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.


Ami Wager


Ami Wager commented…

The title should really be "We're called to be disciples, not make converts"



Mac replied to Ami Wager's comment

'We're called to make disciples' is fine:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Mathew 28:19 NKJV

Mario Alleckna


Mario Alleckna commented…

The day when an Earthquake destroyed large, fancy Church buildings
by Mario C Alleckna

After hearing about the earthquake in Nepal and praying, I thought of large, fancy church buildings crumble. I began to wonder where the people would meet if their building was destroyed? Would they perhaps stop meeting? Would they frantically try to rebuild? Would they have the money? Some of these buildings and properties are worth millions. And what about the staff? Who would continue paying ministers, youth-pastors and office staff when there is no building for them to go to?
Be the Church–Implementing the Book of Acts.
Have we perhaps, with good intentions, taken what was meant to be a calling into ministry, and turned it into a career-choice with a degree from seminary and then a paycheque? (Jesus called, i.e. handpicked, 12 out of a crowd.) The Apostle Paul refused to get paid for sharing the Gospel. He said that he didn't want to owe anything to anyone. Why? Likely because when someone is paid he might feel obligated to earn his keep, perhaps preaching what the people want to hear. Can you imagine a Pastor saying: “I don't have a sermon today. Let's just wait on the Lord and see what HE has to say to us.” Of course, right now every paid clergyman will show me the Scriptures where it says that a man should receive his living from teaching. I certainly know ALL of these Scriptures! But honestly, what did that look like in Biblical days? Did the Apostles receive a regular paycheque plus a pension plan? Did they have an office? Or did they likely receive food and lodging while teaching and preaching DAILY (not just Sundays), for a time? “Please Paul, don't leave just yet to go to another city. Stay a while, and keep teaching us. We'll look after your needs. You don't need to make tents; don't worry.”

Let's ask: Why is it that there is no power in the church? Here is what A. W. Tozer had to say: (Quote) “The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful adjustment to unregenerate society, they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. There is today no lack of Bible Teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.”A. W. Tozer

Indeed, where are the empowered, spirit-filled leaders today? So many teach and preach milk rather than teach and model “meat and potatoes”. Paul said that he did not come with fancy words, but rather with God's spiritual power. And then there is a simple, likely uneducated, fisherman named Peter. About 3000 people received Christ as Lord and Saviour after he preached a basic message of repentance and the cross. Peter would not easily qualify for any position in today's highly educated church. It certainly wasn't Peter's eloquent speech or a possible degree in theology that determined his success! It was rather the King's invisible signet ring of divine authority Peter was wearing, and the spiritual anointing that flowed from his words. Here is a fact: TIMES HAVE CHANGED, but has our way of doing church? In today's day where everyone has access to Bibles and computer Bibles, plus teachings on You Tube and TV, do we really need a full-time pastor to teach what we've already heard 500 times? Shouldn't we study these things for ourselves or in home-groups? Do we perhaps need leaders who, full of the Holy Spirit, first and foremost guide us into God's presence?! Let's be honest, do we really desire His presence more than His presents? Has the work of the Lord become more important than the Lord of the work?
It is in His presence where we find all we could ever want or need! And where is His presence found? In a particular building? Are we not the temple of His Spirit? In the Book of Rev. we are told to "come out of her"; i.e. the expensive, deceived, compromised, people focused and people pleasing, ear tickling, business-like institutionalized church with its organized religion!
BE the church in your daily life, and meet with likeminded, TRUE followers of Christ in homes and other places. Every believer is gifted by the Lord to contribute. I know several musicians and ex-pastors, who are quite capable of taking turns in leading worship or teaching and preaching, but are seldom asked to contribute. We are all equal as part of the body. Give to the poor, the widows, single moms, orphans etc.! Give as the Spirit is leading. (See: “Tithing or Giving?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJBPLAAYZMQ ) Learn to hear and discern HIS voice (not your own or someone else's). Worship is a lifestyle of loving Jesus wherever we are, and in whatever we do! Meet with likeminded folk; love Jesus with truthfulness (no games, no pretending, BE real!) and then love people; help and pray for those in need in your group of likeminded believers, your neighbourhood, your daily, normal life. Make time to pray in your closet. Alone time with Jesus is essential for your growth! Study your Bible for yourself and with friends; read His Word often! The Lord speaks to us through His Word! (Depending on paid leaders holds the danger of making people lazy in their own, personal pursuit of Christ.) And should you run into other such groups who regularly meet in homes or other in-expensive places, and decide that it would be nice to have the groups get together for a corporate time of praying, loving one-another, and worshipping Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, through song and music, pool together and rent a community hall for an evening or whenever it suits. I promise that God will be there! Imagine the amount of money saved by not constantly having to pay for a huge building with office staff etc. Running a typical, “professional” church costs a lot of money; hundreds-of-thousands per year in many cases. Orphanages could easily be build with that kind of money!
May the Lord challenge all of us to step back and take a hard look at how far we have strayed from the example of the first church.

“Jesus, No Greater Love” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPGA7b0sd_s
Book: http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Sleeping-Giant-Church-Revival/dp/1412001...

Tammra McNair


Tammra McNair commented…

Awesome article! I agree converts are like babes in Christ and are not created to remain in the infancy stage. The root of the problem is not that disciples are focusing on making converts but is disciples are not focusing on making more disciples from converts. Everyone loves babies, parents grow sad when babies aren't babies any more. Parents never set back and proudly reminisce about their children's teenage years. The missing element is the "teenage" years in Christ, expecting converts to magically transform into educated, theologian, scripture quoting disciples. The article should be titled "Training Converts to be Disciples" because we are losing the converts that we have made to the ways of the world before transitioning them into discipleship. Proverbs 22:6 says Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Sarah English


Sarah English commented…

I don't know... As a Catholic, I don't see this dichotomy between "convert" and "disciple." Maybe the negative connotation for "convert" is mostly in the Protestant realm?

"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?"

Could this be a doctrinal issue, a problem resulting from the "grace alone, faith alone" mentality? In Catholicism, there doesn't exist a convert (truly) without discipleship, because from the get go we emphasize the necessity of works/following God's commands. "Faith without works is dead."

Just thoughts!

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.

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