Discipleship and following-up with new believers has been a personal passion of mine since my early days in the US Navy. It was 6 years after I became a believer, before I was followed-up with in my faith by my friend John Graton. I received Christ at the age of 15, but struggled for years afterward and became far worse than I ever was before I became a believer. I doubted my salvation, and didn’t know that God would hear and respond to my prayers. I did not understand God’s promise that the indwelling Holy Spirit would help me to overcome personal sin in my life by making a way to escape or giving me the strength to endure temptation. Nor did I understand that God would forgive me when I fail, and that He would guide me as I submitted my will to Him. All of these are key areas that every believer needs to get a firm footing on in their new faith. Satan had me confused, frustrated, and convinced that God would not accept me until I cleaned myself up. And I knew that I did not have the personal will power to do it. This is one of Satan’s best lies called legalism!
How bad is this problem of not doing follow-up with new believers? In just one major denomination, the statistics are staggering…Over the last decade it is estimated that 5 million people were won to Christ…yet growth as a Christian, only occured in 190,000 pepole! (Figures reported at 2008 No. Calif/ Nev District Council).
The national average is trending around 4%. Successful discipleship is being done on average with only 4 out of every 100 people who make decisions for Christ. These statistics, demonstrate that it is imperative to nurture new believers and get follow-up materials into their hands. This will help them understand the promises of God, how to feed themselves and also understand how their new enemy Satan will attack them. At Grace Church we have become very serious about discipling new believers and are also aggressively “adopting” many spiritual orphans who have never been discipled in their new faith. We are getting aggressive in training people to disciple others.
Basic follow-up is like the kind of care that new parents must provide their newborn child. They provide food, a safe place to live, protection from elements and disease, love and care, and about 18 years of training. The new believer needs all of these. Many times, we help birth them and point them in the direction of the church, and then promptly hand them off or commit them to God and His care. We use verses like Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will continue to perform it till the day of Jesus Christ.” We know that this verse is true, but as spiritual parents many times we stop there and forget the previous verses and the following verses that say—vs. 3, I think of you often. vs. 4, I pray for you always. vs. 5, I partner with you from the first day (of your new life) till now. vs. 7, (I am confident God will work in you because) I have you in my heart… It doesn’t sound like the Apostle Paul was passing the buck does it? If someone brought a newborn home from the hospital and didn’t care for him or her, we would report him to social services and try to have him locked up! But most often when a person is introduced to Christ, the thought process goes something like this. “Oh that’s God’s job! I don’t have this gift. Isn’t this the Pastor’s or elder’s job? I just don’t know what to do! I don’t have the time!” Sound familiar?
How can this be in light of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We are to “intentionally” go in His authority, make disciples, baptize them and teach them everything He has taught us. When we do, His promise is– He is with us always. Every mature believer should be able to reproduce and disciple others as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
My mentor John showed me how God would speak to me from the Bible in a daily quiet time. He showed me how to pray and speak back to God what He had shared with me. He gave me a little packet called “Beginning with Christ” and helped me memorize 5 key promises that taught me to trust the Lord with my daily struggles and to defeat Satan. He taught me how to share my faith in Christ and he taught me how to study and meditate on God’s word to overcome sin in my life by God’s power. John trained me to become a skilled swordsman of God’s word, and to have a deeper relationship with Jesus, and to become a great-grandfather in the Lord.
John used a dynamic tool in my discipleship that I still use to this day. “Tell them why. Show them how. Get them started.Keep them going.” This is what many disciplers today call “doing life together.”
The Apostle Paul did this with his young disciple Timothy and instructed him to make generations of disciples by this model in 2 Timothy 2:2 “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” In his instruction to Timothy, Paul was saying to him to give this to my great-grandchildren in the faith. Paul to Timothy—Timothy to faithful men—faithful men to others also.
Shortly after I got out of the Navy, I was reading in the Bible and I received a promise from God that Jesus made to his disciples. John 15:16 “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain. That whatsoever you ask of the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” God has honored His promise and I have been following up with new believers and discipling people for Jesus Christ for many years now. I am also asking God for many new disciples at Grace Church and throughout local churches in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. I now have the privilege of doing it full time as I have recently joined the staff at The Navigators– Church Discipleship Ministries.
So you might be saying… I have not been discipled in my Faith. How can I do something that hasn’t been done for me? In other words, you have never had a “John” in your life! Why not come and join our “Next Steps” groups for basic follow-up? Or if you’d like a one-to-one relationship trainer, we have over 100 people trained at Grace to help you.