This summer our family traveled with several other families from our church to Boston to help put on a VBS for a Baptist church in the area. When we arrived after a two day drive we were sat down by the Pastor and informed of some do’s and do not’s that were required of us while we were there.
One of the do not’s was that we were not allowed to pray with any child to “receive Christ” and send them home to tell Mom and Dad that they “got saved today. ” The Pastor explained to us that in that area, with all the different religious backgrounds, that many times what a parent heard was not, “I got saved today” but “I was brainwashed today“.
I nodded my head in agreement with the Pastor. His request was not something that bothered me for many reasons. For one, I no longer do the repeat after me prayer with adults or children. I did at first, because that is how I was taught to lead someone to Christ so that they could be saved. However, after my own experience with this repeat after me method and now that I have longer studied the Word for myself and have sat at the feet of Jesus and shared His Word with many, both young and old, I have seen the danger of this teaching. The danger I see in this method is that I believe it simply has us repeating memorized rote instead of being lead by the Holy Spirit to speak to the heart of a particular individual.
I cannot find anywhere in the Scripture where Jesus commanded us to say, just repeat after me, nor can I find Him commanding us to say, now by the authority of the prayer you just prayed I declare you saved.
Jesus said Follow Me, Come to Me, Believe Me, Love Me, Obey Me… and teach others to do the same. Whether or not they do, is between them and Him.
I simply cannot find Him teaching His disciples to get together a method and go out and tell people to follow that method and then you can tell them they are saved. As a matter of fact I lean more to finding the exact opposite of that,
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition…
I have no doubt that this method probably didn’t begin as a “method” but from a sincere heart of servant of Christ who simply was sharing how the Lord led Him to lead an individual or individuals to Himself and then we do as we do. We discover it’s easier to follow steps that we can see than to walk by faith. It’s easier and less personal to repeat a rote method than to be still and possibly led into the unknown depths of a hurting soul. It’s less messy to just say repeat after me and move on. Check the box. My job is done. Next.
When the Lord opens the door of opportunity with me to sit down with a heart that has heard the gospel and professed to believe I always put the ball in that individuals court. I let them know that this is between their heart and Jesus. They need to talk to Him themselves. I will sit with them. I will hold their hand, but they will do the talking. He is their High Priest, their Mediator, I am just the messenger.
I am simply there to say, Individual this is my friend Jesus, Jesus this is my friend Individual. I’ll leave the two of you alone to talk. Because frankly if they are not close enough to Him to talk to Him at that moment then they have not yet encountered Him.
In our Sunday School class we are going through the MasterWork series and as I read over the lesson Saturday morning I loved what Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation wrote in their book Compelled: Living the Mission of God.
Jesus did not say “make converts” or “teach them to pray a particular prayer.” Rather, you and I are to participate in the work of multiplying the number of surrendered learners and followers of Christ. We are to lead people into the kingdom by way of the cross. Again, this is not about enrolling people into a Bible study group or making them an adherent to our particular denomination. Rather, they are to intimately follow Christ.
The use of the word make (“Go therefore and make disciples…” Matthew 28:19) signals us to be involved in the process. Scripture describes believers in this way: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Today, clay jars are decorative items placed about the home to add color or panache. However, in the time of the early church, a clay pot was just a storage container. They were as common as the plastic tubs one buys at the dollar store. And yet diamonds can be stored in a cheap container. As the church, we are collection of these plain vessels that carry the gospel. We bring the light of Christ to those in the dark, but we are just the instrument, not the light. We pour out the water of life to those who exist in a spiritual drought, but we are only the jar, not the water. We serve the bread of life to a famished soul, but we are only the plate, not the bread. We make disciples by intentionally carrying this message to the lost.
Then Sunday night as I sat and listened to a guest pastor share a message from Luke 15 that focused on the fact that Jesus received sinners and therefore so should we as the church, His body, he used an illustration from the parable of the lost sheep. He shared that today in many of our churches when we see or hear of a lost sheep, instead of leaving the 99 and going to seek that 1, we will instead say: Well, let’s fill out a prospect card. Once again a man made method…
Jesus also never commanded us to build a big beautiful building and make what is going on inside fun and interesting so that the lost will come. Yet another man made method.
No, He said, Go and make disciples. That building is nice, but it is not necessary. He shared how often many in the church will declare that their church is right slap out in the open on a well traveled route and if people want to come they know where it is and they will come if they want to… but that is not how Jesus taught His church to think.
What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
I know how easily it is to allow this mentality to pollute an entire church. Just yesterday as I was driving I was listening to one of the Christian radio stations in our area and the radio host made the comment about how we pick up the accents of those we live around. This is so very true. If I, as a southern girl, moved up to Boston eventually my accent would begin to pick up on the flavor of the area. If I stayed there and had children in that area, my children would most likely not have my southern accent, but a full blown Boston accent. The influence of one generation becomes the reality of the next.
Oh beloved of God, let us examine our hearts. Leading someone to Jesus is not simply taking someone by the hand and saying, repeat after me, Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died on the cross for my sin. I ask You to come into my heart and save me. It’s that simple yes, but the power is not in the prayer. It’s in the gospel. We must be born again.
Testimony after testimony shows us that this method has left many coming to the altar, after years and years of stale church attendance and wrecked lives, realizing that all this time they thought they were saved because they prayed this prayer and the person they repeated after said they were saved, but they, in fact were not. I suggest we get back to the basics. I suggest we get back to the Book.
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs,what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
Acts 16:27-34 (underlining for emphasis)
What do I see here in this passage?
First I see two men who were free yet chose to stay in the cell in their freedom so that they could bring others into freedom.
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word…
Then when the one who is overwhelmed that even though these men were free and could have left, they forsook their own freedom in order to save the life of the one who had put them in chains, cries out to be saved… they speak the word of the Lord to him. They did not say, well repeat after me and you will be saved.
We also see immediate response with action to what the jailor had heard and professed to believe. The jailor washed their wounds. The one who was served immediately served the server. The heart change had taken place. The humility of salvation was made evident.
When we stop and think about it, the way to salvation, the mandate of God to those who are His, has never changed… it simply has gained even more power:
Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.
Is God’s call to the children of Israel when He was about to have them step into the Promised Land after delivering them from the slavery of Egypt any different from the commission of Christ to the church?
Let’s break it down.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
In order to assemble people, we have to go and get them, and not just any them’s but all them’s, the male, the female, the adult, the child, even the alien… all the nations. In order to make disciples we have to teach them to hear and to learn and to fear the Lord… to observe all that He has commanded.
Salvation does not come from praying a repeated prayer. It comes from hearing the word of the Lord. It comes through the Holy Spirit opening hearts and minds to understand what they have heard. Salvation is proved by our obedience to what we have heard.
We preach the Word both by living the Word and speaking the Word. The jailor had heard the reason why Paul and Silas were in prison. He had heard for himself the sounds of their praise being lifted up even in their persecution. He then saw them live out their willingness to die for the life of others. It was all this beautiful testimony wrapped in one that caused the jailor to cry out to be saved. Then when he cried out Paul and Silas simply spoke the Word of the Lord some more. This is our example. When someone says what must I do to be saved, we too need to speak the Word some more.
Salvation is simple. Believe Jesus, confess Him as Lord, and obey His commands. If we have truly believed we will love Him and love others and if we love Him we will obey Him and so prove to be His disciple which means we will too now go and make disciples. We will be compelled to do so… we will not be content with our own salvation but will earnestly desire to see the salvation of all nations and every people.
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
||Compelled: Living the Mission of GodBy Ed Stetzer & Philip Nation / New Hope PublishersThink the “mission field” means traveling to foreign lands or unfamiliar neighborhoods? Stetzer and Nation show you how to make a difference right where you are! Providing ample illustrations, they explore the basic theology and principles of missiology, as well as personal applications in this revised edition of Compelled by Love. Includes thought-provoking discussion questions. 192 pages, softcover from New Hope.