Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ok, they said “Yes.” Now what?

In my experience, most churches and their members just don’t know what to do after someone says “Yes” to Jesus. They do their best to get them baptized and into a new member’s class in the church, but that’s about all they know to do. I guess we just hope that these new believers will assimilate into the church, find a ministry to serve, and maybe start tithing.

 

Part of the problem is that many go about evangelism in a way that is just selling Jesus…trying to get the buyer to agree with their “gospel presentation.” Once that is done the person is won and they have done their jobs. Spiritual newborns are abandoned by the ones who led them to life, and are left for ‘the church’ to disciple. There are innumerable problems right there, but that is a post for another day.

 

The question is, “How should new Christians be discipled and brought into the church?”  I propose that the two most popular methods, one-on-one discipleship and new member’s classes, are not very effective in producing followers of Jesus who lead others to be followers of Jesus.

 

One-on-one discipleship, ends up making following Jesus into a personal spiritual quest that is slow, prone getting side-tracked and private to the point of dysfunction. Individuals who grow closer to Jesus in a private way end up excluding their families from the process, often alienating themselves, to a degree, from the rest of their family. The result is a family that is that much harder to reach than before.

 

New member’s classes tend to focus much more on assimilating people into an existing church structure than leading them to becoming lifetime followers of Jesus. When spiritual precepts are taught, they are presented through study guides and with lists of proof texts. Learning scripture, doing ministry and obeying God are all funneled through the church’s existing structure. If the person doesn’t fit well, his discipleship will not go well.

 

People are best discipled in groups. Not groups of loosely related people brought together for a Bible study, but in their existing groups: their households (oikos), their close friends, the people they already spend time with doing their favorite hobbies. These groups already have relationships, authority structures and natural accountability. When they are unredeemed groups, they need to be discipled… brought to Jesus.

 

It is within these groups that a new believer, or even a true seeker should be taught how to study the Bible together with his loved ones, how to discover what God says through His Word together, how to change their lives to obey God’s Word with mutual accountability, and how to share Bible passages with friends and family. There is a simple process for this and it is easy to follow and easy to pass along to others. I will outline it in a future post.

 

The end result of this kind of discipleship, however, is that one new believer becomes a dozen new believers in a short time, and before long they become a hundred. That is much better than one-on-one, one at a time, or new members classes with five or six people, three of which remain in the church after a year’s time.

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