Comparing what we mean by “convert” with what we mean by “disciple” can make us very uneasy.
It is perhaps easier to “baptize” than to “teach to obey.”
Baptisms are mostly visible, easily measured events. They aren’t messy: once that statistic is on the books it doesn’t change. (“We baptized 1,000 people last year”–that number doesn’t go down. It’s a fact.)
Disciples tend to be less visible, less easily measured, and their count is constantly changing. (Backsliders. Deaths. Never-were-true-believers-to-begin-with.)
Since baptism and conversion are “one time events,” there are clear methods and paths to walk (some more ethical, some less) to reach those moments.
By contrast, discipleship is a journey, a hike, a quest, a pilgrimage, a venture, which requires time.
An evangelist can hold a big crusade, get big numbers of conversions, and then go on to the next crusade. (And I’m not saying this is necessarily bad.) But a disciple-maker pours him or herself into a set of individuals over a long period of time. You have to choose who you’re going to pour into, because you only have so much time, and you have to devote it to people.
Given the number of souls that are dying apart from Jesus, it might seem like large numbers of conversations and mass evangelistic events and efforts are the most important thing.
Yet in spite of the great need that He was very well aware of, Jesus did not command us to make one-time event participants. He commanded us to make journey-takers and God-followers, who are also journey-inviters.
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