning can only be determined from looking at the context. In its most superficial use, a disciple was one who physically followed another – as did the crowds who followed the Lord after He fed them with a few loaves and fishes. Such are not spiritual disciples – and in this category Judas fell.

  4. Thank you for your response. I do think these people exist today, clearly people who think Jesus is great, somebody to follow, and a good man – but without seeing their need for a Saviour and not being converted.

    I currently am having struggles with types of evangelism that I am coming up against. The first type is a relationship type of evangelism. Where you are only credible if you have formed the relationship with that person and if they convert (maybe years down the road if and when they are told the gospel) making sure you are there to spend the time to disciple that person. The second is a disciple style relationship evangelism. This is slightly different because the gospel may or may not come up. It’s all about respecting the person, their views and loving them, if it is meant to be, Jesus Christ may come up. It’s not so much about conversion but mostly about growing with the person and hopfully they respect you enough to grow your way. Both of these people are very disgusted by what they call hit and run evangelism. I’ve tried various ways to respond to these people, how would you respond?

  5. I tell people who embrace those two types of evangelism to hit the Book! They read what is between the lines and fail to read what is clearly spelled out – we are to proclaim the gospel (biblical Christ, biblical gospel – not “my personal testimony”) and walk in such a way as to not bring shame to the name of our Lord. One cannot do it in reverse, hoping the lost person who is at war with God will be won over by the “Christian way” you mow your lawn or walk your dog.

    Here’s a good message from one my pastors that addresses this effort to relate to people rather than proclaim the gospel: http://media.sermonindex.net/17/SID17203.mp3

  6. Thank you for your reply. I’ve actually listened to Voddie Bauchams message quite a few times, to get others to is a different story!

    Where do you think this leaves people now who become converts from tracts, one-on-ones and street preaching (assuming they don’t personally know the person from whom they have heard the gospel)? They’ve come to know the Lord, but have no connections beyond that. Have we dropped the ball there? Or do we trust the Lord that He will lead them to a church and to other Christians to help them grow? And should “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” be incidental, or very deliberate (like a planned mentor)?

    Thanks for your time.

  7. You’ve hit upon one the key points of contention amongst church folk – what obligation do street preachers have to follow-up with those they’ve preacher to and who confess Christ? There is no formula – both sides tend to get emotionally bound up – and I see in Scripture examples that lead me to believe we need to have grace. I think a man handing out tracts ought to have information on the tract – a label perhaps – with the name, address, & phone number of a biblical church in the part of town he is preaching. While we do trust God to save each person He has chosen, we also know He chooses the means to His ends as well. Church pastors can see street preachers as hit and run preachers who do no follow-up; if they work with street preachers to provide that, perhaps the street preachers would be seen as allies.

  8. Anna:
    Please read or purchase a copy of “God has a wonderful plan for your life” by Ray Comfort. http://www.livingwaters.com/ His approach has had a profound effect on how I present the gospel to strangers. I believe you’ll find it a great blessing!
    I was “saved” one night in the middle of my living room with no direction as to “what to do next.” All I knew at that time was something had happened and I had a great desire to find a church. Fortunately, By Gods providence, a friend who had become a Christian a few years earlier stopped by and long story short, I’ve been at the same fellowship ever since. We can certainty trust the Holy Spirit to do His “job” in the life of a new convert. 2 Tim. 2:19
    ______________________________________________

    “I think a man handing out tracts ought to have information on the tract.” Absolutely correct. All our tracts have the necessary contact information to lead a new believer or an interested person to our fellowship!

  9. Manfred,
    Dallas Willard and John Eldredge are both peas from the same pod of heresy. People only buy into that kind of drivel because 1) they are not being taught the truth from the pulpits in their churches and 2) because they have little to no discernment.

    Also, fully agree there is no different style of evangelism than what is found in Scripture. The apostle Paul did not try to become a “friend” first to Agrippa, Felix, or Drusilla before laying down the law and their utter failure before a holy, righteous God. He told them the truth because that was more important than what those people thought of him. He was far more impressed and interested with what God thought of him.

    A classic example is the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler. The evangelistic method the Saviour used would not be found as acceptable in most of today’s evangelical churches.

    @Bill – Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    TDP

  10. Rev Limiter: thank you for the suggestion, I had that very book in my hand tonight as I was responding to a Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ Canada) employee regarding the gospel. The Living Waters ministries has been such a blessing to me and my family.

    I have been thinking more about having contact information on our tracts, although we run into a snag because in our area we don’t (from what I understand) have a biblical church. The one I attend is probably the closest and there are many unbiblical things about it, and hesitate to invite people there, and many there would not approve of handing out tracts so there would be problems with putting the address on there. Should I be putting my own contact information? I’ve heard that it is not wise. We’ve basically just been trusting that the Lord can work out any details on the other side of conversion if we are not personally in contact already with the person.

  11. Wow, where do I even begin? I had never heard of this book until this post. I took the initiative to look it up on Amazon and read the reviews, which were few. But, I know this book, for it is a picture of my own church. In fact, my own church could be the model for what this book seems to be teaching. Our senior pastor has stated from the pulpit that the church’s mission is not to preach the Gospel but to make disciples. And there are very grave dangers to this type of teaching. I have seen it up close and personal.

    Every Sunday we are exhorted to love, to serve, to go the extra mile, to give. We are told that God’s Lordship demands that we live above the world and that sin is wrong and will destroy us. Jesus loves us so much and wants only what is best for us. He longs to bless our lives, but we thwart him because we aren’t making him Lord and living up to our potential. Our desire is to see our fellow brothers and sister reach their maximum potential in Christ so that they can then go out and live transformed lives before others. Then when others see Christ in them, they will want the same thing and then become disciples too. Every Sunday. Same message.

    What’s missing? The Gospel. Biblical doctrine. Sound teaching. What’s there? An empty works mentality and strong exhortations toward being a moral, upstanding person. And unsaved people may be going into eternity thinking that they are saved just because they are doing some of these good works.

    Deception is such a powerful thing. Our senior pastor thinks that he is hearing from the Lord, and doing everything that the Lord tells him to do. He is a loving man and a paragon of virtue. But he is deceived none-the-less. And books such as this strengthen that deception.

    More and more I wonder how much longer I can tolerate all this. And I know what all of you are thinking. Why in the world are you still there? Well, my husband is the associate pastor and although he is a steadfast believer, he has been deceived too. I know that it’s possible to love Christ and be taken in by deception for I was there just a few years ago. But He cleared my mind, and showed me His truth. I pray the same for my husband. Of course he thinks his wife is overly critical, hard-nosed, and judgmental. There have been arguments and strong words in our home over this. But only Jesus can change his mind. I see cracks here and there and praise God for that. But for now, I grit my teeth and pray, pray, pray. Both for my husband, our deceived pastor, the brothers and sisters in our church whom I love dearly, and the non-believers that are coming and thinking that they are fine, but aren’t. And believe me, I am not afraid to state my convictions and I do. I don’t care if I am the judgmental one. I want to only please one person, and He is the one who will hold me to account to His truth.

  12. By the way, I praise God for this website and others like it. It was through these sites that the Lord brought me back to pure Biblical truth. I now get my food through excellent online sermons and Bible studies. I praise God for them. God bless you all here at DefCon.

    -Rae

  13. “I have been thinking more about having contact information on our tracts, although we run into a snag because in our area we don’t (from what I understand) have a biblical church.”

    Why not start meeting in your house, inviting people over to read the word of God with your family. If the Lord saves them you can begin fellowshipping together at home if there is not biblical church in your area. You could also start a street meeting, same place and time every week so people know where and when you are there. They could come back to talk to you the next week. Your call is not to point them to a religious institution but to Jesus and true fellowship with the saints in the Spirit. -Jim

  14. flee – biblical churches are not “religious institutions”. False churches and other institutions would be rightly called that.

  15. ” my own church could be the model for what this book seems to be teaching.”

    Rae:
    SEEMS to me you know little about the book other than the title which has nothing to do with the content. This book is all about preaching the gospel; the “bad news” first and the “good news” last. No “Jesus wants you fat, happy and fulfilled” here! Just the facts!

    In the spirit of Christian love, you ‘de be blessed if you read it!

  16. Manfred said:
    “biblical churches are not “religious institutions”.

    I agree sorry I didnt communicate it well. When I said “you can begin fellowshipping together at home if there is not biblical church in your area.” it was part of this thought ” Your call is not to point them to a religious institution but to Jesus and true fellowship with the saints in the Spirit.”

    They are both part of the same thought contrasting one to the other.

    In Christ -Jim

  17. The problem is, is that humans always fail. So if you are using “your testimony” and friendship and Christian lifestyle to lure people into accepting Christ, eventually something will happen that shows that you are still “human”. Only pointing people to Christ is the answer. Don’t look at me but look at Him. But maybe that is just my simple mind at work. I know about the time I have tried to impress with “my” Christianity, I always do something stupid or worse, sinful, and they then doubt what they have believed in, me. So I start off by telling them that I am just a sinner saved by grace and that I have a wonderful Saviour who is the only answer to the hope that I have for eternal life and that they should look to HIm.
    I hope that I am not off topic.
    pam

  18. Bill,
    Thank you for your commentary on my book. I also appreciate the valuable and insightful comments made on this post.

    I still think we fundamentally agree. If I understand correctly, we both believe there is no distinction between converts and disciples; we both agree that discipling involves a teaching process; and we both assert that it is the Gospel that changes lives—not people.

    My book reported what believers across the United States said influenced them to accept Jesus. The majority of them said that they were most influenced by a one-on-one relationship with another believer. These people also named specific characteristics of believers that had the biggest impact on their decision to accept Christ. However, in case I confused anyone (which can easily happen), I know that relationships are no substitute for the Gospel. The Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

    Jesus called us to “Go and make disciples” because he wanted to use us as active participants and partners in the disciple-making process. This is a very serious responsibility. Making disciples and discipleship requires us to become like Jesus in every way. Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). Jesus taught his followers how to make disciples by modeling his life for them—and it worked.

    The apostle Paul said that when our lives are transformed into the image of Jesus we will reflect his glory to others (2 Cor. 3:17). There is no fluff or pretense in being transformed into the image of Christ. It is a life-long, dynamic process. It takes work. We become more like Christ as we develop an intimate relationship with him and intentionally work on growing spiritually.
    Jesus was dangerous because nothing got in the way of his mission—to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He brazenly loved the disenfranchised, claimed to be God, and broke sacred traditions. Jesus risked his life by sharing the Gospel to virtually everyone he met. When we are transformed into his image we naturally reflect his character through our words and deeds. We become “the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15).

    There is no magic formula in conversion. The bottom line is that we need to strive to be like Christ in every way. Like Jesus, we need to be dangerous in our efforts to share the Gospel with others. We cannot let apathy or selfishness get in the way of our mission; we must run through the yield signs that Satan places in our path.

    Thank you for continuing this dialogue. I certainly appreciate your sincere quest for truth. I know that I am still learning and growing. We will always be able to debate nuances in Scripture, but the “weightier matters” are that we are partners in the Gospel and we have a common desire to obey God, follow Jesus, spread the Gospel and make disciples.

    Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving.
    Shawn

  19. Shawn,

    Then I have some questions for you.

    1. What do you think making disciples means? If a Christian wanted to make a disciple, what would he do?

    2. When the Ethiopian eunuch was saved (Acts 8), do you think he would say he came to Christ because Philip demonstrated certain qualities?

    3. Your whole survey is based on what is happening in modern Christianity. If we are using faulty methods of evangelism, and I’d say we generally are, then the survey is going to give faulty results. It seems to me you’re examining the results of what we’re doing improperly to try to improve it (rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic). What we should be doing is scrapping the whole thing and starting over with what the Bible says. If you agree that people come to Christ because of the gospel, what is the point of your survey, and your book?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  20. Rae – Thanks for painting a 21st century picture of the first century Galatian church infiltrated by the Judaizers:

    Every Sunday we are exhorted to love, to serve, to go the extra mile, to give. We are told that God’s Lordship demands that we live above the world and that sin is wrong and will destroy us. Jesus loves us so much and wants only what is best for us. He longs to bless our lives, but we thwart him because we aren’t making him Lord and living up to our potential. Our desire is to see our fellow brothers and sister reach their maximum potential in Christ so that they can then go out and live transformed lives before others. Then when others see Christ in them, they will want the same thing and then become disciples too. Every Sunday. Same message.

    What’s missing? The Gospel. Biblical doctrine. Sound teaching. What’s there? An empty works mentality and strong exhortations toward being a moral, upstanding person. And unsaved people may be going into eternity thinking that they are saved just because they are doing some of these good works.

  21. Bill,
    I apologize for the delay in responding. WordPress did not notify me of a follow-up comment, and I just noticed your reply.

    Let me preface my comments by stating that I do not claim to have all the answers; in fact, I may not have any answers.

    Our study was conducted to reveal the results of a nationwide study that asked people how they were led to Christ. It gives empirical validation to books like David Platt’s Radical. The responses included in my book were determined to be statistically significant with a very high level of confidence. I was surprised at some of the discoveries, but true scholarly research demands that I report even those with which I disagree.

    One reason I chose to publish the results is because they pointed to the necessity of every person obeying the Great Commission. Often, we are comfortable to let the church evangelize and disciple others. This minimizes our calling. As I stated in my book, “It is not the responsibility of the church to seek and save others, it is mine!” (p. xi).

    Additionally, the research made it clear that we need to take an active role in converting and discipling others. The majority of people in our study were influenced to come to Jesus through a relationship with a believer. This was reported to highlight the importance of the role we have in the Great Commission. There are certainly other ways people come to know Christ.

    Our study asked respondents to describe the characteristics of the person that had the biggest impact on their decision to follow Jesus. The characteristics that were statistically significant were included in the book. Why? To show that there is a correlation between leading a Christian life and simply calling ourselves a Christian. We should not be Christians in name only. To clarify: demonstrating certain characteristics does not lead others to Christ. In my book I stated, “simply altering our behaviors does not influence others. We lead people to Jesus when our lives become a reflection of him” (p. xii).

    Our research empirically demonstrated that we most effectively convert and disciple others when we intentionally participate in the divine nature of Christ (2 Peter 1:4). How do we do that? By focusing our energy on digging into Scripture and following the example of Jesus. This means being like him in every way—through our behaviors, our actions, and our teachings.

    Being transformed into the image of Jesus is a lifetime process, and it requires us to intentionally work at it. But when we strive to be like Jesus, our mission will naturally be to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and nothing will get in our way.

    Of course, conversion is not the end goal. The Great Commission also involves discipling others. That is why my book also describes ways to help others grow spiritually, such as teaching them to practice the spiritual disciplines.

    As joint heirs in the kingdom, you and I are in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. We are also learning what this means in light of converting and discipling others.

    To help me understand you, please describe the conversion process you have experienced, both as a nonbeliever and a believer.

    Blessings,
    Shawn

  22. Hi Shawn,

    I’m all for Christians growing in holiness, and becoming more Christlike. And it is painfully obvious to me that acting Christlike would include opening our mouths and letting the gospel come out.

    I was saved as a kid, and I have mainly my mother to thank for presenting the gospel to me. God uses people in this process. Sometimes He uses complete strangers, and sometimes He uses people we look up to and admire. In the New Testament, He used strangers more often than not.

    However, we have devised a totally different system, where you invite someone to your casual, seeker-friendly church, where they hear a self-improvement lecture and listen to rock and roll. If they think the church is cool, they might come back. You go out for coffee with them, and they tell you about how they’re shacked up, but you’re certain not to mention that that is a sin, and they need the Savior, because you’re still trying to convince them that you’re cool, and that Christian stuff is just so uncool. It might be months or years of subtle hints about Christ before something terrible happens to them and while they’re sobbing, you seize the opportunity tell them that Jesus just wants them to be happy and cool like you, and they should repeat the sinner’s prayer after you. You make sure they write the date they prayed that prayer in the front of their Bible. Anytime they might be tempted to examine themselves to see if they’re in the faith, or work out their salvation with fear and trembling, you make sure they stop that immediately and send them to check the front of their Bible.

    I’m not accusing you of thinking that is proper evangelism, but that is what a vast majority of American Christians think evangelism is, and those are some of the people you surveyed. That is why there are so many false converts, and why Christians don’t act like Christians. All the discipling in the world isn’t going to help those people. They’re still dead in their sin. They still need to hear the gospel, and when they hear it, they may very well stomp out in anger.

    Besides that, we don’t even need a survey. The Bible tells us why people get saved. God’s kindness (Romans 2:4), the law (Galatians 3:24), the gospel (Romans 1:16), the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18), etc.

    I will answer my 2 questions you didn’t get to.

    1. What do you think making disciples means? If a Christian wanted to make a disciple, what would he do?

    To make a disciple you give someone the gospel. This may only take a few minutes. Peter made 3000 disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

    2. When the Ethiopian eunuch was saved (Acts 8), do you think he would say he came to Christ because Philip demonstrated certain qualities?

    I’ve heard the analogy that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. The recipient of the news is thankful for the kindness of the other beggar, but the gratitude for the bread goes to the giver of the bread.

    Philip didn’t even stick around to disciple the eunuch, and I doubt the eunuch would be able to rank Philip’s personality traits, though the eunuch would be grateful to Philip for his time.

    We don’t need more discipleship. There is a church on nearly every corner in this country. We need more people who are willing, ready and able to give the gospel to strangers as the Bible clearly demonstrates.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  23. “Often, we are comfortable to let the church evangelize and disciple others. This minimizes our calling. As I stated in my book, “It is not the responsibility of the church to seek and save others, it is mine! ”

    I’m a little confused here. You are talking as if the Church and the people are two different things?
    Jim

  24. Bill,
    Thanks for your thoughts. Great points.

    Jim,
    Of course we are the church. My point was that it is our responsibility, as disciples of Jesus, to seek and save the lost. We cannot simply sit around and hope someone else will do it. The Great Commission is for everyone.

    Blessings,
    Shawn

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