Sunday, September 17

Don't make this mistake

When setting out to plant a new house church (or any model of NT church), one can make many mistakes along the way and still end up with a NT ekklesia. There is one mistake, though, that if committed will almost always lead to church planting failure. Failure to do adequate follow-up is nearly always fatal to a church plant. It is undoubtedly the weak link in most evangelism-discipleship chains.

We are usually a lot better at "winning" people, but not so hot about following up decisions with immediate discipleship and personal attention. The fruit is generally lost due to our neglect. We birth spiritual sons and daughters and then generally abandon them by, 1) turning them over to someone else (seldom works), 2) a pat on the back with instructions to read the Bible, pray, and go to church, or 3) expecting them to somehow figure out on their own how to live their new faith (are new born babies expected to do the same?)

For several years now we have strongly stressed in our training the conservation element (follow-up) in soul winning.

I once read that studies show that if people making decisions for Christ are followed up within 48-hours there was a 50%-75% probability they would continue in the faith. If one waits 72-hours or more the conservation rate is practically ZERO!

I was curious and did an internet search to see if I could find some more information on the subject...

To my surprise, I found the Billy Graham organization reports that out of all the people converted through their ministry, 90 percent will be lost if not followed up within 48 hours; 90 percent are kept, however, when followed up within 48 hours!

Is it any surprise most of the people we win fall into the three categories of seed in the Parable of the Sower that did not bear fruit? When this happens our first reaction is the to blame the devil, the insincerety of the new convert, etc., but do we ever consider that it just MIGHT be we have failed to properly follow-up that new decision?

“Decision is 5 percent; following up the decision is the 95 percent,” teaches Billy Graham, the well known international evangelist.

In our own church planting training, fruit conservation (follow-up) is one of the pillar modules that is carefully stressed. It is the second "C" (conservation) of "c.o.s.e.C.h.a." (harvest) church planting training.

When a person expresses any kind of decision or interest in following Christ it is a MUST that BEFORE taking leave of the new convert, an appointment is set up to meet them on THEIR turf within a maximum of 48-hours.

There are then four responsibilities of the evangelist/church planter:

1) review their decision to receive Christ by going over the 1st lesson in the disicipleship manual, answering/clarifying any doubts, questions, etc.

2) visit with the person getting to know them better and hearing their needs and concerns, praying for whatever has been shared

3) help the new believer make out a list of family, friends, and neighbors who do not know the Lord and teach them how to begin praying for them (discipleship is all about obedience to Christ's commands, praying for the lost is one of the first practical lessons)

4) confirm the day/time for continuing the discipleship/mentoring at the convenience of the new believer (they are also encouraged to invite their family/friends to be part of these meetings)

In our own context those who take seriously the follow-up aspect of evangelism are the ones who end up planting NT ekklesias. Those who don't usually end up frustrated and disappointed.

What are your thoughts, experiences, observations with follow-up of new believers or seekers? Share with the rest of us what you have learned about conserving evangelistic results.

5 comments:

David Rogers said...

Guy,

From what I understand of many Latin American contexts, and other supposed "harvest fields," where it is relatively easy to get people to make public, or on-the-spot professions of faith, I believe your thinking here is right on the money.

In Western Europe, and perhaps, some other areas of the world, however, I believe that in, let's say 90% of the cases, to pull a figure from out of the air, it will be necessary to begin to do "follow-up" or discipleship a good while BEFORE the initial profession of faith. The general skepticism and negative presuppositions that most people have towards us as "evangelicals" are so great, that we must work through these objections, and gain a fairly good understanding of the message we are trying to get across, before people are willing to "sign on the dotted line." In a way, this can be a good thing. There are probably less false or superficial decisions this way.

It is also because of this that I prefer evangelistic methods (even after extensive pre-evangelism) such as the 6-lesson "Christianity Explained" course, as over against "one-off" evangelistic presentations, such as EE, 4 Spiritual Laws, etc. here in Europe. How relevant this is for other parts of the world, those who have lived and worked there will have to say for themselves.

abrasseau said...

Guy, This is a very good point. In our work we do Operation GO and I have wondered many times over about the response. One other problem of course is our limited ability of follow-up and it leaves the burden on the church. Many times over it fails and very well could be due to this reason. I would like to say more but I'm afraid I would get into trouble. I just think our strategy could use some tweaking.

Anonymous said...

Guy,

This is good stuff. I wonder if we separate evangelism and discipleship unnecessarily? (Thinking out loud). We are commanded to "make disciples". I guess the command "preach the good news" is the evangelism part. For me, the evangelism and discipleship should be integrated whenever possible. Like David mentioned in his comment. It is better to start the discipleship before the decision to follow Christ is made and just naturally continue on after that decision is firm and conversion takes place.

What you are saying would apply to situations where proclaiming the good news results in an initial decision and discipleship should start immediately. That initial decision might or might not be the actual moment of conversion. The real regeneration may take place afterward during the discipleship process.

mr. t

Anonymous said...

Guido,

We are commanded to "make disciples" and not call for decisions. At each and every step of the church-planting path we should ask ourselves: "Are we making disciples?" If not then we are simply being disobedient. We all know that true disciple making is rewarding but very exhausting work. Urgency should never be confused with speed. From the pre-evangelism stage until the church formation stage it is all about making disciples of Jesus Christ. The trail of life is littered with people who have never finished the Christian race. And in many cases it is so because we have stuck-to or worshipped our methods instead of taking the time to teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

Speaking from my own experiences of failure,

Esteban

GuyMuse said...

David,

I'm with you on needing to begin the follow-up/discipleship BEFORE the initial profession of faith. If this can be done, so much the better. We encourage our folks to use several different approaches/studies that lead to a time of decision making. Once a decision is made, immediate follow-up/discipleship is commenced.

abrasseau,

If you are like most of us, we do these evangelism blitzes or events and count raised hands or decision cards to announce we have X number of professions of faith. There really is no effective follow-up plan in place, so we are lucky if there is any conservation of results. We keep doing these kinds of things (especially with volunteer teams) because they make us feel like we are out there "sharing the Gospel." I repeat what Billy Graham says, "Decision is 5%, follow-up [discipleship] is 95%."

Mr.T,

I totally agree that evangelism and discipleship should be integrated into one package and not separated into pre-evangelism phase, evangelism, discipleship, baptism, church membership, etc. It is easier said than done, and we continue to struggle with this in our own work.

Esteban,

The task is indeed to "make disciples." We have had many instances of people making decisions to follow Christ while being discipled. It's almost like they come to know Christ not instantaneously, but gradually. At some point they themselves recognize having made a decision (usually by the time they ask for baptism.) We will begin to disciple anyone willing to listen. Somewhere in the process a true seeker of God will make their decision known.