Monday, November 19

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.

To my surprise, in an internet search for information on the subject, I found the following:

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!

“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, 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.


Burkhalter Ministry said...

Once again, great post. I've often asked myself, why? Why don't people follow up when someone makes a decision. Off the top of my head I can think of a few: 1) is work to follow up. 2) Fear...fear that they didn't really make the decision or fear that you're inadequate to disciple or any of a number of fears. 3) Tradition...typically, the tradition has not been to follow up and it is somewhat in our DNA. For example, I was never followed up with when I made a decision. 4) Time...don't have time to follow up.

Whatever the reasons, none of them are acceptable. When we don't follow up, we are abandoning the Father's new children. This is unacceptable and shows a lack of the Father's heart.

GuyMuse said...


By not placing the 90% on follow-up we lose all the work that has gone into reaching that person for Christ. Satan doesn't seem to mind us doing all kinds of evangelistic emphasis, knowing that those "reached" will likely be abandoned within the hour by our neglect.

WTJeff said...


One of the problems I see is that everyday church members don't feel adequate to disciple. They think it's up to the church.

Another issue that I see is that I have a frame of reference regarding the gospel where most of the newly saved don't. What specific material do you cover to begin the discipleship process?


Jeff Parsons

GuyMuse said...


You write, They think it's up to the church... Well, they're right. It IS up to the church to make disciples. WE are the church. We are the ones who have been commanded to "make disciples." Not some institution out there called "church".

We use what we call our "Ruta Discipular" (Discipleship Route) which is a step by step process to "teaching them to observe all I commanded you..." Discipleship also involves the one-on-one time spent with the new believers. New believers are also gathered into new ekklesias where they become part of the family and grow in this way as well.

Pastor Chris said...

Thanks for this reminder.

I've done lots of missionary work in Latin America. I now make sure that all work I do is in partnership with the local church.

It's the local church that has to do the followup. I as the guest preacher cannot.

While Graham may have observered that 90% fall away, I'm also not sure that your colollary is true: 90 percent of followup will stick. There is much more to it than that.

Followup is very important, but I don't think it can or should be reduced to a 48 hour time frame.

Just some thoughts and reaction, but I like the urgency in the post.

Pastor Chris

GuyMuse said...

Pastor Chris,

Thanks for stopping by and for your observations. You are right about the nature of trying to put percentages saved by good follow-up. Our own experience shows that even these numbers do not hold true. What is important though is INTENTIONAL follow up done ASAP after someone makes a decision to follow Christ. The Billy Graham percentages are a guide, not a formula. We need to take as seriously the follow up aspects as we do in the initial sharing of the Gospel.

Evangelism Coach said...

I have done some mission work in central america that was totally divorced from the local church.

Short term mission trips to one town, doing preaching minsitry in the parks and canchas.

The local church that was supposed to be with us bailed at the last minute for who knows what reason.

The result: we couldn't help the people who professed a decision connect to a local church.

Now, the ministry that I do is in partnership with the local church. I might teach and train their leadership, but when we go to the streets, I'm just one of them. I'm not the extranjero missionary. It's the local church's outreach.

Pastor Chris

GuyMuse said...


I think most of us have experienced to one degree or another the very things you share about working separately from the local churches. Unless there is genuine ownership of the effort by the local nationals, there is little chance of conserving much of the results.

We are promoting a project locally that seeks to unite a Stateside church/missions group with a national church to adopt unreached counties of our province. The idea would be that both entities work together to pray, plan, and come up with a viable strategy. We are hoping for greatly improved results from this kind of partnership, rather than an outside team coming down and doing their thing in 7-10 days, leaving the results up to people who never were really committed to the effort in the first place.