Jesus built into His initial invitation to be His disciples the reality that disciples would be disciple makers. So, Matthew starts that way – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” – and ends that way – “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
The picture is clear from beginning to end: Being a disciple involves making disciples; and being a follower of Christ involves fishing for men. It’s built into the DNA. It’s understood that way by some believers – but they are in the vast minority. I remember reading many years ago of a church that began in a boxcar on a railway siding. The first person they led to the Lord was asked to give a list of the ten least likely friends to respond to the Gospel. That new convert was then taken by a more mature disciple to visit those ten friends and learn how to share the Gospel. On average, three of ten would receive Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. it did not take long before that small congregation ould no longer meet in the boxcar.
I recently read a similar story coming out of Central Asia where I do some ministry every year. This is a predominately Muslim context. Whenever they lead someone to Christ, immediately, that day, that new Christian is encouraged to make a list of everybody they know, then identify on that list the 10 people least likely to kill them if they shared the Gospel. Based on that list of 10, they would start sharing the Gospel right away. That makes sense to me. Being a disciple, from the beginning, was attached to being a disciple maker.
Christians were not always called Christians. They were disciples first, then referred to as “followers of the Way” as they had more than a set of beliefs and a philosophy of life – they followed Him who was the Way and lived life in a different way than those who did not know or follow Jesus. Only in Acts 11:26 do we see that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” So, you can’t be a Christian without being a disciple; and you can’t be a disciple if you are not a disciple maker and thus a fisher of men (a soul winner).
So, around the world we have “Casual Christians” or what I call “Cultural Christians.” Looking in Operation World for Jamaica the authors of the book stated that Jamaica is almost 100 percent Christian, and then the next line was something to the effect that the majority of people in Jamaica are not involved in a church and don’t live a Christian life. Clearly then, they are not Christians. They can be called that, but there is a cultural Christianity. It’s even in places in the Middle East. There are all kinds of Christians-in-name-only people all over the world … even here in North America and in the churches where I work and minister. These are people who would be classified as Christians but their Christianity is much more a cultural identification than it is a representation of a spiritual reality. That’s dangerous. Scores of people, culturally, think they are Christians that, biblically, are not followers of Christ,
Believing the precepts of the Christian faith and knowing the Gospel is not the same as being a Christian. Being a Christian is being a disciple of the Lord Jesus and being a disciple maker. Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” As I say often, “If you are not fishing, you are not following.”
Let’s stop the make-believe thinking everything is fine when it is not – and start living in the real world and doing what disciples are called to do. This cultural, casual, comfortable identification as a Christian that looks just as materialistic, just as humanistic in practice – we have got to call it out and say it’s not biblical. It’s not Christianity. It is not what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to follow Jesus looks radically different from the rest of the world.
There is much work to do….Time to stop playing church!!!