Convert or disciple?
by Karen Blanchard
SHELBY TOWNSHIP, MI – It is easy to assume that everyone who follows Christ is a disciple. I have been in ministry now for more than 20 years, and God has been teaching me a great deal on the topic of discipleship. Just because a person has chosen to invite Jesus into their life, doesn’t mean they are living as a disciple.
I accepted Christ when I was a young girl and attended church regularly. My parents did devotions with us, and encouraged us to read the Bible. Sadly, I would begin to read the Bible many times, become frustrated, and give up. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I realized I was a spiritual infant, mostly relying on Sunday messages to teach me the Word of God. I believe many people are this way. It might be because we don’t understand how to read the Bible or even know where to start. Another reason we don’t read the Bible could be that we are busy and don’t set the time aside to really dig in and meditate on what the Scriptures say. Whatever the case may be, the church is full of people who have made a decision for Jesus, but haven’t yet become disciples.
Converts are people who truly have had a heart change, but have never taken the steps to grow in their relationship with the Lord. The following passage from Hebrews explains this,
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s Word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what it is right. (Hebrews 5:12-13 NLT)
These verses explain that when we are a spiritual infant, we depend on others to feed us God’s Word. Please don’t misunderstand, we should go to church, and we should have teachers and leaders around us that we can learn from. However, that isn’t where we should stop. In Hebrews, the passage continues on to say,
Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:14 NLT)
When you begin to change from a convert to a disciple, you begin to feed yourself. Spiritual growth is not accidental, it is intentional. It doesn’t just happen because you have accepted Christ. For myself, I began to make the change from a convert to a disciple when I realized my time with the Lord was meant to get to know Him. So often we make reading the Bible about us! The Bible should teach us and change us, but our first priority is to get to know God. We need to have a desire to know Him and his character. In the church when a person accepts Christ, we tell them they now can “have a personal relationship with God.” I have heard this all my life, yet I don’t know if I truly understood what that meant.
Consider the relationships you have in your life. We don’t go deep in relationships in our own lives until we have taken the time to get to know a person. Once we feel safe, we then feel comfortable to share our deepest thoughts and feelings. How do you build relationships so that you can get to a place of trust and vulnerability? You spend time with that person. You get to know who they are and their character. The same is true about God.
I believe a disciple takes steps past conversion to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. This happens in different ways for everyone. Once we accept Christ, he begins to sanctify us. Sanctification is a big word that just means we are on a journey to become more like Christ! The journey is different for all, but the journey is how we grow and change.
Below is a prayer to help you surrender to the Lord to become a fully, devoted disciple for Him.
I thank you for who you are and for sending Jesus to die on the cross. He didn’t die so that I could play it safe as a convert. Lord, I declare today that I want to move from being a convert to a disciple. I want to know you more. I pray you begin to reveal to me the ways you are working. I desire to hear your voice and follow you. I want to experience what it means to have a personal, intimate relationship with you. Holy Spirit, fill me with more of you so that I can live the abundant life in Christ as a fully, devoted disciple. Remove from me what doesn’t belong, so I can become who you created me to be. I surrender all to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen is married to Scott Blanchard, pastor of Lakepointe Church, and moved from Florida to Michigan in the summer of 2009 to plant Lakepointe Church in Shelby Township. She enjoys mentoring and discipling women and also leads women’s life groups through her church. She is passionate about helping women find their purpose in who God created them to be. She is on staff at Lakepointe Church and loves being part of what God is doing in the Metro Detroit area!