Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Difference Between 'Deciders' and 'Disciples'

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

I am reading Richard Stearns's challenging and truthful Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning. I could just quote the whole book and paste it here.

I can only take it in little pieces at a time. For me it's like reading Jesus's sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). Go slow, take it bit by bit, and chew... and eventually swallow.

Stearns refers to Scot McKnight's distinction between a "disciple" and a "decider": “Most of evangelism today focuses on getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples.” The point is: Jesus called us to be disciples and make disciples, not just be deciders.

Stearns spells out the differences:
  • Deciders just believe the right things; disciples seek to do the right things. 
  • Disciples are dedicated to learning their Master’s truths so they can imitate their Master’s life. 
  • Disciples seek to embrace their Master’s mission and serve their Master’s purposes. 
  • Disciples try to plan their entire lives around Jesus’ teaching and commands. 
  • Deciders have their own plans for their lives and invite Jesus to bless them. 

Stearns writes:

"Jesus had some harsh things to say about deciders. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6: 46) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt. 7: 21– 23) Deciders are like those in Jesus’ parable of the sower who “hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4: 18– 19). Deciders have repeated the sinner’s prayer and have simply said “I do” or “I will” to the Master’s invitation. But merely saying the sinner’s prayer no more leads to a life-changing relationship with Christ than simply saying “I do” leads to a long, successful marriage. (Stearns, Unfinished, pp. 58-59)

If the gospel just requires someone to make a decision, then the Great Commission is about making more deciders, not disciples— it’s about selling more fire insurance policies. Here would be a mistranslation of Matthew 28:

“Therefore go and make deciders of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them that obeying everything I have commanded you is optional. And surely this fire insurance policy will remain in force always, even to the very end of the age.”

If that's what Jesus said, then we can dismiss disciple-making. "We can accept Jesus as Savior, but we don’t have to accept him as Lord."

Stearns calls this a dumbed-down gospel that is "quite comfortable with the status quo. It doesn’t make any demands on our lifestyle or behavior, and it lets us do whatever we want with our money; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, or taking a stand against injustice in our world— all strictly optional. If only the disciples had understood this, they surely wouldn’t have had to give their lives for the cause. Why so radical? Selling cheap tickets to eternal life needn’t upset anyone. All they had to do was just simply say “I do.” Without real disciples the revolution dies.

There’s only one problem with this gospel.

It wasn’t the gospel Jesus preached.

And it lacks the power to change the world and win it for Christ.