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.