We’re Called to Make Disciples, Not Converts

Has a culture of convenience and consumerism changed the way we preach the Gospel?

What if I told you that Jesus didn’t want us to win converts? What if I said that in all of Scripture we are never told to convert anyone? What if I proposed that people accepting Jesus into their life does not fulfill our mission?

We may share the Gospel, but it’s not always the same Gospel Jesus shared. Our version can be a little softer. It can be easier. The message, too often, has been watered down. Many of us don’t want to be called radicals. Many of us take the message of Jesus, and we omit some of the more intense parts because they might scare people away.

An Inconvenient Truth

Out of our desire to win converts we’ve often tried to make Jesus more convenient. That’s what our culture is all about. So watering down the Gospel to reflect the culture can be an easy trap to fall into.

We often make following Jesus comfortable and easy, reducing the expectations: You don’t have to do anything different. Just believe.

When we sell people on a Jesus who is easy to follow, can we really blame them for bailing out or drifting off when things don’t go smoothly?

Carrying our cross has been reduced from a radical relationship of self-sacrificing love and humility to cheap advertisements with bracelets, jewelry and bumper stickers. We turned following Jesus into little more than eternal “fire” insurance. In so doing we made Him something He is not: safe.

What happened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”?

The Consumerism Gospel

When we sell people on a Jesus who is easy to follow, can we really blame them for bailing out or drifting off when things don’t go smoothly?

It shouldn’t be surprising living in a consumer-based culture, that many times people bring the same attitudes into church: It’s my way, my preferences, my desires that are important. If I don’t get my way, I’ll take my business elsewhere.

In watering down the Gospel we have taken what is all about Jesus and made it all about us.

Jesus is a part of our lives when He should be our life. He is life. Following Him requires all our life. The disciples ate, drank, sweat and slept ministry from when Jesus called them to the day they died. Jesus wasn’t a part of their lives. He was their life.

We all are guilty of putting things above Jesus. Whether it's health, wealth, comfort, causes, dreams, hobbies or interests, we all come to Jesus with expectations of what He will do for us. We all have our passions and causes.

But Jesus didn’t come to take sides. Jesus came to take over.

Disciples vs. Converts

Many people come to Jesus thinking it is enough to believe, to stand on the sidelines and root for Him. Jesus isn’t looking for cheerleaders. He is seeking men and women who will follow Him whatever the cost. He is looking for radical devotion, unreasonable commitment and undivided dedication.

Jesus isn’t looking for converts. He’s looking for disciples.

Converts are new believers. We all start as converts. Too often we stop there. We make Christianity all about what we believe. Converts aren’t bad or wrong. They are like babies. There’s nothing wrong with being a baby. The problem comes when that doesn’t change. When a baby acts like a baby, it’s cute. When a 35-year-old does, it’s sad. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

For years churches have worked to get people to make a decision to accept Christ, which is a great thing. It’s important. But what happens next? Where’s the follow up? How do we train up new Christians?

Not only is a disciple willing to die for Jesus, but they are dedicated to living every day of their life for Him.

Our mission isn’t to win converts; it’s to make disciples. So what is the difference?

  1. Converts are believers who live like the world. Disciples are believers who live like Jesus.
  2. Converts are focused on their values, interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus.
  3. Converts go to church. Disciples are the church.
  4. Converts are involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it.
  5. Converts cheer from the sidelines. Disciples are in the game.
  6. Converts hear the word of God. Disciples live it.
  7. Converts follow the rules. Disciples follow Jesus.
  8. Converts are all about believing. Disciples are all about being.
  9. Converts are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.
  10. Converts talk. Disciples make more disciples.

A disciple is someone who whole-heartedly follows the life and example of Jesus, who makes His mission their mission, His values their values, and His heart their heart.

A disciple is someone who desperately seeks to be like Jesus. A disciple is someone so committed to the cause of Christ that they would follow Him through the gates of hell and back.

A disciple is someone who finds their entire identity, purpose and meaning in Jesus. Jesus is the center of their lives. They are all in, fully committed.

Not only is a disciple willing to die for Jesus, but they are dedicated to living every day of their life for Him.

A Change of Heart

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Jesus doesn’t call us to be converts or to win converts. Jesus calls us to make disciples.

Jesus offers us grace and love without condition, but not without expectation. When we try to water down the message by saying things like, You don’t have give up sin. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to be transformed. You don’t have to die to yourself. You just need to believe. In doing this, not only are we depriving people of the truth. We are denying them access to a real, transforming relationship with the almighty God.

Christianity isn’t just a system of belief. It isn’t a lifestyle. It’s a life transformed by Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t call everyone to leave everything every day. He calls us to be willing to give up everything at any point.

His call for each of us is different. He has uniquely gifted every person to carry out a unique and valuable function in His kingdom. While what we are called to may be unique, the call is an extreme standard: Jesus must be greater than everything else.

Top Comments

Gail Peacock


Gail Peacock commented…

After decades of youth and adult ministry in the heart of the Bible belt, I have come to this painful conclusion, ignorance of Jesus is epidemic. In the 35 and under age group, 95% have never read even one of the four Gospels. We are fervently preaching and witnessing in order to get folks to trust Jesus, assuming they have a clear picture of Him- they don’t. They only have second-hand information that forms their patchwork idea of Jesus. Biblical education is a huge part of effectively sharing the Gospel. Reading the stories has become necessary to build trust in the Biblical Jesus, not some character created from hear-say and personal fantasy. Our faith is based in the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the original religious tracts. The goal of the Primary Source Project is to get everyone to read or listen to the life and teaching of Jesus and begin an ongoing and lifelong conversation about Him. Challenge your friends and family to start reading the 4 Gospels and let the Word of God do the heavy lifting. It works! primarysourceproject.org



Drew commented…

Great article! I do think it is important to remember that everyone is at a different point in the faith walk though. I'm reminded of Thomas who doubts. Peter who boldly claims Christ as the Messiah, yet runs and denies Him. This article definitely outlines the ultimate way to live a life like Jesus, but we must be patient with others (and even ourselves) when they (and we) fall short.


Julie Wang Hawkins


Julie Wang Hawkins commented…

I encountered issue personally when I was spreading the Gospel to Chinese foreign exchange students in my city. (I'm of Chinese heritage and I can both relate to their culture and speak their language.) I knew that most of their families back home reject the faith so as soon as any of them converted, their faith would be tested. I knew how painful it is to be rejected by one's family in my culture, so sometimes, I found myself watering down the Gospel to spare them the pain. As I prayed through it, I realized that I needed to do the opposite. I needed to deliver the Gospel with full force so that they could have something solid to fall back on when their faith was being tested.

It was amazing to see so many students come to Christ in spite of very painful consequences. They counted the cost of being a disciple and they willingly followed.

Omer R Young


Omer R Young commented…

As the disciples of Jesus were discipled to disciple and bring forth disciplers, so we as HIS believers are to disciple disciplers. Have we done that? for the most part no. We for far too many decades have made discipleship an "institutional program". In our intitutaional desire for efficiently, did we abandon one on one discipleship combined with small groups build on discipleship? I say yes. However, I am seeing the generation in their 20's willing to disciple as Jesus did even though they were never discipled. Can we see a generation who disciple disciplers and on and on? I believe so and yet we have to let go of the institutional structure to become a movement again, The Church.

Alf Hickey


Alf Hickey commented…

This article is rubbish.
And reflects the type of evangelism churches are doing.
The institutional church, to fit in and for civility rejects anything radical, including the gospel.

True baptism is baptism to Christ, an understanding that you die and rise with Christ. To live like Christ and receive eternal life. Baptism is conversion. Sadly paedo and other crazy baptisms have eliminated the discipleship aspect of conversion for "churchianity."

Which should be Jesusanity.

Had a minister say the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness in speech the other day. Failing to get that if this were true, given scripture is by no means gentle, scripture itself would not be from The Spirit, so being uninspired and so a sham, a lie. Not of God, not God breathed.

Of course, the minister and ministry, will be supported because authority is always right, the minister will say. Despite Paul the Apostle inviting testing, challenging and correction as honourable, indeed stating this as a key use of scripture. So we reinforce sin with ministry idolatory.

The "minister" is always supported due to pride or place, when scripture says love rejoices in the truth. And open rebukes better than hidden love.
For my correction of this neo-pope , I was banned from a church.

God is no respecter of persons, so why have we become so, with institutions and ministries. We can of course acknowledge the work of God in people, but again we have to test this. Double honour is earned, as much as Christ was given all authority by taking on the nature of a servant.

Discipleship has become discipleship to people rather than Christ, this is sin, as I reminded David Cook some weeks ago.

Imitating an apostle, is only valuable in seeking God for all. Imitating Christ. If it's about imitating a sinful person, as discipleship is being promoted, even by evangelical churches, essentially, as a way to promote ministers, as superior, so is sin.

This is not to say a close friend in Christ, cannot teach us.
But the bible disagrees with the article, Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16 says kids important. While we should not be eager to lay on hands (commission for tasks, new converts for ego and pride will happen).

As for babes, the milk is the word, the meat is doing it, not more milk like false evangelicals teach in bibliolatry.

As Paul says to Timothy, the bible has uses. But the meat is doing it and more relational. The point is to abide in God, love Him first, commit to this, being born again of Spirit and love people as Jesus did. More do this from a changed heart, with sincerity and true heart feeling compassion. More than duty. While love is an obligation, God judges the heart, so it must be transformed to have compassion like God's.

We need to be more like babes, alive in the power of God, as this is discipleship and what we are baptised to, as Jesus did the will of His Father, as a baby obeys the instincts of its rebirth and the provision of milk, which it seeks and acts towards and for, in order to live, act and be. In rebirth this is in Spirit without sin, so should we do as Christ did. Following this not grieving it.

Be a baby, acting like an adult, which is to do what the baby is taught and told, the meat, acting in obedience.

We are also always babies. Our knowledge never fully there in comparison to God's. What we long for to come, to know as we are known as scripture says.

The problem with evangelical milk, is there's too much froth in their latte.

Royce E. Van Blaricome


Royce E. Van Blaricome replied to Alf Hickey's comment

I'll admit I didn't read your whole post and only got about halfway. Just wanna ask if you are part of a local church body where you have submitted yourself to godly men as COMMANDED to do so and where you are being properly discipled?

If not, why should anyone listen to someone who is in open disobedience and rebellion to God and His Word, plainly still bears a grudge against Authority, demonstrates a faux omniscience, and openly contradicts God's Word?

Peggy Perry


Peggy Perry commented…

Our church recently got a large influx of new members all of whom agreed they knew little about being a Christian. Our pastor immediately started a Bible study class that is covering all the points of being a Christian as the Bible instructs. He invited the long time members of church to join in with comments and examples from our lives so the new members could see how our lives have been affected by our choice to become a Christian. It's going well, so well that some who don't even go to our church come to the Bible study because it's helping them. Our pastor used to be a wild child, and he doesn't mince words when he talks about sin. Many of the people who came to join our church grew up with him and decided to start coming when they saw the change in him. I was always the opposite, very shy and introverted and terrified of speaking in public. Now at 59 (tomorrow!) I lead the music at my church, and pipe up with comments all the time. The Lord has made a huge difference in my life and I have no problem whatsoever facing crisis after crisis and speaking bluntly in front of large groups of people. I try to make sure that people understand that part of the development from milk drinkers to meat eaters is the development of our relationship to God. Don't ask "What would Jesus do?" KNOW what Jesus DID, and get used to communicating directly with the Lord so you don't have stop, look up some Bible verses, and hope you're doing the right thing. I don't sweat over what to say to a group or a single person. I just say, "My lips are yours to command, Lord." and let Him speak. I consider myself a glove on His hand, and the shoes on His feet, and move at His command. It's led to some interesting conversations and interesting situations, but I never stagger around in the dark in fear and loneliness anymore.

Royce E. Van Blaricome


Royce E. Van Blaricome commented…

Well said! One only need to spend a little time on FB on one or two of the "Christian" pages and see the comments there to see how spot on you are! Or spend a little time looking at profiles on some of the "Christian" Dating Sites.

If one does, one will begin to see very quickly just how this mistaken notion of "making converts" which is a result of the Easy-Believism, Seeker-Sensitive, "Just ask Jesus to be part of your life (or into your heart)" false gospel is one of, if not the, primary reasons The Body of Christ is so doggone anemic today, ineffectual, and churches are full of Biblically ignorant pew sitters.

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