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.