Making disciples – not just converts

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples—not just converts. Last night, I heard a presentation from a missionary heading back to Malawi. He reflected on this point, observing: “The church cannot live on converts alone. Converts will not multiply themselves. Disciples will.”

Tens of thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—have been converted at Southern Gospel concerts. Some of these have moved forward from the point of conversion to discipleship, to serious study and mentoring under a pastor or other mature Christian of what exactly it means to be a Christian. Of course, others have fallen through the cracks, but the point of this post is not to focus on the negative.

These questions are especially for readers who were converted or have a close friend or family member converted at a Southern Gospel concert—but would also apply to anyone who has observed groups in this area:

What are effective ways you have seen groups point converts to discipleship?

What about when a concert is done in a setting other than the local church?

In this Internet era, have you heard of any groups that follow up with converts online, to give them more of a grounding in the fundamentals of our faith?

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21 Letters to the Editor

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  1. This is a very good point.

  2. Excellent post daniel. It seems that the church has become convert crazy (which in itself isn’t technically bad), but the bible calls for those converts to follow Christ. Growing up, I remember being involved with Churches who were only after someone to “pray this prayer” or “fill out this card” or “read this tract” or “come down to an old fashioned altar”. I know countless people who have performed one of these duties but are now NOT following Christ (One is now an athiest).

    In terms of Groups, I have seen some from the stage clearly present the gospel and then clearly tell the importance of plugging into to a church. I’m not talking about just “get saved and find a church”, but actually take a few moments to explain the importance. Many times, it was in personal testimony and stories that the audience could glean some things about being a disciple. In most of these cases, it was in a church concert setting with one artist, not a auditorium type .

    I have also watched members of different groups talk one on one with new and seasoned believers alike, and share things of walking with Christ. Again, this was more in a Church concert type setting.

    Your last question is an interesting one. I noticed that there are artists who will take the time to post encouraging thoughts about their lives from a biblical perspective. Some have posted resources, verses, sermons, links for the believer to be strengthened.

    • Thanks for your observations, Steven! I’m not going to downplay the importance of converts. That’s where it starts! It’s just not where it (should) end.

      I think that, as you mentioned, discussions of discipleship occur far more naturally when the concert is held in a local church. I’m really not sure how this even might work in an auditorium setting.

    • That is a great point Steven! It is unfortunate that so many churches convince others to “pray a prayer and Christ will save you”.

  3. Extremely good point Daniel about the great Commission. CH Spurgeon had a very interest quote on this. He said the church is for the saved and where they come to be discipled and not for the lost people. At first I was kinda shocked but now I know what he means. Its the members of the body of Christ “church” to make converts. But the assembly of believers is where believers come together for worship, fellowship, and discipling. If the church’s main concern is making converts then the spiritual growth of older believers will be neglected. As far as So Go music is concerned, it is good for sharing the gospel, entertaining, and even in leading worship but pretty useless in discipling.

  4. Amen! Disciples consistently practicing Christlike behavior…I know we can’t always be perfect this side of heaven, but we can sure give it a shot!

  5. All Abraham Production concerts such as “Singin in the Sun” and the Gatlinburg Gathering” have a preached message and an invitation at each concert. I have seen over 200 people receive the Lord over 5 days of concerts. PTL

    • and I know most of those coming forward at the AP’s events for salvation,renewal or restoration had conversations with trained workers prior to leaving the venue on that evening. They would have give some some of directions for their future walk with Christ. To the leadership, it not the music but the message plus results in the long haul that counts.

  6. 1. There was a time that it was known by the majority that the guest singers at a local church were called to do same work as evangelists. Bringing in the lost to hear God’s plan salvation or bring the faithfuls closer relationship to Christ to do His work.
    2. It is the responsibility of the pastor/shepherd and the church to have a plan for the process to discipleship.
    3. There are alot of singers and pastor can do an excellent job at communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not have the gift of closing the sale.
    4. A attuned pastor will coordinate his talents in relationship to a singer who might be better in communicating the need for salvation. I would suggest the attuned pastor will have a follow up plan to start the road to discipleship. It is like a missionary that does a awesome work in the field but cannot communicate the need for funds/support on a missionary tour to their home churches.
    5. An excellent example of the convert to discipleship process is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Every local crusade evangelistic outreach had two major ingredients. The choir rehearsals and the Christian Life & Witness classes. The classes conducted by BGEA for the local member of the churches to be at the front when the song “Just As I Am” was sung. Churches who had their members reaped the harvest following the crusade. Also, convert were directed to evangelical churches. [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed.]

    The same CL&W process was used during BGEA’s World Wide Pictures movie theater showing outreach. The theater outreach saw an indirect altar call . We do not want to there regarding type of altar calls.
    6. The worst nightmare at any concert would see anointed singers turning the concert to a non-attuned pastor for the altar call. It just became another concert on the road.

  7. Comment

  8. What I would like to know is, Is there any record in the New Testament book of Acts church of people getting saved using the method most southern gospel groups use today? I have just reread the entire book of Acts and can find no instance of anyone repeating the “sinner’s prayer”. Whence came this? And if it is the Biblical method, does anyone find it strange that apparently no one in the early church knew about it?

    • Your comment opens the door for me to elaborate on a concept I’ve been contemplating lately. No, we never find a specified wording of a prayer for salvation. What we see, time and again, are two commands: Repent and believe.

      Repentance is more than just feeling sorry for sins. It’s doing a 180—it’s turning from those sins.

      Faith in Christ is more than just believing He exists. (The demons believe God exists, and tremble!) It’s even more than believing that He died on a cross. (The demons sure know that happened, too.) So we’re not talking about the kind of faith that looks out at a iced-over lake and says, “I think that will hold me.” We’re talking about the kind of faith that the kind of faith that steps out on that iced lake and crosses to the other side.

      Genuine repentance and genuine faith are what I see as the New Testament formulation for defining genuine salvation.

      • You are correct about the Sinner’s prayer.

        Like been sated in this thread, it the conversation you have in accepting Christ, not saying a prayer.
        Something to be can say for a public confession for salvation but still the need is present for a follow-up process to discipleship.

        We can get caught up into a theological discourse about the process from the altar call to a deeper life believer in Christ.

        As for groups, there a number of groups that have multiple members that can be led by the Holy Spirit to start process of introducing the need for salvation after the singing for a positive connection and follow-up through the local church pastor.
        Groups and evangelists are not responsible for follow-up as been state, it the churches that are making the connections who are seeing growth.
        Groups and evangelists are only a tool for that purpose of getting followers and disciple of Jesus Christ.
        Same goes for concerts in in venues. Having a plan for connection and mentoring is the only way to maintain disciples.

        We are only discussing the convert process at the concerts in this thread.
        There are untold stories about the Holy Spirit working outside the concert settings to have a personal one on one conversation with Christ as the result of the concerts.

        I really believe we are all saying the same thing in different ways.

      • I appreciate your points; they are well stated. But I still have a nagging question. What most people and churches today define as the act of receiving salvation does not adhere to what the early church practiced. Why is that? When did it change? Who changed it, and what authority did they have to do so? I mean, if you were starting from zero, knowing nothing about salvation, and with no modern day theologians to twist things, and you read the book of Acts where the church began, there is no possible way to come up with merely believing and confessing. Believing, yes. Confessing, yes. Repenting, most definitely. But there seems to be much more that they did that is simply ignored, that is part of getting saved.

      • Well, I suppose there’s a subtext to this question: What’s the dividing line between where the process of salvation ends and where the process of living a genuine Christian life begins?

        That second part is something which every genuine convert should proceed to, so it can be hard to distinguish between the two!

      • It is th kind of faith and belief that changes your life, rather Han just words that roll of he lips.

    • I think the idea behind the sinner’s prayer properly applied is that you gotta start repenting some time, and the first step to that is inviting the Holy Spirit inside and asking Jesus Christ to take control of your life.

      • My point isn’t that a prayer of repentance is inherently bad. My point is that there’s more to repentance than a one-time prayer.

        (I dare say that most who have a prayed a sinner’s prayer—as I have!—and have also devoted serious time and thought to the theology underneath would agree.)

      • I would agree with that. It’s just that some people seem to have taken it to the other extreme by saying that there’s something inherently wrong with inviting people to come forward and pray.

  9. I’ve heard a pastor named Alan Sidel describe it this way:
    What is the fruit of an apple tree?………………
    He gives the audience time to think and respond, then he’ll say…….
    Another tree.

    Think about it: why does the apple tree produce apples? Is it’s sole purpose to give food? Or is the fruit the seeds that are in the apple? If it is, what good is the seed all by itself? Does it servie it’s purpose if we put it on a shelf?
    The purpose of the seed is the reproduction of another tree. Not just a sapling, not just a 10 year old “young” tree, but a full-grown tree that bears it’s own fruit for many years.
    Thus, the fruit of an apple tree is another apple tree.
    And, as Alan says, what is the fruit of a Christian?
    Another Christian.
    Does God call us to “grow” babies in the faith, does he call us to diciple them till they get the basics of Bible study, baptism: the “ABC’s” of Christianity? Or does God call us to produce full grown, Spirit-led, Bible beleiving Christians? Ones who will get involved in the mission field where God calls them, and work for Him untill He calls them home?
    We need to diciple mature Christians who will, because they love God, bear the fruit of other mature Christians, for as many years as God gives them in which to serve Him. Making diciples of all nations.

  10. I’ve seen the Booth Brothers in person several times and have heard Michael give a talk at most of the concerts. What he says is right on. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard a person from any other Southern Gospel group say it quite as well. One of the things he talks about is “changed lives”. There are lots of really good Christian artists traveling the country and I’m so thankful for the message that they bring.