Lawrence led a man on the street to Jesus as part of Crossover prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis. The man immediately asked, “May I go tell my sister?” Lawrence agreed and soon watched as the man brought his sister out of an apartment building. After Lawrence led her to faith in Christ she admitted, “The second floor of that apartment is a brothel, but I’ll go tell them.” Lawrence pointed to the Baptist church, which was just across the street. The brother and sister said that they would go there to learn more about living for Christ.
Would your church be ready to disciple these new believers?
Missouri Baptist leaders are concerned that baptisms have been trending downward over the last decade. I was talking about this last year with representatives from the Iowa Baptist Convention. I asked Roger Graves, a church planting catalyst, “What would happen if more than 10,000 Iowans came to faith next year?” Roger’s face lit up with joy and he said, “It would forever change Iowa!” Well, last year there were 10,364 baptisms across Missouri Baptist churches. Has it changed Missouri?
Each year our churches see thousands of new believers who choose to surrender their lives to Christ in faith. Where are they now?
In Truth That Sticks, Avery Willis and I pulled in a definition of discipleship that he had developed when writing On Mission with God with Henry Blackaby. He wrote:
“Following Jesus is a lifelong, personal relationship with Jesus in which He transforms our character into Christlikeness, our values into kingdom values, and in which God invites us to join Him in His mission in the home, the church, and the world.”
Using “following Jesus” instead of “Christian” designates a person that is a disciple of no other philosophy, tradition, or religion. Unfortunately “Christian” can often mean “not Muslim.” It is that “lifelong, personal, relationship with Jesus” that makes the difference. It may start as a decision that is made public by raising a hand, walking an aisle, or meeting with the pastor after an evangelistic worship service, but it reflects the change of the heart; that volition of the will.
Jesus brings transformation in our lives – particularly to our character and values. I frequently rail against behaviors that align with a godly lifestyle, but lack the transformed heart. Avery noted that behaviors follow the inward transformation. We respond to the initiative that God takes to involve us in His mission.
God’s mission starts in the home. According to George Barna in Think Like Jesus, only two percent of born-again teenagers live their lives in alignment with a biblical worldview. As hard as this is to say, God invites us not to focus solely on our homes, but to SIMULTANEOUSLY participate in His work in church and the world. It’s a full-court press. Jesus commanded us that, as we are going, to make disciples of all peoples everywhere (Matt. 28:18-19). In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised His Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to share their witness of a changed life wherever in the world they went. The saying is true that our Jerusalem is someone else’s ends of the earth.
Jesus commanded us to not only make disciples, but to also plead with God “to send workers into His harvest fields” (Luke 10:2). Is it possible that God is sending us workers in the form of new believers, yet we squander this opportunity? Are we making disciples of new believers? They know more lost people than long-term believers. As Brian Harper, a North American Mission Board missionary, once told me, “If new believers don’t share their faith in the first six months, they likely never will.”
We are admonished to pray, “Maranatha! Come, our Lord!” (I Cor. 16:22). But when you evaluate the huge numbers of lost people in our land, a cry for mercy comes from our throats, “Oh, Lord, can’t you wait just a bit longer for one more soul to be saved?” (Mark Snowden serves Missouri Baptists as evangelism/discipleship strategist – (573) 556-0319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)