Yesterday, I suggested the Lord's Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 could be divided into two equally important parts: soul-winning, and discipleship. I said that the Church has done a remarkable job in proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing converts. I also said that the Church has failed miserably at growing disciples. I base this upon fifty plus years of observation; thirty-nine as a Christian, and many years as an "outsider." I believe Gandhi said it well when he answered a reporters question as to why he was not a Christian since he so often quoted Jesus. He replied, "I would have become one years ago had I not met so many of them." Christians do more to sabotage the effort to win the lost than all the minions of Satan put together. The Church has failed to emphasize the importance of studying God's "instruction manual" for the Christian life. The most common term the world uses to describe us is "hypocrite," and as a result, much of our over-emphasized effort to reach the lost is ineffective.
I believe the problem lies in the local church. A lack of emphasis upon teaching how one is to live as a Christian; turning a blind eye toward sinful attitudes and actions; and a total emphasis upon soul-winning messages have all contributed to the vast majority of Christians remaining mere babes. Pastors wonder why so many of their members quit coming to their churches, when the answer, while not monolithic, is that they often feel they are not being fed. They long for the "meat" of the Word; the "milk" no longer meets their needs. By emphasizing discipleship, Christians "of all ages" will grow, do the work of the ministry within the local church, and serve as genuine examples of Christ to a lost world.
Another factor in failing to reach unbelievers is church division. I often think about two local churches that sit side by side along the highway. There is no fence, no difference in the color of the grass, nothing that shows where one's property ends and the other's begins. I wonder what the unbeliever thinks when he passes by? They both have crosses on them, use the same Book, and meet at the same time, and yet they don't seem to be willing to work as one. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church is said to have become so disillusioned by church splits that he decided to start his own. He lived as a young man during the years 1814-1830 during which the Methodists divided four times and the Baptists six (No Man Knows My History, Fawn Brodie, 1954). Whether or not that was his reason for "creating" his version of the truth is not the point; the Church, while in the midst of the Second Great Awakening, was splintering at an unprecedented rate. Not a whole lot has changed.
Tomorrow, again Lord willing, I will attempt to stress the huge importance that church unity plays in winning the lost to Christ. As always, God bless you and please continue to pray for me and my church.