The University of Kentucky basketball program has become the emblem of one-and-done college basketball. We grab high school athletes from the highest tier of basketball greatness, bring them in for a season, teach them the Coach Cal way, and get them to the NCAA tournament. The season-opening blue and white game looks like an all-star weekend dunk contest. The high-scoring, double-digit preseason victories stir up buzz about March Madness before college football has even played their bowl games. If you want to watch freshman phenoms year after year, tune into UK basketball.
By the time they play against the big shots, they are usually a top ten team, and with the exception of some major freshman slip-ups, we always feel one step closer to another national championship banner. As March comes and goes, we watch these young men earn their first round draft picks as they rally to the Elite Eight, Final Four, or the national championship.
They reach the pinnacle and then they’re gone. As quick as they came, they vanish. As soon as they announce their draft status and their agent, we say our goodbyes. Another year of one-and-done basketball. We see them off to their first round NBA glory and they make a life somewhere out there on an NBA team.
We watch them from afar, but we're not nearly invested. We've got eight-graders and blue chip seniors to keep our eyes on! Have you heard about next year's draft class?! We have to watch them early because we know they'll be gone soon.
Following Jesus Is Costly
We need to beware of a "one-and-done" Christianity. Too often, it's right in front of our eyes. It may even be in our living rooms. We invest in some top-tier church prospects—the ones we think can really make an impact for the Kingdom. We tell them we are Christians, invite them to a Bible study, and get them to visit our churches. After some good book studies or a convicting Bible conference, they get all the way to the point of confessing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After their baptism, we celebrate like we just won the NCAA national championship.
Then we see them off to the rest of Christian lives, rooting for them from afar, hoping they look more like Lebron James than Greg Oden (just do a Google search if you don't know what I mean!). Of course, we still want to see them on Sunday morning. We make sure they're in a Sunday School class or weekly small group. We want them to be plugged in to a local church!
However, seeing people saved and attending a local church is not the end. It's only the beginning. For most Christians, following Jesus is long journey of perseverance and suffering. This is why Paul told the Philippians, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Getting into the faith is a glorious miracle! There is no doubt that "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). But we can't stop there. If our ultimate aim is to merely see people baptized and showing up on Sunday mornings, we have settled for a weak, unbiblical Christianity. We have chosen to side-step the path of discipleship for an easier route.
Work It Out
Just as UK's one-and-done freshmen move on to a much more mature game of basketball, so new converts are called to move from "milk to meat" (1 Cor. 3:2). Those young men work with strength trainers, dietitians, sleep coaches, chiropractors, and many more professional specialists in order to grow and thrive in the NBA. Failing to disciple new believers is like an NBA team leaving it up to the players to train themselves for game day. However, God gave the Church gifts to build up His people after they get saved:
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood..."
The aim is much further than conversion. God desires saints who move on to maturity. Together, the church does the work of ministry. Sunday morning is a piece of the preparation. The church leaders are here to equip the saints to do the work of ministry in everyday life.
It is for this very reason that Paul says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). If we want people to mature in their faith, we must continually point them to the Savior who is at work in them "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). We exhort them to live obedient lives because God is at work in them! We walk with them and urge them to pursue spiritual maturity!
Preach the gospel. Urge people to confess and believe in Christ. Baptize people of all nations. But please don't fail to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). There is no one-and-done Christianity. New converts aren't just banners to put in our sanctuaries or hall-of-fame rosters. They are eternal souls awaiting the day of Christ.