“Go therefore and get people of all nations to raise their hands and make decisions for Christ, and maybe baptizing a few of them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, not expecting much of them other than filling out a decision card.”
Recently I saw a plea on Facebook asking for a large sum of money due to an unforeseen emergency this friend had experienced. Without going into detail or mentioning names, someone was asking all their contacts for badly needed help and they were asking for any monetary help their friends could offer.
I read through the entire note, and made a decision in my heart to help them out and send them a million dollars.
The only thing is in reality I didn’t have one million dollars, and I didn’t send it to them. I also didn’t even tell them any of this, but I made a decision for one million dollars in donations to help this person, since it would have been exponentially more than they needed.
Wasn’t that nice of me to make a decision?
No? You say it’s ridiculous of me to expect any kind of credit for merely having good intentions but not actually doing anything to help a brother out?
You’re right, it is silly. But yet when it comes to missions and crusades, I see “decision-making” as a testimony to the success of an event or outreach. I see it touted in newsletters and ministry websites all the time. In fact, several years ago I believe it was Ray Comfort who added up all sorts of ministries’ claims of decisions for Christ and concluded then that the whole planet has accepted Christ as Saviour 6 times over.
The numbers obviously don’t add up if many large ministries’ claims are true. And frankly, one doesn’t have to look very hard around at the world today to see that there’s plenty of discipleship lacking in the Body of Christ.
So what does this mean?
“I led a crusade and we have over 500 decisions for Christ.”
That’s great! Then what? Did you ever see those people ever again? Have they previously attended meetings and accepted Christ multiple times before you arrived? This has happened to me and other minister friends of mine.
One time recently I was talking to my leaders and friends Mark and his wife Anna about someone and asked them whether or not they know if this mutual acquaintance had ever committed their life to Christ. Mark’s answer was “many times — in fact, almost every time this person comes to see us they re-commit their life to Christ.”
It can be easy for me to preach some kind of awesome sermon, and then give an altar call asking people to lift their hands up in the air if they want to accept Christ. I’m not bashing anybody who does this, as some evangelists I know are anointed in their gift not to mention deep conversions happen in their meetings resulting in lasting fruit. Stephen Hill and the Brownsville Revival anybody? Many of my schoolmates who have gone into ministry and live on the mission field today are fruit from those types of meetings, so again, I’m not throwing out the baby with the bath water.
…it can be easy for some of us to confuse hands in the air with disciples in it for the long-haul. Especially if we’re trying to talk ourselves into fruit instead of letting fruit speak for itself.
I write this from a place of having made this mistake in the past, not from a place of judging others. I used to include in old newsletters of mine how many “decisions” took place in a meeting or some kind of event I was involved in, only to realize a year or two later looking back that not a single one of the people who “made decisions” ever moved forward in their spiritual life or got involved in a local fellowship. I can think of almost no one who started receiving mentoring by a spiritual father in the faith.
So, let me ask you — are you aiming for disciples or decisions?
If the answer is decisions, then how do you know for sure there’s any immediate or long-term fruit to the decisions?
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV, emphasis mine)
In this parable Jesus shared in Matthew’s gospel account the point of the analogy is not how many seeds were thrown around on the ground. Nor is it how many seeds went into the soil, for there were different types and some of them were not conducive to producing any lasting fruit. In fact, out of the four types of soil, only one of them resulted in long-lasting fruit. That’s a 25% return on investment, so to speak. So no, I don’t expect all “decisions” I lead people to take to produce fruit, just using this passage alone for example.
Later in the chapter Jesus explains the point of the parable;
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:19-23, emphasis mine)
Are we lowering the bar when we ask for “raise your hand” conversions by having people fill out a “decision card”.
If you pride yourself in the number of decisions that take place in one of your meetings, can you point to tangible fruit that comes from said decisions further down the road?
I just want to challenge you that the old adage is true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Discipleship is messy and requires a lot of involvement. Getting decisions is easy in the short run, but costly in the long run.
Further reading: Recovering Sharpened Proclamation.