Douglas, you are thought of by some as quite broad-minded. What do you teach about how to become a Christian?

I hope my teaching on salvation is no broader than the Lord's (Matt 7:13-14), nor any narrower. Here's what I believe and teach:

  • Exposure to God's word changes our mind (and generates faith -- Rom 10:17).
  • Faith changes our hearts (Acts 15:9), and if the will is aligned, brings
  • Repentance, which changes our actions / lifestyle (Acts 26:20-21), culminating in
  • Baptism, which changes our relationship to God (Acts 2:38).
  • The faith and final step (stage) is perseverance -- if we are willing to become conformed to the image of his Son, then we will make it to the end (Rom 8:29 etc).

The real rub comes with repentance. Nearly every church group teaches that discipleship is for mature or extra serious Christians, whereas biblical discipleship is the logical concomitant of repentance. Some Protestants teach that even if you change your mind about Christ, you will be saved: apostasy is impossible, assuming you were truly saved to begin with. This (Reform theology) is certainly not the position of the early church. Further, since most churches have an Old Testament style clergy and laity division, spectator Christianity is the norm.

Nearly every person I ask to define "disciple" and "Christian" claims that disciples are serious Christians. Yet these words are effectively synonyms (right?). If someone isn't following Christ, he or she is not a Christian. I realize that rules out most members of most denominations and faith traditions -- and even some of the members of my own association -- but we should stand by this biblical expectation, insisting on true discipleship as evidence of genuine faith.