When we think about mission, we automatically go to Matthew 28:19 –
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This has been interpreted as ‘go and make converts’. So often we feel that evangelism is hard. Trying to convince people to come to Jesus for salvation seems so difficult, almost impossible in most cases.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor.4:4)
It is a rare miracle indeed that someone will accept the gospel the first time they hear it. But if you stop to think about it, only God can change a person’s heart and open their eyes to the truth. We can’t do that. Our job is to provide that truth, not to make them accept it.
Now the task is much more manageable. If we think of conversion being a whole series of steps, giving people information and things to think about, gradually changing their thinking, until God steps in and they respond.
Once people respond, we want them to be disciples. A disciple is a follower, a student of a teacher. We want people not only to come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, but we want them to commit to follow him. As Christians we are all seeking to follow him more closely. This too, is a work of God.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor.3:18)
So on both sides of the conversion experience, we are trying to get people nearer to Christ. Mission is about moving people nearer to Christ, both before and after conversion. That’s what making disciples is. We can’t convert – only God can do that – so stop trying. If a person doesn’t know Jesus, just bring them nearer to him. Once God converts them, the Christian walk is all about getting closer to Jesus.