Making Disciples: Is Love Enough?

...go make disciples...
— Jesus

I remember the first time I ever told someone about Jesus. I was in Kindergarten, curled up in the plastic tunnel of my school’s jungle gym hiding out from whomever was “it” with a new friend – his name was Devon. I believe the conversation began with me asking Devon which church he went to. To my shock and surprise, not only did Devon not have a church – he had never been! As the son of a Pastor, the idea that anyone did anything on Sunday mornings (and nights for that matter – this was the 90s after all) other than attend church was inconceivable. I can’t recall all of the details, but as we got to talking, I remember telling Devon how I had Jesus in my heart and, if he simply asked, that he could too. Without hesitation, my new friend accepted the invite. I wasn’t surprised; why would anyone ever say “no” to Jesus? I then led Devon through a prayer: “repeat after me”, I began. Devon soon began attending the Wednesday-night kid’s club at our church, we attended each other’s birthday parties, but eventually my family moved to a different town and I changed schools. I don’t know what ever became of that invitation I gave Devon – at the very least, I know that a seed was planted.

Telling people about Jesus became something only the weird Christians did - and no one wants to be a weird Christian.

As I came into my youth, I became more aware of the sad reality that people in our culture say “no” to Jesus far more often than they say “yes.” I still invited friends to church, I still spoke quite freely about my faith when the opportunity arose, but something had changed. No longer was I the one initiating the conversations; I had to wait for the perfect moment when no one else was around to judge or roll their eyes. More often than not, I let these opportunities slip away. It felt impolite, even rude, to tell my friends about Jesus, as if I were breaking some unwritten rule or law. Telling people about Jesus, outside the context of a mission’s trip to a foreign country, had become something only the weird Christians did – and no one wants to be a weird Christian. Sound familiar?

They will know we are christians by our love…right?

The idea that those outside the body of Christ will recognize who we are as Christ-followers because of our love is a Biblical principle that Jesus taught. It’s also one of the primary excuses for not verbally sharing my faith with others that I’ve hung my hat on over the years. Allow me to explain. In John chapter 13, Jesus teaches his disciples that they will be identified by others as Christ-followers based on their love for each other. Jesus is teaching here that the way you and I love other Christians will cause us to be identified as his followers. Somewhere along the way though, I disconnected this teaching from a lesson on the importance of loving my brothers and sisters in Christ and came to a common misunderstanding: loving others is all I need to do for people to come to Christ. If I simply love others, won’t they identify me as a Christian and then ask me about Jesus, and then want to become a Christ-follower themselves? Don’t get me wrong, loving people is an extremely important aspect of sharing and living out our faith! Yet, nowhere does Jesus teach that loving people alone is the answer to effective disciple making.

It’s not our love, but the love of Christ for all of humanity - the Gospel - that brings salvation.

As Canadians, we have a reputation for kindness. Everyone does nice things in Canada! The Muslims are loving, the Jews are loving, the Hindus and Buddhists are loving – heck, even the Atheists know how to share the love! It’s not our love, but the love of Christ for all of humanity - the Gospel - that brings salvation. In my roughly 28-years of Christ-following, never has a non-Christian said to me in response to an act of love and kindness, “Hey! You must be a Christian. Tell me about your Jesus!” Instead, acts of love and kindness have been a powerful gateway for sharing my Jesus with others.

80% OF ALPHA ATTENDEES COME DIRECTLY AS THE RESULT OF A PERSONAL INVITE, YET 71% OF RELIGIOUSLY COMMITTED CANADIANS HOLD NEGATIVE VIEWS SHARING THEIR FAITH.

In 2018, more than 1500 people from across Canada made a commitment to follow Christ after attending an Alpha course - incredible! I’m sure that most, if not all, felt the love of Christ-followers in these settings, but it’s the fact that they were confronted with how much God loves them that ultimately brought them to make a decision to dedicate their lives to him. That same year, 80% of all attendees came to an Alpha group as the direct result of a personal invite - which is great news because the majority of self-identifying Christians (between 95%-97%) agree that sharing the Gospel is a big part of the Christian faith (Barna, 2019). Don’t stop reading yet, because herein lies the problem: 71% of self-identifying religiously committed Canadians hold negative views toward sharing their faith (Angus Reid, 2017). As Christian Canadians, we know and agree that sharing our faith (evangelism) is what we should be doing, but we don’t do it. Why not? As it turns out, I am not alone in my fears of coming across as rude or impolite when sharing my faith. Nearly all (94%) Millennial Christians agree that coming to know Jesus is the best thing that could ever happen to someone, yet nearly half (47%) believe it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone in hopes that they will one day share the same faith - with more than a quarter (27%) of Christian Baby Boomers feeling the same way (Barna, 2019). Not sharing the Gospel with others is like throwing the best birthday party of all time and keeping all the invitations for yourself.

Jesus’ last words to his followers were prolific: “…go and make disciples…” (Matt. 28:19, NIV). We often view “going” as hopping on a plane to distant lands to tell people we’ll likely never see again about Jesus. Mission trips are awesome, but what if we viewed Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples through a different lens? Jesus tells us (I’m talking about you!) to go make disciples of ALL nations. Canada needs more of Jesus, and we as Christ-followers have a duty to share the Gospel with our family, friends, neighbours, and strangers alike. Evangelism and discipleship were modeled by Jesus as a lifestyle, not as one-off events. The Good News we have the joy of sharing has eternal ramifications for those we share (and don’t share) it with. Our culture has taught us that it’s impolite or even rude to share our faith. Yet, I would argue that it would be rude, even “un-Canadian”, of us to not invite others to respond to the life transforming invitation of relationship with the Creator through Jesus!

Jesus promised a life of purpose and fulfillment, not comfort.

Pray that God will give you the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus this week – it’s easier than you’d think. Maybe it will mean you ask a co-worker if you can pray for them when they tell you that a loved one is in the hospital, or when they complain about a sprained ankle. Maybe an opportunity will look like asking a friend whether anyone has ever told them that Jesus loves them, or simply asking your server what they’re up to this weekend and sharing that you’re going to church on Sunday. It will be uncomfortable but remember: Jesus promised that following him would bring purpose and fulfillment, not comfort.

Let’s pursue purpose over comfort!

Written by Jordan Raycroft

If you’re looking for an easy way to share Jesus with someone, try inviting them to Alpha! We’re hosting a 6-week Alpha course here at King Street starting on Wednesday, April 24th. There will be food, friends, and the freedom to ask big questions and wrestle with the answers. All are welcome!