Are We Called to Make Converts or Disciples?

Child Disciples
While attending a training conference, a good friend of mine Mike Lehew was sharing and made a statement that stuck in my mind: “We are not called to make converts; we are called to make disciples.” That really struck a nerve with me. For the first 13 years of my ministry, I was a fearless evangelist for kids. I would share the Gospel on any and every occasion. I did everything I could to get them to the church and to reach them for the Lord. After they trusted Christ, many times, it ended there. I would thank the Lord that they accepted Him and move on to the next group of kids. In the midst of leading them to the Lord, I became burdened for their spiritual growth. One of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. Roy Fish, shared, “It is a terrible thing to lead someone to Christ and not disciple them in the faith.” The enemy will eat them alive. This might be true for the church today, with a record number of students walking away from the faith during their first year of college. Could this be the consequence of making converts versus making disciples who are fully devoted to Christ and His mission?

About 12 years ago, I turned a corner. I began to realize that children did not have to be the target of my ministry but the means by which we do ministry together. I began to do several things that brought about change in their lives:

  1. I trained them for ministry. Instead of just having fun and playing games, we trained them how to lead worship, use puppets, and run our sound system.
  2. We trained all of them how to share their faith. Then, we took them outside the church to share the Gospel. We taught them how to discern the spiritual conditions of children they were ministering to and how to lead them to Christ, and we released them to do so. (There are some great resources for teaching kids how to share their faith: EE for Kids, Dare to Be a Daniel, etc.)
  3. We encouraged them to spend time doing daily quiet times. We taught them the spiritual disciplines of lordship, prayer, Bible study, evangelism, using their gifts in ministry, and living a life of obedience to Christ.
  4. We taught them how to pray and intercede for the nations.

What happened as a result of engaging them in discipleship, ministry, and missions was transformation. This has become my joy and passion for ministry. Discipleship is more than learning a lesson or memorizing Scripture; it is growing in a personal relationship with Christ and being engaged in ministry and missions.