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A few years ago, several evangelical churches in the county where I was serving as an assistant pastor decided to cooperate in sponsoring a series of evangelistic meetings. I helped lead the organizing committee for the meetings, and we decided early on to invite a well-known radio preacher to be the evangelist. When the night of the first meeting finally arrived, several thousand people came. I will never forget the preacher’s invitation at the end of his sermon. First, he invited all those who had trusted in Christ as Savior to come forward. About thirty to forty people made their way to the front. Then he said something that astounded me. He invited all those who were Christians but who had never become disciples of Jesus Christ to come forward. To my astonishment, many believers, some of whom I knew well, made their way to the front, thinking that at this principial moment, they were becoming disciples of Jesus Christ for the first time.

This second invitation troubled me. The preacher was essentially teaching that there are two types of Christians: converts and disciples. According to his teaching, converts are those who trust Christ as Savior; disciples are those who take a later step to follow Christ as their Lord. Someone could technically be converted and a Christian, but not a disciple.

However, Jesus allows for no such distinction in the Gospels. To be a Christian is to be a disciple; to be a disciple is to be a Christian.

That is exactly what Jesus reminded His disciples of in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Notice what Jesus says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Jesus’ imperative is not to make converts but to make disciples. In other words, following and obeying Christ is not optional for a Christian. John put it even more bluntly. He said, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

True, saving faith is the faith that compels us to follow and obey Christ as disciples. Our first baby steps as Christians, though often small and stumbling, are steps following after our Savior.

I am afraid that much of what we might call evangelical Christianity has lost this important truth. Many have been deceived into thinking that because they prayed a prayer or signed a card or walked an aisle that they are guaranteed eternity in heaven. But Jesus demands something more. Jesus demands that we trust Him with our very lives. Jesus demands that we follow hard after Him (Luke 9:23). In short, Jesus demands that we be His disciples.

Christians Are Disciples

What Is a Disciple?

Keep Reading Discipleship

From the June 2018 Issue
Jun 2018 Issue