Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matt 28:19
We learn from ACTS that the early church met in homes. Their relationships were intimate and personal. They ate together and shared their lives together. I imagine those among them with the gift of music helped lead worship, and those among them with the gift of teaching, gave the morning word, and those with the gift of service, served.... those with the gift of healing, healed, prophets prophesied.. etc. The thing was, you couldn't be anonymous in their meetings. Everyone knew you and you knew everyone and everyone participated. So, if you were struggling with a problem, trial, or even a sin, there were people who were more mature in the faith all around to help you. They "discipled" you . They taught you what they learned from the Scriptures and from walking with the Lord for years. That's how the younger Christians were able to grow in the faith. They were one-on-one discipled by people close to them.
That's what a disciple was in Jesus's day. Most Rabbis had disciples, men who forsook their careers, their families and followed a certain Teacher. When I say followed, I don't just mean their teaching. I mean they literally followed the Rabbi around. They ate, slept, studied and spent all their time with this Rabbi, learning from him, learning how to be like him.
Sometime after Rome became Christianized, believers started meeting in the old pagan temples once used to worship the gods of Rome and other demonic deities. Slowly the home church where people were discipled one-on-one evaporated in favor of mass meetings in church buildings where believers became more spectators than participators. The Christian church even adopted the idea of rituals and ceremonies from the pagan religions they replaced and throughout the centuries that has morphed into our modern-day churches.
The problem is that in this auditorium-style non-participating church environment, disciples have been replaced by converts. Churches measure their success on how many new converts they have each month and give no thought to what it means to actually disciple someone. Sure, there are after church programs and special classes and even small groups that people can attend, but even those can often times be very impersonal. Plus they are not mandatory. That's why it's so easy for someone who is weak in the faith and engaging in some kind of sinful activity during the week to be able to hide in church.
But Jesus clearly said Go make disciples, not Go make Converts. But what is the difference?
A convert is someone who calls themselves a Christian and who has received Jesus's sacrifice for their sins. If they go no further than that, they remain just a convert. Are they still saved? That's between them and God.
Here's what Jesus says of a disciple
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate
his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and
sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.....So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Luke 14
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me Matt 10:38
Discipleship is the same as it was in Jesus's day. It's a call to give up everything for your Rabbi. It's a call to put Him above everything in our lives. It's a call to follow Him and learn how to be just like Him.
Yet how many churches today actually do that? How many raise converts and not disciples? And shouldn't we be about the business of doing exactly what Jesus commanded?
When is the church going to wake up? I'm sensing God is asking us this. We are running out of time, and there are so many people still in the darkness.