And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Yesterday we discussed the importance of why we need to follow Jesus and become like Him. Today, I will make the case that the act of following Jesus and becoming like Him can be summed up with one word; discipleship. When Jesus calls men and women to follow Him they become his disciples and the process of becoming a disciple is called discipleship. But this is not necessarily our contemporary
standing of discipleship. Modern Christianity has boiled discipleship down to a program. We have books, Wednesday night programs, and even people trained to do discipleship.
Discipleship cannot be relegated to an hour a week or pressed into the pages of a book. We have become so indoctrinated in this way of thinking that our definitions of discipleship have actually limited our
standing of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. Our definitions are mostly derived by our methods or techniques rather than the person we are trying to become like. We need to go back to the gospels for our definition. It is a lifestyle of becoming like Jesus and anything that facilitates that process can be called discipleship. If discipleship is following Jesus then anything that helps me to follow Jesus is discipleship.
Let me develop this argument around evangelism. Can a person be a disciple of Jesus and not be a convert? Yes. Let me rephrase the question: can a person follow Jesus and not be a Christian? Many did and were called disciples. We have clear examples of this in John chapter 6 where we see people following Jesus prior to their conversion. They were called disciples. When Jesus makes the statement, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. (John 6:53) the gospel writer notes that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” (John 6.66)
Later in the chapter Jesus points out that even Judas was a disciples who did not experience conversion. But the fact remains that these people were actively following Jesus and defined as disciples by the apostle John. They were disciples in the sense that they were investigating who Jesus was. I call this pre-conversion discipleship (in other words pre-salvation followers of Jesus).
A person’s conversion does not normally come in a nice neat package. Usually conversion happens when a person is introduced to Jesus and considers who He is and surrenders their lives to him as both Savior and Lord. This process takes time. Certainly, an individual can become a true Christian in 15 minutes but that is not usually the case.
normal circumstances, it takes an individual days, months, or even years to stand the redemptive work of Jesus and make an intelligent decision to make Him Lord of their lives. I believe that this pre-conversion process is just as much discipleship as what happens after a person becomes a Christian. So this would make evangelism (the act of informing and persuading a person to become a follower of Christ) a part of discipleship.
This has a huge impact on the way we do evangelism. Now, instead of trying to get a person to pray a prayer, we are simply introducing them to Jesus. We are not trying to get them to make a statement of faith; we are trying to help them follow Jesus. And this was how Jesus practiced evangelism. He simply asked people to follow him and as they followed him, they became convinced that he was the Messiah. Or, in instances of disbelief they stopped following Him and were not converted.
Still not convinced? Let me phrase it this way; what part of conversion is not a part of following Christ? No part. On the other hand, what part of following Christ is not a component of conversion? Many parts (Lordship, giving, practice of spiritual gifts, etc.). It is important for us to gain a biblical
standing of discipleship in order to keep from compartmentalizing the process of following Jesus.
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