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How to keep those we reach

By Steve R. Mills

A question haunts many conscientious leaders. Although many people make commitments to Christ, few seem to remain. Their new birth often proves to be more of a stillbirth. How can we reduce the number of stillbirths and lead newborn Christians into meaningful relationships with the Lord and the church? Scripture is clear that we are to make disciples, not just decisions.

If we are to move people from the prayer of faith to a life of faith and involvement in the church, our evangelism strategy must include four different phases. We must be concerned about the (1) preconversion, (2) conversion, (3) nurturing, and (4) maturity phases. If any phase is omitted or weak, our outreach efforts will be ineffective.

The nurturing phase is particularly critical to the survival of a new convert Many churches are using Evangelism Explosion, Discipleship Dynamics, or other confrontational approaches as their primary strategy for evangelism. These programs develop the front-end of evangelism----getting converts. However, this type of evangelism must be complemented by a caring, nurturing plan intended to keep those who are reached.

One of the weaknesses of confrontational approaches is that they lack the friendship tie essential to assimilating people into the church. Statistics reveal that unless a new convert is able to develop six or seven new relationships in the church within 9 months, he will probably leave the church.

To compensate for this, we need to develop a caring community to nurture and integrate these people into the life of the church. Such a program will include: ( 1 ) a strong commitment from the leadership not only to reap, but to keep the harvest; (2) a method for nurturing new converts; and (3) a way to help the new convert make friends in the church.

Here is a method that is working in several churches.

  1. Start a new converts follow-up class to be taught by the pastor. He may later turn it over to someone else with the ability to care for, teach, and nurture new converts.
  2. Find one or two couples who are outreach oriented, motivated by love, and loyal to the pastor to work in the area of new convert follow-up. They can help build relationships and nurture new converts. If your church is small, one couple may take on this responsibility.
  3. Enroll new converts immediately in a new converts class, or assign them to a couple who will be nurturers. This will accomplish two goals. It will begin to build both the relational ties and the spiritual foundation that are essential for survival. This stage needs to include doctrinal and practical kinds of teaching. The Radiant life elective, The Joy of Belonging, is a good course to use.
  4. Assimilate new converts into the mainstream of the church. They may feel comfortable in their new class and not want to leave, but it is important for them to become involved in the total life of the church. Have different teachers come to the class to introduce themselves and the kinds of classes that are available. This will help them choose other classes without feeling afraid and dropping out. This transition is critical.

Churches that develop an effective caring, nurturing ministry are retaining up to 62 percent of their new converts. You can keep those you reach by developing methods that build upon developing relationships and establishing spiritual foundations in new converts.

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