Is Salvation Enough

Years ago, when I was pastor of a church in Griffin, Georgia, I brought my youth group to a notable Christian performer's concert headlined. It was very high energy and exciting. The band was excellent; the lighting, sound, and special effects were top-notch, and this guy was Kool with a capital K. He closed the concert with an altar call that left most seats in the auditorium empty, and most Kleenexes were wet. A month later, I read an article in which he claimed to have brought over a million people to Christ.

This particular performer is not alone in his evangelism strategy. Many churches tend to place more emphasis on conversion and baptism than discipleship. It is easier to quantify baptisms, membership, and attendance than committed relationships with Christ. It is easier to get people to submit to a one-time ritual than a changed lifestyle of study, service, and sacrifice. When Jesus told us to "make disciples of all nations," he meant to teach all people to follow the way of Jesus, regardless of ethnic group, social status, or nationality. He said nothing about counting notches in our belts. The only thing he asked us to count was the cost of discipleship.

With our emphasis on conversion, it would be understandable for someone to ask, "Are baptisms and profession of faith not enough? Aren't we taught that salvation is by faith, not by works?" Dallas Willard, in his book The Great Omission, calls this being a Vampire Christian: "I'd like a little of your blood, please. But I don't care to be your student or have your character. Won't you excuse me while I get on with my life, and I'll see you in heaven?"

Dr. Willard offers reasons why discipleship is essential to the Christian life:
  • Faith in Jesus means to trust in Jesus. If we trust Jesus with our souls, we will also trust him with every other aspect of our lives. We would not decide to trust him but then continue to trust our judgment about life.
  • A profession of faith without discipleship is deciding to continue to sin. Our conversion in faith is an act of repentance and forgiveness, but if we do not "turn around" and change our behavior, it is not true repentance, and true discipleship does not begin.
  • Only serious discipleship will affect our thoughts, emotions, and character, so that is the only hope for real transformation. We become the same on the outside as on the inside. Life takes on simplicity and peace. It is the duplicity of the person that Jesus railed against when he pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

At Shalimar UMC, we want every member of the church (and any non-member) to engage in an intentional walk of discipleship. This is often more natural and fruitful when we do it in groups of like-minded people. So we have a variety of classes, short-term studies, and long-term accountability groups to help make that happen. Any of our Pastors can be contacted, and our Program Director, Kim Margold, and they will be happy to help you get plugged in somewhere. This new year could be the time your life takes off on your spiritual journey!
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Brian Dale

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