Make Disciples, Not Converts? Really?

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Cliches are normal in any language. Sometimes they are able to capture a snippet of thought accurately, other times they muddy the waters of theological judgment. Of course, the impact of any cliche is purely subjective, but it seems that western Christianity is full of cliches that are just not biblically supported. Obviously from the title, you know which one I have in mind so I won’t waste time getting to the point.

Where in the bible do we even find a hint that a convert of Jesus Christ IS NOT a disciple? For the most part, I get it. I get that the idea here is that we focus on making true disciples rather than just a mere decision to follow Christ. However, the reality of the matter is, when a person repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus’ finished work to save them from their sin, if their regeneration is from the Holy Spirit and they exhibit a life that bears fruit and perseverance in Christian character and godliness, that person is not only a convert, but a disciple of Jesus Christ. The moment anyone is saved from their sin, they become a disciple. A follower of Jesus. A convert of Christ. The idea that we can gain a convert but not a disciple is not only unbiblical, but absurd.

One of the ways this cliche gains ground is from the Carnal Christian doctrine and Decisionism. Although they are distinct in some ways, both feed off each other. They propose that a person can become a Christian, yet still live carnally. Also, they teach that a person can have Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. Furthermore, you can make a decision to follow Christ, but still be a babe or carnal for most, if not all, of your christian life. If such a thing is believed and taught in your church, run.

For the most part, a person may have good intentions when stating this cliche, or they are ignorant of its presupposition. That happens. We want to try and provide someone with the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Also, not everyone that states this cliche may come from a Carnal Christian perspective (at least not knowingly). But the main thrust here is to challenge even the possibility that someone can become a true convert to Christ, but not be a disciple. They may be a young disciple, a new disciple, or even a false disciple if they fall away. But, in the mean time, they are disciple nevertheless until proven otherwise. The same goes for the word convert. They are semanitcally interchangeable.

In Acts 3:19 Peter preached repentance and conversion. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas described to the Phoenicians and Syrians the conversion of the Gentiles. In Psalm 51, David mentioned teaching transgressor God’s ways and converting them (sounds like the Great Commission in a nutshell). In Acts 6:1 it mentions how disciples were multiplying. Acts 14 also mentions making many disciples, and they just started in the faith. And even verses that don’t use the words translated as “convert” or “disciple” in both old and new testaments still semantically explain what conversion and being a follower of Jesus/God is, and are an inclusive list which helps us to systematically understand that to turn from sin and turn to God is conversion and discipleship. Sure, it involves lifetime dedication, devotion, repeated repentance, and obedience to the one you profess to know and love. But it is still conversion and discipleship nevertheless. And to throw a wrench in this whole matter, even Judas was called a disciple when, in reality, he was not.

It would necessitate a bible study of multiple passages and words that would help illustrate my point further. Nevertheless, it is my hope that we grasp that this cliche doesn’t really demonstrate a biblical understanding of a follower of Christ. No matter how you slice it, a disciple is a convert and a convert is a disciple. They can be used interchangeably. And that is the beauty of language and words within language. There may be times when using the word “convert” describes an entry level understanding of just coming to faith in Christ, and other times when someone calls you a convert of Christ and you have been in the faith for years. The same goes for disciple. Some can call you a disciple of Christ and you just got saved yesterday, and you can be called a disciple after years of obedience to Him. It depends on the context and how the word is used. And Scripture illustrates this fact.

Therefore, if the Holy Spirit has indeed saved you, regenerated you, called you out of darkness into light, and you drop your nets, repent, and follow Christ, from that point forward you are a disciple and a convert to Christianity. However, remember that you can be a professing disciple/convert, but not truly be one. I pray the Lord opens our eyes to this truth.

-Until we go home

32 thoughts on “Make Disciples, Not Converts? Really?

  1. There also is the matter of our “position” and our “condition”. Positionally we can be declared to be sanctified and or a disciple. Conditionally both sanctification and discipleship are life long endeavors of being born from above.

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  2. Finney;
    How many followers did Jesus have when He fed them? In fact they stuck around for another meal. They even went across the sea of Tiberius/Galilee to find His disciples and were amazed that Jesus was there. Yet they followed Him for what He might DO for them verses Who He IS. He explained the Bread of Life and they walked away, including many disciples according to scripture, because His teaching was too hard to understand? No! Because it was too hard to follow!
    Later we see many folks crying, “Hosanna!” early in Passion Week again for what He might DO for them, not Who He IS. Later in the week they cry, “Crucify Him, and let His blood be on us and upon our children…” (There is so much to say about that picture for those who have eyes to see!)
    So there are but 2 pictures of them who appear to be “Christian” yet fall away because they have no root in Him!
    Mickey

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  3. I couldn’t agree more! Having come out of a “the-carnal-Christian-exists” mentality, I too used to use this cliche. But when you look at the Greek wording of Matt. 28:19 and Acts 14:21 (English: “make disciples of;” “had made many disciples”), it literally says “disciple all the nations” (“matheteusate”) and “having discipled many” (“matheteusantes”). In other words, we don’t “make disciples;” we “disciple.” How? By going (Matt. 28:19a) and preaching the gospel to them (Acts 14:21a), seeing them repent and believe. A true new convert is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yes, he needs to be baptized and trained/taught (Matt. 28:19-20), but as I read these verses, I don’t see any room for the post-conversion “becoming-or-being-made-into-a-disciple” view. We are “discipled” the moment we hear the gospel and respond positively to it. Unfortunately the Church has, as a general rule, convinced itself that the lukewarmness and fence-riding it sees in many so-called “new” converts is a commentary on it’s follow-up methods vs. the gospel it preaches. Oh that our pastors would understand and preach the reality of the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4 again and again! I even remember hearing and teaching that the four types of soil were four types of Christians, not three types of inadequate responses to the gospel and one example of true conversion!

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  4. “My question for you Mickey is this, “Is it TRUE that … BECAUSE . . . “THEY” . . . HAVE NO ROOT IN HIM … that . . . “THEY” . . . FALL AWAY ?”, . . . or is it because “They were PREDESTINED/PREORDAINED to FALL AWAY because of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION and their TOTAL INABILITY to follow after HIM ?”

    Both – next question.

    Inability is not like my inability to jump over my house, it is like a selfish rich mans inability to give to the poor or a hateful mans inability to speak kindly and love others. If man is willfully guilty and morally responsible for sinning against their conscience, the testimony of creation, and the law to the degree that even gentiles possess, why is God under obligation to either save them all or save none? Further, if Christ is then offered as a savior, is God under obligation to either save them all or save none? Can not He choose to make trophies of His grace as He sees fit without taking counsel from Finnegan? Can the unsaved who willfully reject every means of grace He has offered lay the blame that they are ‘not elect’ on God without it being seen as the terribly gross absurdity that it is. Has there ever been a man or woman, that with a humble heart, has believed (trusted) in Jesus to whom God has cast out?

    Finnegan –

    Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. The most depraved sinner can (and must) trust in Jesus and be saved. Yet, everyone of us who have done so should be wise, humble, and mature enough to see that it was all of God’s grace from beginning to end.

    Do you REALLY think it was just chance, or something good inside of you that caused you to trust in Jesus while others didn’t? Are you just a better decision maker than the lost man? For real, bring it hoe to your own testimony and think about it.

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  5. “How can you exercise WISDOM, HUMILITY, and MATURITY when you ASSERT that you are TOTALLY DEPRAVED and UNABLE to even think wisdom, humility and maturity ?”

    JIM:
    I am not totally depraved (nor ever used that term to describe someone before they are saved), I am a brand new creation in Christ.

    “You either believe in UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION with PREORDINATION or you don’t”

    JIM:
    You are just as errant as the hyper calvinist because your theology is a complete over reaction to their theology. I believe that God chose me and the evidence of that is that I repented and believed the Gospel. I love Him because He first loved me. I didn’t choose Him but He chose me out of the world. Does that offend you?

    “If I were to tell you “FLEEBABYLON” that you have been ELECTED FOR DAMNATION
    according to God’s foreknowledge and PREORDINATION, are you then happy to know that God in HIS infinite wisdom has prepared a place of torment for you due to your TOTALLY DEPRAVED NATURE”

    This is a straw man, I completely explained inability being synonymous with moral unwillingness. I won’t be back here to post because your attitude and unprofitable debate tactics, they make any honest discussion impossible. You just make things up and reply to them as if others actually said them. You also take half the scriptures and use them to war against the other half just like a hyper-calvinist does.

    Will leave you with this previous quote from Spurgeon and wish you the best in all things.

    “I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no precedence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism. or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

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  6. Finn
    what is your understanding of libertarian free will vs. compatible free will.
    Does God have a libertarian free will or a compatible free will?
    Is God’s omniscience contingent or non-contingent?
    Who advised God concerning moral absolutes?

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  7. Finnegan, Scripture is clear when it says that repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Phil. 1:29) must be granted by God. If God doesn’t grant these, there’s no salvation. Why doesn’t He grant these to everyone? Ask Him when you die. In the meantime, we are commanded to preach the gospel to EVERY man (e.g., Ezek. 33:1-10)… and allow the Holy Spirit to do His part of convicting of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).

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  8. As Flee said, both.

    As you said Finney in response to a question asked in another place. It started with God and not you. It can’t start with man can it? It must be God’s doing, right? So quit painting Him as harsh when He is Perfect in all His ways. Stop running Him through your value system. NONE are innocent Finney, thus ALL are DAMNED. Your error is in thinking there is ANY redeeming quality in mankind. This earth is Satan’s domain, and the domain of the fallen angels. It is also the domain of all mankind who are damned due to their free will choice to sin against the Holy God. He could have cast all wickedness into hell immediately, yet He chose, for His own Glory to save some. What He loved was His perfect created order or cosmos. And He is restoring that perfect created order as we speak. We who are born from above are no longer of this world. Time you bore fruit friend. You show little love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, or self control. Lastly, why do you boil every thought down to an argument of Calvin verses Arminius, when folks like me have clearly pointed you to scripture, yet you conveniently choose to avoid those scriptures, while demanding that others bring you scripture to prove their point and the scriptures you bring are twisted to make a point you think you see?

    Lastly, where are your supporters? You claim to be rejected and edited/censored, yet you are the number one commenter on this blog for the past month plus!! You have had the benefit of the soap box to filibuster yet I can’t find a single supporter of your positions! The flip side is you have been patiently dealt with by a score of witnesses, which you have attacked via ad hominem, straw man, and outrageous miss-characterizations of what you see as Calvin’s God.

    Perhaps it is time you start your own blog?

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  9. You have a selective and self affirming memory. I have repeatedly stated that I do not claim to be a Calvinist. I have repeatedly directed you to scripture and no other reference.

    There you go again claiming by inferring me or anyone would deny you any rights you think you have had suppressed. It is in love for His Truth that I warn you and anyone of their departure from scripture. My joy in Him allows me to share His Truth with you and others, though you have yet to read or respond to the 150 verses I directed you to. I attempt to make peace via the Lord’s will and pointing to Him and no man. And I have done so patiently friend, though my kindness is improving yet slowly, yet my gentleness I think is somewhere between Paul and James. As to self control? I will let all the contributor’s here be my judge.

    As far as further response? Save it for your new blog. But please give us the address so that we can continue reading your elucidations. I’m sure your prolific use of the keyboard is going to waste in a comments section when you could put it to much more productive use enlightening the uninformed throughout the internet as you write your own blog…

    Perhaps you could call it Finney again and again and again!

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  10. I have no malice toward you Finnegan. I have contempt for your contempt for biblical Truth.

    I am a man who, being lead by the Holy Spirit left an apostate AOG jesus franchise some 10 years ago. I then sat at Jesus’ feet and learned OF Him from Him by standing upon His promise to teach me via the Holy Spirit His Word in context. This is where I grew in knowledge and Truth to understand the HE is sovereign and all men are sinners and thus spiritually cut off from Him, with no hope for returning to Him except He make the way.

    What you fail to grasp is that He is perfect in every way, and never makes a mistake. His perfectly created beings, being created with free will CHOSE TO SIN against Him and as such have zero hope being eternally damned except that for His Glory He chose through His perfect sovereign will to save some of those who were cut off due to their decision to sin, and solely for His Glory! Thus you hold to a false assumption the you were able to, from your corrupt free will, choose Him. That would make you “as God” and thus you are falling for the lie of satan.

    How can I know this? I was EXACTLY where you are, yet you can’t even consider the 150 specific scriptures that clearly destroy your feeble arguments!

    Recently we (spouse and I) fellowshipped with a mixture of Baptists that had a mixture of theology, but like so many have a recipe for salvation based upon the teachings they think are Calvins and Mac Arthurs et al. But when challenged to describe WHY they believe they resort to WHAT they believe and can’t seem to get to on whom they believe. We had some success proving that their emulation of a Baptist jesus franchise was not a broken system but rather another’s system. When they would bring up the gifts of the Spirit, particularly tongues, we were able to stop them in their tracks with scripture in context regarding cessationism.. Further we were able to affirm that it is in fact a wicked and perverse generation that always seeks after signs and wonders, and that experiences were no guarantee of the authenticity of a tradition. This includes the idea that since they had not experienced “the gifts” is no proof they ceased.
    Some of them attempted to say “that which is perfect is come” was he bible in print, yet through scripture in context they were able to see the foolishness of that argument.

    How about you? Are you up to the challenge of scripture in context?

    Go to http://www.biblecc.com and search these words. Chosen, Elect, Fore known, Pre-Destined and see what God says about His Will. Perhaps you can then argue for Truth rather than your chosen tradition..

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  11. By the way, this walk has cost dearly, but I would not trade a moment of it for all that I thought I lost, including friends, family, business, etc. I thank God for ordering my steps!
    And yes I consider 95+% of American Churchianity to be in utter rebellion to His Way. They are in reality merely the daughters of the Harlot.

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  12. Yes, it came out and in the proper sequence!

    Thus Finnegan, I am a biblical disciple of Jesus Christ. My continuous prayer is, “Lord teach me you ways and I will conform to them regardless of the cost to me.”

    It appears from the vast amount of writing you have done here that you reject His Sovereign Hand in the salvation of His Elect from the foundation of His creation. Then you blame the difference between your theology and that of many who have replied to you here on Calvin, even as I have repeatedly challenged you to go to what the Lord says clearly in scripture. You then form a straw man god who in your mind is evil, ascribe it to us and blame him and Calvin for our being deceived, even as you draw extensively from your source readings outside of scripture. In arguing for your tradition you craft a god of your mind and a theology of your mind that fits your god. You are the most prolific writer in these posts , yet claim to be censored, and imagine a conspiracy against your truth. There have been exactly zero writers coming to your rescue advancing your understanding, and over a half dozen folks who have patiently pointed to your inconsistency in how you debate as well as what you choose to debate and to ignore.

    I think we are all quite clear on your positions as well as tactics and there really isn’t anything else needing discussed is there. You asked, and now you see that I am not who you imagined me to be. Nor is Flee, nor Manfred. Nor are any of the others, who, NOT ONCE quoted from the sources you were sure they were depending upon, though I did see some phrases mixed in from reformed theology. Even then, you used them in attacking far more than they did defending and contending.

    Even so, Finnegan, I believe there is a fruitful element that was produced in this month of fuss.
    What I mean is perhaps there were those who read thinking they had a clear understanding, based upon their traditions of this controversy who, when challenged by the scriptures offered reviewed their traditions taught them by their anointed ones and actually sought out what the Lord has to say about all this. In doing so perhaps they were moved to the realization that men will fail us, yet God never will and that He can be trusted to lead us into all Truth through His Word in context by the Comforter and Deposit in Earnest, The Holy Spirit whose purpose it is to reveal Jesus The Christ and His Will to us. Thus we can depend upon Him alone and to cease leaning upon our own understanding, acknowledging Him as He makes straight our path. In other words “Not my (corrupt free) will but Your (perfect sovereign) Will be done.

    Alas Finnegan I’m afraid your free will is preventing you from submitting to Him and you are being given over by Him to the delusions of your free will choices.

    Check back if there be any change in your well elucidated beliefs will you? And if you choose to start your own blog defending and contending for your truth, please let us know. But understand Finnegan you have well beat your horse on your beliefs here already and I’m afraid any additional elucidation on your part will only further water down the merits (or lack there of) of your own understanding.

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  13. The Word is the plumb line Finnegan not my corrupt free will. When you know His Voice you will in no way follow an apostate.

    Let me show you how you like to play your game.

    Finnegan | April 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    “O.K. Mickey, you have stated that you are not a Calvinist, so now we know what you’re NOT.
    Is it possible that you could tell us what you ARE ?”

    Who are the “WE” and “US” Finnegan? Are you Siamese Twins? “WE” is you and “US” is you. There are no others asking but you. Perhaps a better name for your blog could be Contending and Contending and contending and…

    You started out and never left the accusing and insinuating. Everyone else took the time to answer your accusations with, to a great degree scripture. Then you re-direct the conversation toward a point you think you can make hay with. Sorry friend but your time here is getting quite old. That horse you have well beat has been dead from the get go. The only way you could have gained any ground on you refused to do, which is read the 150 verses that killed the horse you road in on and attempted to refute them with more clear scripture.

    Our difference is that I filter my choices through His Will (though not always, much to my detriment) verses you filtering His Word and thus His Will through your corrupt free will. You see Finnegan the domain of the free will is in the flesh, and He says the flesh is un regenerate and must die, and that daily and for eternity, that is WHY we receive a new incorruptible one some day soon!

    Now, here is my guess. Nobody going forward will entertain your accusation game going forward until you answer the scriptures that clearly show your traditions in error. And don’t forget Finnegan, the more clear scriptures explain the less clear.

    Lastly, just to be clear. I exercise my choices via His Will because my free will I inherited as corrupt from Adam. The heart is deceitful above all things Finnegan. Don’t trust your flesh, trust His Word and conform to it, ESPECIALLY when it doesn’t square with your own understanding.

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  14. Gentlemen, this conversation has been taken way off course from the original post. At this point, all responses that do not pertain to the original post and the point of it will be deleted or not approved.

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  15. 1. Believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31)
    2. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

    Make sure that such belief is genuine saving faith and not demon faith.

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  16. There is a lot of the proud perpendicular personal pronoun in one man’s salvation. It is all about the “I”. Glory to man. Without the man, God is nothing. Smirk… Looks like I do not need God so much for my salvation.

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  17. It is in the first line of my prior comment. It is also in the scriptures I sent you. It all originates with what God has done in me. By the way, believing ON the Lord is a continuous thing not a one time thing, like so many teach.

    What is your understanding regarding salvation Finnegan?

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  18. My point was not about losing salvation, but rather those who make a decision for Jesus and think that He is obligated to save them. This often happens in conjunction with a best life now sermon and then a decision based upon following Him for what He might do for them as opposed to Who He IS.

    Not sure why my answer to your question prompted you to think I was questioning your salvation though.

    Also not sure where and why you are attempting to go with all this either.

    You don’t have to prove anything to me nor even attempt to convince me one way or the other regarding your beliefs. Romans 14 covers a lot of that.

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  19. Finnegan, what part of, “Offered without comment or endorsement or condemnation” leads you to believe something other than what I am saying.

    I thanked George for returning sanity to the blog.

    Yes, I too can count 4 ‘posts’ here, but let’s see: The first 3 were in response to YOU! And the last one was about free will verses pre-destination a topic so near and dear to your heart.

    You are a very confusing person to understand, Finnegan. I think I will leave all this at that and if you want you can have the last word or words or paragraphs or whatever you can get posted going onward from here. Buh byes!

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  20. I think it is time to say enough. Grace has been given to continue, but we’ve reached that point of disagreement without resolution already. Thank you for your thoughts. It’s best to continue some other time or thread.

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  21. Finn, I am not censoring. I stated clearly that these comments have met their end. If you continue trying to comment on this thread, you will blocked.

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