Missionary statesman Dr George Forbes asks: ‘Are we counting decisions or making disciples?’
When one considers the matter of evangelism and church planting the question of counting decisions or making disciples comes into centre stage. Some have, and still do, only count decisions. This tendency is not exclusive to evangelists and big crusades, but also to local churches, mission agencies and individual ministers or missionaries.
It is easier in some respects to count decisions. To only count the hands raised or the names entered on decision cards. It is perfectly understandable when you consider crusades with vast numbers in attendance and thousands coming forward at the closing invitation. I have been there and seen these moving minutes and hours at the conclusion of great crusades. A majority of recognised evangelists have in place good systems of counselling and follow up, though they recognise the difficulty of discipling new converts in that context.
Making disciples is a long-term task
My focus however in this article is the question of making disciples, as this is what Jesus commanded. It is my belief that the majority of disciples are made in a one-on-one context of daily life. This is where character is developed and the word of God worked out in life situations. The Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28:18-20 makes it absolutely clear that Jesus placed the imperative on ‘making disciples’ and not on counting decisions.
Jesus’ words still motivate many to this great and primary task of the church. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
It isn’t done in a couple of briefing sessions or instruction times, but over a good length of time, including both the good times and the difficult experiences of growing in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ.
When I came to Christ many years ago, I made a decision to repent of my sin and call on the name of the Lord, in a Salvation Army gospel service in Box Hill, Melbourne. I thank God for the faithful preaching of the gospel of Christ that night by Major David Hewitt. I was born again that evening with life-transforming experiences immediately following.
I thank God too for the young man who knelt beside me and invited me to be his friend and who offered to help me in my new walk with God. He arranged to meet me the next day, after work, and talk to me as we walked to my home. He spoke of what it meant to be a follower of Christ, encouraging me to read the Bible and pray daily.
That journey continued each evening that week and for the following months. By the Friday of the first week I shared my testimony publicly as I stood with the Salvation Army Band outside the local theatre.
My mentor guided me in no time to study the major doctrines of the Christian faith, using RA Torrey’s What the Bible Teaches as my daily textbook. His impact on my life was immeasurable. This young man who discipled me was Kevin Conner, who later served the Lord for many years with distinction as a great Bible teacher and pastor. I count his ongoing friendship as special.
Disciple making is still God’s priority! The task is long-term and it calls for long-term commitment by those who would obey Christ’s commission.
May we not fail in this priority for the advance of the kingdom of God. It’s acknowledging and accepting our responsibility. As the Message version of Matthew 28:19 says, ‘Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…’
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary statesman with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org