Decisions Lead to Disciples


George Whitefield was asked after evangelistic services: “How many were saved at the event?” He said, “I’ll know in six months.”

I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s post-Easter parade, but while I am happy for record-setting Easter Sunday crowds, I am afraid we might be celebrating the insignificant.

It is true: every great adventure in life starts with a decision. Without a decision, nothing ever gets done. It’s the same in the spiritual realm. The journey of discipleship always begins when someone makes a decision to follow Jesus. Without these decisions for Christ, there would be no followers of Christ. So decisions are important—incredibly important. Yet getting someone to make a decision for Christ isn’t the bull’s-eye of evangelism. At least it isn’t supposed to be. The bull’s-eye is making disciples. That’s the target Jesus told us to aim for. Everything else is just part of the process (Matthew 28:19-20).

If indeed we are celebrating the insignificant, we would not be the first disciples to miss the point. When the original twelve expressed their misplaced excitement about casting out demons, Jesus told them they were celebrating the wrong thing. (Luke 10:20)

Two essential questions for leaders: what do we celebrate? What do we report? A basic leadership principle says that whatever leaders celebrate, followers will try to duplicate. If we celebrate big crowds, people who respect us will strive to make big crowds happen.

To counter the tendency to celebrate decisions instead of disciples, the church I serve (Dwelling Place Church) focuses on celebrating stories of life change. Instead of pumping up our congregations with statistics indicating the number of people who indicate they’ve stepped over the line to start following Jesus, I like to pick out stories of those who started following Jesus and have given evidence of great life change. Here are two of those stories we shared yesterday in our Easter gatherings:

Sophia Braverman’s Story.
King Smith’s Story.

Disciples aren’t made in crowds, they’re made in community. We are called to make disciples, not to gather crowds. So before we celebrate a big number, we must ask ourselves if we have a plan to translate that crowd into disciples. If Easter has come and gone and we are not already executing and evaluating a plan to get church visitors in a discipleship process, then celebrating record numbers is missing the point. Furthermore, as a pastor, if numbers serve as a primary means for measuring my success, increasing numbers can produce increasing pride.

Let’s not be confused about the task today. It is not our job to build a church, and Jesus is no longer making disciples. If we attempt to do His job (building the church), He does not automatically switch and do our job (making disciples). If we focus on making disciples, Jesus will take those disciples and build a church that will wreak havoc on hell.

Discipleship is a journey, not an event. Stay the course. We make disciples, God grows the church. Let’s forget the scoreboard and focus on the process!

And praise God for all those who made the first decision yesterday across the globe to start following our Messiah Jesus Christ!

May Galatians 4:19 be our prayer for those individuals today: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”

“We can do more with 12 disciples than we can with 12,000 religious consumers.” – Alan Hirsch