The Quantity or Quality of Discipleship
I was talking to my father in law (Director of Missions for a Southern Baptist Regional Association) awhile back about his missionary trip to Romania. He was excited to tell me how many baptisms they conducted.
This was just one instance. But I started to notice that the emphasis for many conservatives is almost always on the number, or frequency, of baptisms. What I seldom hear people talk about is the quality and depth of those many individual commitments to follow in Jesus’ name. Just today there were dire predictions commented on by Ed Stetzer, the well-known Lifeway statistician, blogger and evangelist, which said that the Southern Baptist Convention could decline by 50% over the few decades. The focus is almost always on the numbers—how many, not how well equipped to walk in the way of Jesus.
Recently I read an intriguing article at Slate magazine. It was written by a Brown University student that had taken a semester off and enrolled in Liberty University. He went undercover as a way to learn about the conservative evangelical Christian subculture. You can read the rest by following the link. What most interests me about the article are the descriptions of the students evangelizing attempts during spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida. Similar to what I’ve noted above, these students’ attempts at evangelizing basically focused on the number of people approached on the street and saved that day. There was very little concern for developing any kind of long term relationship or bonds of Christian community. It was all about number; none about quality.
Whatever the emerging Christian movement moves toward, I think that it is imperative to not move in this direction. A strong community of followers and committed individual believers are created and sustained over time through relationships, through building up one another. While at some level the number of followers is important, I argue that the quality of discipleship is far more important.