CHRISTIAN VS DISCIPLE by Pastor Shah (Clearview Church, Henderson)
(This article was published in the local newspaper The Daily Dispatch on 5/22/18)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19a)
Christianity is struggling in the West. Churches are closing their doors every week for the last time. Yes, there are pockets of growth here and there, but that’s not the case everywhere. It breaks my heart and, in some ways, terrifies me because Christianity is the foundation of Western Civilization, especially the United States. Our freedoms and our values as a nation are dependent on our biblical worldview. Our successes and our abundance are an outgrowth of our Judeo-Christian principles. Our resilience and our optimism come from our hope in God and his promises. Our courage against the enemy and our compassion towards the helpless find their balance in Christian character. As goes Christianity, so goes the West, even America. Can you imagine the world our children and grandchildren will have to face!
I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do know one thing – churches will have to change or continue to decline and die. I realize that at this point many traditional churchgoers have a conniption because they associate change with worship styles. Please don’t misunderstand. True change is not moving from hymns to praise and worship. It is rejecting nominal Christianity and pursuing biblical discipleship. In other words, churches will have to stop trying to make Christians and start making disciples. There’s a big difference between the two. Jesus did not command us to “Go into all the world and make Christians.” Robby Gallaty (Pastor of Longhollow Baptist Church near Nashville, Tennessee) asks, “Do you know how many times Christian appears in the Bible? Only three times…On the other hand, the term disciple appears 269 times in the New Testament.” I believe that if churches take seriously Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples,” it will take care of many of our other problems.
After much prayer, study, and talking to experts, we at Clearview have developed an acronym – WATER – that helps us to set the goals and measure the growth of disciples. Each letter gives us an important element of becoming a disciple:
W – Witness. A disciple should be a witness to Christ. In other words, a disciple should have a testimony of who they were before Christ, how Christ came into their life, and how life has been since Christ. No testimony means no discipleship.
A – Accountable. A disciple should be accountable to other godly, mature, and trustworthy people. Men need 3-5 men and women need 3-5 women who will question their bad behavior and encourage their good behavior. John Wesley employed this strategy very well with his band societies.
T – Together. A disciple should be moving from the crowd to the congregation to the community to the inner circle. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” To refuse to associate with other disciples at church is baffling to me.
E – Established in the Word. A disciple should daily feed upon the Bible, God’s instructional manual for life. Failure to follow the instruction manual is disastrous and destroys our witness to Christ. Jesus mandated his disciples to “observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
R – Reproducing. A disciple’s ultimate goal should be to make more disciples. Every disciple should be able to say with Paul “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) To me, this is the ultimate test of how well a person is doing as a disciple.
I believe that churches big or small all across our great land can be revived if we would return to Jesus’ Great Commission to all the disciples. The benefits are tremendous. Our failure here is catastrophic.