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Disciples, not just Decisions

Updated: Mar 27, 2023


Proverbs 11:30 states that those who win souls are wise. It is wise for Christians to be unashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) and to invest our time and resources into Gospel ministry to rescue souls from darkness into glorious light (Acts 26:17-18). Missions is all about sending Gospel ambassadors to declare the Good News to those who are in spiritual darkness. We rejoice in the missionary reports of souls saved, but discerning believers would also be wise to look deeper.



How do we know if the reports of souls being saved are genuine and not fake news? Does the end (salvation decisions) justify the means? How important are lasting, indigenous churches to missions work? In other words, as along as people are getting saved, does it matter if churches are planted and remain after the missionary is gone? How does the great commission answer these questions?



At the heart of the great commission is teaching and making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus commanded His disciples to go and teach the Scriptures to all peoples, so that the result is others becoming disciples of Jesus. Making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. Becoming a disciple starts with one acknowledging his sin, confessing Jesus' deity, death, burial, and resurrection, believing that Christ alone can save him, repenting of his rebellious ways, and turning to follow Christ. A person's critical decision may very well start him on the path to being a disciple, but decisions alone can never be seen as fulfillment of the Great Commission. Genuine Gospel ministry results in DISCIPLES, not DECISIONS.

South Africa


Decisions are tricky things, especially in cross-cultural contexts. Medicine, food, education, and other ministry "tools" are wonderful ways to connect with the lost, to show compassion in Christ's name, and to declare the Good News, but discernment is required. Many people in crisis or impoverished contexts will gladly make "decisions" by raising a hand, receiving a Bible, and saying a prayer. They often make "decisions" to receive necessities or gifts, but they are not deciding to fully trust and follow Christ. In other contexts motivations for decisions can vary greatly. People may feel shame or guilt for past actions. They may like and appreciate the missionary's kindness. All of these may be good or bad decisions, but they are likely not true decisions for Christ.



How do we know when decisions are evidence of an individual receiving God's grace through faith, repenting of their sin, and trusting in Christ alone for their salvation? Jesus said we will know by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). Recognizing real fruit is critical to the Great Commission. The Psalmist (92:12-14) describes the righteous as producing abundant fruit, even in their old age.



Jesus emphasized bearing fruit. In the parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) the master of the vineyard was completely just in demanding fruit. His policy was if there's no fruit, then cut down the tree. Jesus said that we glorify God by producing spiritual fruit, and that fruit is proof that we are true disciples (John 15:8). The focus of the Great Commission is to go, preach the Gospel and teach God's Word so the lost become true disciples of Jesus who produce spiritual fruit for the glory of God. Making true disciples in a local area will result in indigenous churches that last. Churches that die after the missionary leaves are an indication that while there may have been many decisions, those decisions didn't result in true disciples.

South Asia


Next we must consider the work of the missionary - to go and make disciples. In the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), the role of the caretaker is fascinating. His purpose is to please his master through the tree producing fruit. The caretaker wisely focuses his attention on the soil. In another parable, Jesus discusses 4 kinds of soil and emphasizes the importance of the right soil. In His explanation of the parable, Jesus explains the good soil as representing those who hear the Word, understand it, embrace it, and hold on to it (Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20, Luke 8:15).

South Africa


The work of the missionary is like the work of the caretaker (Luke 13:8). Good missionaries must commit themselves to the arduous work of "digging the soil," planting, and watering the Gospel seed. They spend countless hours mastering the language and understanding the worldview. They carefully and skillfully teach the Bible compassionately confronting their false worldview with Gospel truth. Shortcuts can lead to decisions, but making true disciples in cross-cultural contexts can take years of hard work.

West Africa


Pray for missionaries to be full of integrity and discernment. Short-cuts and fast tracks to getting decisions can be attractive and tempting, but they can also have devastating eternal results. Pray for missionaries to endure hardness, to learn and master the language, to invest the hours or studying and grasping the worldview. Pray they will be patient and diligent in proclaiming and teaching God's Word again and again. As Paul requested pray that they will be bold (Ephesians 6:19-20) and make the Gospel clear (Colossians 4:3-4). Pray that they will make disciples.

Dave, ODBM Director

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