One of the biggest things I have learnt from my time in ministry is the importance for Christians to always have a discipleship pathway in mind for anyone they are connecting Jesus with. Let me explain: on Good Friday 1992, I responded to a great gospel message and was on a spiritual high. The Pastor handed me a bible and affirmed my decision. After reading from page one for a few days, I quickly realized I had no idea what I was to do with this book or the stories I was reading. How does any of this relate to a decision to stand up and receive Jesus? I went on to listen to the teaching of the Church, sing in worship services, but I had no clue what to do next. Then I stumbled away for years until I hit rock bottom and reached out to ask questions.
After thirteen years of full time ministry I have seen how good evangelistic tools can be thwarted by not knowing what to lead a person towards after finding Christ.
David Kinnaman in the book unChristian wrote
“Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.”
I have read all the arguments surrounding The Great Commission and how many have said “the Bible says to make disciples, not converts.” While this is certainly true, perhaps it’s a bad argument to make to someone with the goal of leading people to Christ – someone stewarding their gifts to help individuals meet Jesus with the goal of placing them in church or small group that will ultimately carry forward that discipleship pathway. However, the real question we have to remember is this: what are we leading people into, rather than simply towards? That is a statement we as Christians need to wrestle with. This is both a partnership and a gift stewardship model. It is an image of the entire body functioning as one.
In my journey I have worn the hat of both someone sharing Christ and someone helping people down the path of discipleship. My concern is the decline in those individuals who see the whole picture, a picture that includes leading new people who come to faith into a body where they can receive the discipleship they need to grow. I love people and as we introduce individuals into this new faith, we have to keep in mind the on-going journey to discipleship everyone must take. We have to allow them to ask the questions that they have on next steps without fear or anxiety of the significance of their questions. We have to encourage them to continue their walk through our personal relationships, not simply introduce them to Jesus and expect everyone else to pick up the rest.