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The Passion of the Christ Included a Very Lonely Cross
When I first read these impacting words, all I could think of was - I didn't want to be an immoral seducer! I didn't want to just lead someone to the Lord and walk away. I wanted to take seriously the call to disciple and allow Christ to work through me so that they would become mature believers.
Discipleship is sharing the love of Jesus with those around us. Whether it be through a formal discipling relationship in which we have a set agenda of material to cover each week or if it is discipling through just the time we spend together. It is loving, caring people - not materials and programs - that make disciples.
In Acts chapter 2 it tells us that 3000 got added to the Lord. So often we interpret this to mean that they got saved, but what it really means is that they became disciples - functional, maturing, reproducing followers of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of the Lord is about building relationships. Discipleship is exactly that. It is building a relationship with someone through love, respect, unity and closeness. It is about showing kindness that speaks louder than words and let's others know that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is about holding each other accountable, for both celebration and correction! It is about being an example that others can follow.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:9 Paul writes "We did this in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow." Christ has called each one of us to be disciples, to be an example. D. James Kennedy writes, "Whether you like it or not, you are going to multiply 'after your kind.' Therefore be sure you are the kind that should be multiplied." Strong words but true. Discipleship is an awesome responsibility in which you will influence someone through your relationship with him or her and the Lord. We need to make sure that our relationship with the Lord is strong because discipleship - making functional, maturing, reproducing followers of Jesus Christ - is an awesome privilege given to us by the Almighty!
I read with sadness our general superintendent's report of the nine of ten years of the Decade of Harvest for which we have reported numbers. 3,000,000 of the 3.5 million people who were reported as praying for salvation in that nine year period were not added to a body of A/G believers. (A suggestion: Jerusalem church reporting practice was to only count those who were "added", not those who made "decisions". It would help our focus if we adopted that practice.)
When Kevin Weaver was still at James River A/G, he told me they were keeping (adding) about 85% of those who prayed to receive Christ (their criteria was the new believer was attending both morning worship AND Sunday School) - a phenomenal statistic. In one three year stretch, James River had over 1,000 first time adult conversions, with around 850 added to the church!
The key to such success? Their emphasis throughout their growth years has been friendship evangelism. Preceding the many walks to the altar by repentant sinners in the services, were friendships and fervent witness by church members to those sinners BEFORE they were willing to walk. I believe those relationships with sinners PRIOR to their conversion served to tie them into the body AFTER their conversion. Kevin also believes the clear explanation of commitment to Christ and to other believers as part of the salvation invitation were additional keys.
The strong sense of purpose to reach the lost that was basic to unity of the body was a great holding force for those new ones who came in with connections to many others who also needed salvation.
A/G emphasis is primarily on event evangelism - with most responders having little or no relationship with church members prior to "going forward", and so easily drift away afterward as the church waits for them to make their way to discipleship events.
When church members become "friends with sinners", it is easy to continue to be "discipling friends" with new believers. The older Christian is welcomed into the home (or other comfortable setting for interaction/fellowship) of the new believer for friendship discipling - planned or spontaneous. This tie helps brings them into the church family.
The denotation of (literally) "DISCIPLE the nations" (not "make disciples") is a mandate of PROCESS - commanding relational evangelism AND relational instruction after conversion that will see them through water baptism and be able to "teach them to DO all that (Jesus) commanded (us) to do." (as per Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus spent three years modeling His mandate. James River A/G has spent several years modeling the mandate for us. May God continue to bless many through them - and may the mainstream of the Assemblies pay attention and practice obedience! 3,000,000 souls is a high price for our neglect.
Lord, give us Your love for the lost,
and Your joy in the found!
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