Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Several years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a Preacher-training school in South America. It was a wonderful experience for me, sharing with and receiving blessings from men who intended to devote their lives to spreading kingdom seed.

On the last night of my stay, I was asked to speak on the final night of a crusade at a church in the city. This came on the heels of a team of Americans who'd just completed a medical mission at that church.

I was told before my arrival that the American team had been there five days and baptized 72 people. I was amazed! I was so excited about the opportunity to teach so many new converts.

But as I began my sermon, I asked for a show of hands of everyone in the audience who'd been baptized that week. With the medical team safely back in the U.S., I was stunned when only 2 people raised their hand.

I'm sure that team went back and reported to their home church what blessed success they'd had on their journey. But that experience caused me to reflect: did they simply baptize those 72 people without calling them to genuine discipleship?

In Kingdom Come, Hicks and Valentine note: "(James) Harding emphasized that the 'life of a successful Christian is a continual growth in purity, a constant changing into a complete likeness to Christ.' To 'grow more and more into the likeness of Christ' should be the Christian's greatest desire. In other words, Harding believed discipleship was the central dimension of the kingdom of God. Consequently, one of the dangers of revivalism (and medical mission trips) was the immediate interest in a large number of conversions where the main concern was 'escaping hell and getting into heaven' as opposed to discipling people to lead 'lives of absolute consecration to the Lord.' As a result, these 'converts are much more anxious to be saved than they are to follow Christ' (76).