Last week I posted a little about how I have come to the conviction that how we talk about the gospel has been reframed in such a way that it does not look like the gospel message preached by Jesus and the Apostles. I’ve been reading Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel, and have found it very helpful to my own thinking on the topic. I promised then that I would be blogging through the book. A good place to start is in the section of the forward entitled “1971”. It is here that McKnight talks about his first experiences as a young Christian trying to evangelize non-Christians by the method of door-to-door visitation. The experience did not go well, and left him questioning how we go about inviting people to follow Christ. The following quote gives us an idea of the author’s rationale for writing this book:
Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples. Those two words — decision and disciples — are behind this entire book. Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and — yes, the word is appropriate — aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles.
McKnight argues convincingly that the Evangelical obsession with decision has been unsuccessful in producing long lasting, mature follower of Jesus. He uses some statistics to show how our methodology of conversion has not worked. These numbers are his approximations of actual statistics from Barna and some other organizations.
Among teenagers (ages thirteen to seventeen) almost 60 percent of the general population makes a “commitment to Jesus” —that is, they make a “decision.” That number changes to just over 80 percent for Protestants and (amazingly) approaches 90 percent for nonmainline Protestants, a group that focuses more on evangelicals. As well, six out of ten Roman Catholic teens say they have made a “commitment to Jesus.”
However we look at this pie, most Americans “decide” for Jesus. But if then we measure discipleship among young adults (ages eighteen to thirty-five), we find dramatic (and frankly discouraging) shifts in numbers. Barna has some measures for “discipleship,” including what they call “revolutionary faith,” a “biblical worldview,” and “faith as a highest priority in life.” Take revolutionary faith, which sorts out things like meaning in life, self-identification as a Christian, Bible reading, and prayer as well as questions about how faith has been or is transforming one’s life. That almost 60 percent becomes about 6 percent, that 80 percent or so of Protestants becomes less than 20 percent, and that almost 90 percent of nonmainline Protestants becomes about 20 percent.
McKnight goes on to report that by the most conservative estimate we lose about 50% of those young people who claim to make a decision for Christ. He concludes from this that the focus on conversions distorts the discipleship process citing that there is a much higher retention of those young people who attended church regularly, prayed regularly, have a higher rate of attending youth groups, and have families that helped foster their spiritual growth.
So, what do you think? Does hyper-focusing on conversions hinder us in making disciples?
 McKnight, Scot (2011-09-06). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (p. 18). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.