Sunday, March 6, 2011

Witnessing and Discipleship

OK, so I have not posted any new articles in the last five months. I have been very busy, and financial situations and working long hours have been much of the reason that I have not posted anything new in quite a while.

Anyway, I wanted to attempt to address what I believe are two big problems in the Christian church today: (1) the lack of a desire for personal evangelism, and (2) the lack of discipling new believers.

The first point I just want to touch on briefly. It seems that most Christians (at least American Christians) are more interested in going to Christian concerts, or going to a “healing service,” or reading books on how God is going to prosper them and make them happier, than they are about the fact that people are dying and going to Hell every day.

A while back, I sent emails to the Pastors of all the churches in the area that I could find an email for, asking them if there was anyone at their church that I could go out witnessing with. Only one church answered me back, and that Pastor merely forwarded my email to the Youth Pastor. I ended up meeting with the Youth Pastor, and basically, he told me they already had a ‘youth evangelism’ program at their church, where they would invite young people to their church to play games, etc., and if I wanted to go out on the streets and do evangelism, I needed to go back to my own church and talk to my own Pastor about that. So, in other words, none of the churches in the area that I contacted were interested in going out soul winning with me.

A friend of mine (that I used to go witnessing with) would go various places to witness to people, and, though he would ask people in his church to go with him, usually the only one who would go with him was his dad.

Another friend of mine goes with his wife every week (at a time when I’m working) to join with members of a certain local church to go witnessing to people downtown. Though the church has something like 1,000 or more members, only about 3-8 people from that church go downtown to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only three to eight people, out of more than a thousand? That is only a tiny percentage!

“…according to Zondervan Church Source, 97 percent of church members have no involvement in any sort of evangelism. A survey by Christianity Today found that only 1 percent of their readership had witnessed to someone “recently.” Does anything strike you as being wrong with this picture? This does not sound like the people I read about in the New Testament who had so much zeal that they were willing to die for our Lord.” (p. 55, “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven,” by Mark Cahill.)

So, the first problem is that most American Christians are too involved with worldly issues; too interested in their own comfort, pleasure, wealth, luxury and materialism; too self-absorbed and selfishly interested in their own health and wealth to be overly concerned about the fact that most people in the world are on their way to Hell. They are willing to sit in a pew at their church for an hour to be entertained, but that is all.

The next problem goes one step beyond that.

The Bible says, "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice that it doesn’t say, “Go and make converts,” but instead, “Go and make disciples.” The extremely small percentage of American Christians who are willing to go out and witness to the lost usually end up handing out gospel tracts, or standing on a corner and do street-preaching. They may talk to one or more persons for a short while. And they may even lead that person in a “prayer of salvation.” But after that, the person is usually left on their own.

If someone is led to Christ, they become ‘born again,’ as Jesus said in John 3:3. They become a brand new creation, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says. But if a mother has a baby, and she merely lays that baby down in the street somewhere and leaves it, how likely is it that the baby is going to survive on its own? Now, when a person surrenders their life to Christ so that their life is drastically transformed, God the Holy Spirit comes to live inside that person, and becomes a Guide and a Comforter and a Teacher for that person. So, indeed, a new Christian does have the Holy Spirit to help them. Nevertheless, God did not mean for Christians to lead someone to Christ and then just leave them. That’s why Matthew 28 says “go and make disciples.

If someone comes up to a professional artist and asks the artist, “How can I become an artist?” and the artist merely presents to that person the concept of how to paint a picture, a mere explanation like that is not going to help that person very much. He may try painting or drawing a few times and might get discouraged, since he has not had any training or support to be successful. On the other hand, if that professional artist takes the person “under his wing” as an apprentice, he will teach that person all he knows and give that person practical on-the-job training.

So the same is largely true of a brand new Christian. A well-meaning person may have given him a tract and explained the concept of getting saved. He may have even led him in the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ and then left. How successful will the new Christian be in his spiritual growth? He may even go to a church a few times but then may get discouraged and quit. What is missing? The answer: Discipleship. The soul winner should have invested much more time with the new Christian, invited him to a Bible Study, offered his phone number or email to answer any questions, invited him over to his house, etc., until that ‘baby Christian’ had matured. The soul winner should have helped him find a good church or invited him to his own church, and even made sure he had a way to get to the church. He should have sat with him in church, answered any questions the new Christian might have about the service, make sure he is enrolled in any discipleship class the church has (and, if the church does not have any discipleship class for new Christians, then one should be started), visited with him later or given him a phone call during the week, and made him feel welcome, loved and cared about.

Soul winning is more than just a numbers game. It has to do with the eternal future of a human being. Will the person wind up in Heaven or Hell? The soul winner should give 100%, starting from leading the lost person to salvation, to preparing and teaching the new Christian to go out and be a soul winner himself.

This may come as a shock, but a drug dealer can provide an example of how to disciple someone. First the drug dealer makes his potential convert a friend. He spends time with him, shows the person his lifestyle and a good time. Soon he introduces the person to drugs---just a little at first. He teaches him how to use the drugs, and soon the person is hooked. When the drugs get too expensive for the person, the drug dealer teaches the person how to sell drugs, thus making the person a fully educated drug dealer himself. Of course, this is a negative example, but if this plan of friendship, habit and education can be used for evil, why can’t it be used for good as well?

If the soul winner would follow similar steps with evangelism (i.e., friendship, caring, utilizing habit/routine and education, accompanied with lots of prayer), it seems that we would then have a lot more Christian soul winners, as well as full churches.