The Necessary First Step in Making Disciples

In college, three good friends of mine were Indian nationals. They lived together––a Hindu, a Sikh, and a Muslim. I would visit their home and we would eat together, often bringing up spiritual topics. One day, I asked them what they thought about Jesus’ words in John 14:6:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

Their reaction was incredulous disbelief that Jesus would say this. As a young Christian, I wasn’t aware of the traditional existence of these three religious beliefs in India, including the Islamic idea of Jesus as a mere prophet.  I confess that I found myself at a loss, unsure of how to answer their objections. Instead of an open Bible and a patient spirit, I said no more of the gospel, afraid that my apparent lack of understanding would somehow defame Christ. They had questions. I gave them silence.

Fearing Man

Did I value these friendships over my relationship with God? You be the judge. Jesus warns us of the fear of man: 

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

God’s approval should have been my highest goal.  Now, years later, I see how God has used memories of my fear in that moment to drive me to repentance and more faithful gospel sharing.

Since that day, I’ve had many more opportunities to share the gospel, and I’ve taken them. I have been rebuffed many times. However, when someone responds positively, this is surely evidence of God working beneath the surface. As Jesus tells His disciples, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). We see the same thing in Titus 3:5, where Paul says, 

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. 

God is the one who saves. As a part of His church, my role is to share the gospel faithfully and widely.

Inviting Others

An explicit gospel call, with an invitation for decision, ought to be present in our definition of disciple-making. If you doubt the necessity of sharing the gospel, then try giving an honest answer to the following questions from Paul:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14 ESV)

We are obedient when we tell others what God has done for us. In other words, discipleship must begin with inviting others to follow Christ. Without this motivation, we only offer noisy gesticulations without love for the souls of those we meet, which are (apart from the mercies of Christ) destined for eternal judgment (1 Corinthians 10:13, Luke 12:5). Christianity must be taught to be caught. 

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Dylan Blaine is a PhD candidate in world religions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, KY.

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