I recently read that the number of Muslim converts to Christianity returning to their Muslim faith after only a year is surprisingly high. At the heart of this reconversion rate is a lack of attention to the needs of the new converts after coming to Jesus. A new Christian needs someone to help them navigate their new place in the world, to adjust their expectations and perceptions and learn how to orient themselves to Christ first. They need ongoing support and teaching. Culturally, Western people are very independent – we don’t rely on the family unit for everything. We demand independence from the “net” of our family systems earlier than ever. However, cultures like the Muslim community do not place such a high value on independence. They function primarily within the family system, so when someone converts to a new religion and changes the system, that individual is often cut off entirely. He loses all of his support for the sake of the gospel. Who steps in to help him find a new family?
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matthew 28:19-20 (CSB)
The Western Church puts extraordinary emphasis on the Great Commission, spending millions each year on all kinds of mission’s trips, sending thousands of people to far corners of the world to share the Gospel. But apparently, the church has focused so much on “Go” that we are missing the mark when it comes to the core and only command of the Great Commission – “make disciples”.
A disciple is a student. In biblical times, a disciple committed his life to his teacher. The 12 disciples Jesus chose left their families to live with and follow Jesus for the full three years of his ministry, totally saturated in his teachings, observing His interactions and faith before being sent out on their own to “make disciples…teaching them to observe everything” Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20, CSB). The Apostle Paul took on young Timothy as his disciple. Timothy followed Paul on his missionary journeys, helping establish churches all over the Gentile world until just before Paul’s death, when Paul determined Timothy was well-established in his own faith, and able to take charge of his own mission.
The charge of the Great Commission isn’t to merely go and drop truth bombs on people and then head home, it’s to take these new converts on and teach them what following Jesus really means and looks like, to invest in their spiritual wellbeing. Every believer needs a Paul and a Timothy. We are meant to be in mentor-disciple relationships with people in the community of Christ. So what about you? Are you a Paul to a Timothy? Are you discipling a young believer, or being discipled by a mature woman of faith? In your heart to share the Good News of Jesus, don’t forget the great command to take care of new believers in Christ!