“We don’t need more Christians we need more disciples”
When I heard this quote from Dr. John Perkins at a faith and social justice conference last month, I was so relieved and excited! One of the questions I get asked the most when I speak at churches about Helping Hands Street Mission is “how many people have come to know the Lord?” When people ask this, most often they equate our success or failure based on how many Christians we have “made” down on Barton Street and it frustrates me A LOT. There are several reasons why.
First of all let’s state the obvious, God is in control of HHSM and all things that happen there, so to suggest that WE are able to “convert” people is ridiculous. We believe we play a part in the kingdom, but have no control over a person’s choice to open their heart to Jesus.
Second, our goal is NOT to make more Christians in the world because quite frankly a majority of Christians talk the talk and know the scriptures, but do nothing about it. Becoming a Christian for some is simply a way to separate themselves from “those people” in the world who commit those really big sins that they would NEVER do. It can also simply be a way to ensure salvation and to comfortably do the right things in life and pray from afar for those who are lost. The reality for me has always been that until Christians realize that WE are apart of that messed up group but just hide it better we will continue to grow “Christians” saving ourselves and our communities but not actually following Gods purpose and plan for his Kingdom here on earth. God doesn’t just save us, he chooses to work through us even though he doesn’t have to. He chooses to need broken people – like me and you – in the bigger plan for redeeming the world.
Thirdly, Jesus’ ministry was to make disciples NOT “Christians”. Throughout his ministry he stopped and talked to, healed and loved many people on their own, without any group to see what he was doing. He was not making people “Christians” so they could simply say they were believers. He made disciples ensuring to leave instructions on how to live and to “GO” and make more DISCIPLES. I love that his example for us is to “GO“. Not go and count how many you make into “Voice-only” believers, but disciples who know what they are getting into when they take the job. He had authentic relationships with people, broken people like you and me.
Next time you want to know the success or failure of a ministry, try immerse yourself into it. Get dirty in what they are doing for Christ. Expect frustration, pain and trials – that’s the good stuff of discipleship. See if relationships are being built. Authentic relationships whose only agenda should be to love, build up leadership within the community and move on. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s who I hope I can be. That’s my prayer for Helping Hands Street Mission. We have NEVER had a moment in 8 years where anyone has committed their life to Christ – I secretly love that because if we were waiting around for that to happen we would have missed out on getting dirty in discipleship, and I know we are all better for that.