.... A push to make decisions for Christ is counterproductive to making disciples of Christ.
The gospel preached in Acts was neither an invitation to make a decision for Christ nor an appeal to invite Jesus into your heart to be your personal Lord and Savior. The gospel preached in Acts was the proclamation that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, had arrived, entered into death for our redemption, God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to a place of authority. And now “let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The proper response to the gospel is “repent and be baptized … and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The sermons preached in the book of Acts don’t refer to making a decision or asking Jesus into your heart or life.
Don’t misunderstand my point: Repenting, being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit certainly do require making a conscious decision. God will not force us into repentance. He will not twist our arms or beat us into submission. We have to intentionally choose to repent, be baptized and receive the Spirit of our own volition. But these are not necessarily one-time events.
We repent, and we continue to live a life of repentance. We are baptized, and we continue to live out of our baptismal identity as buried and risen with Jesus. We receive the Holy Spirit, and we continue to allow our lives to be immersed in the life of the Spirit.
Living out our response to the gospel is a much better picture of discipleship than “making a decision” for Christ.
So how does this critique shape evangelical methodology? We need to strive to abandon the invitation to make a decision and instead must resume the invitation to come and follow Jesus.
- This “come and follow” approach sounds much more like an invite to a party than a high-pressure sales pitch to purchase a new car.
- This approach is much more about belonging to a community than making a personal and individual choice.
I agree that with this approach–inviting people to follow Jesus and be His disciple–we will not see the outward, numeric success seen by other groups getting people to make decisions. But I have repented of measuring success by numbers and desiring success at all. I have turned away from ambition and success and instead turned towards faithfulness and fruitfulness. I want to make disciples of Jesus. I want to make more disciples of Jesus. I want to see people following Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform them into the image of Jesus. Instead of making a decision for Christ to get saved, I want to see us following Jesus and finding ourselves being saved.
- This approach may not appeal to the masses, but we will make disciples from the few who see the power, position and authority of Jesus.