HOUSTON (BP)–Without a systematic approach to assimilating and discipling new believers, they may fail to grow in Christ or be lost to the church completely, Victor Benavides, a North American Mission Board personal evangelism associate said during the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 “Church on the Cutting Edge” conference at Second Baptist Church of Houston.
“It seems like everyone’s excited about leading someone to Jesus, but they don’t want to go back and plug them into a Sunday School class and the church,” Benavides said in a session on guidelines for effective evangelistic follow-up.
“Six months after a person gets saved, they should be a passionate soul-winner, a prayer warrior and excited about coming to worship,” he said. “You talk about having church growth — I believe if we will do the things that God has called us to do the growth will come. God will give the increase.”
Follow-up with new believers should begin immediately after they pray to receive Christ, through discussion about what is involved in the Christian life. NAMB’s “Let The Celebration Begin” goes over the essentials of church attendance, prayer, Bible study and sharing Christ with others.
The next step, Benavides suggested, should be for to someone to walk the person through a slightly more in-depth overview of the Christian walk such as NAMB’s “Let the Celebration Continue.” The booklet is designed for seven days, but he said it might be more appropriate for churches to stretch the lessons over seven weeks to allow for more discipleship time on issues that often are completely foreign to the new believer.
From that point, a resource like NAMB’s “Beginning Steps” takes the new believer further into the Christian walk, and the process also should cover critical issues such as orientation about the church and what is expected of members.
The initial discipleship can be integrated into Sunday School so new believers are not totally isolated from the rest of the class, Benavides said.
“Let them come in and have fellowship time with the class, and during Sunday School teaching time take them through this booklet,” he said. “They’re still plugged in, but the person is doing separate learning and discipleship during the same hour.”
Over the longer term, the Sunday School is the center of ensuring new believers stay plugged in to the church and their growing relationship with Christ. Care group leaders can be particularly important, he said.
“The worst thing that can happen is if they don’t feel like they’re connecting with the people in the class,” he said. “If they feel like they are excluded, they will leave — and they won’t come back.”
In a day when church schedules are continually crowded out by other things, he said it is more important than ever to make follow-up a priority.
“I think we have lost the art of mentoring and discipling people one-on-one,” he said. “If we’re so busy, then I think sometimes we need to cut out some of our business. … If we’re not reproducing ourselves in other folks, we’re hurting Christ’s kingdom. And what we have is immature born-again believers who aren’t growing.”
NAMB resources can be explored at www.namb.net.