Monday, April 14, 2008

Time Is of the Essence

Thom S. Rainer writes the following in his book High Expectations:

"Can you imagine Luke adding a sentence or two to his account of the early church in the Book of Acts? Perhaps the words would say, 'And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. But within two years, 6o percent of those saved were no longer active in the church.'"

We could never imagine Luke adding that kind of comment, but we accept that kind of thinking today in the 21st century. We accept the fact that only 40 percent of our church members are in attendance on a given Sunday. When some of our newest members disappear, we look around and say, "Where did they go?" That's about as far as we go.

The importance of assimilating and discipling the new believer cannot be overemphasized. The churches across America that do the best job are assimilating these folks into the body of Christ and beginning the discipleship process of maturing them in their faith immediately. The process should optimally begin within 24 hours of their decision, but at least no later than the first week.

Most churches leave the assimilation/discipleship process up to the Sunday School, or the Sunday morning Bible Study structure. The Sunday School has provided such a climate over the decades when teaching, fellowship, and outreach were paramount and just part of breathing for this wonderful instrument. Today, are we providing good fellowship times, a nurturing influence, an opportunity to build relationships, and an avenue to understand what the church is attempting to do? At one time this was being done without a lot of conscious thinking. Maybe it disappeared with the typewriter.

I have discovered that only four out of 10 churches have some kind of system in place to help people discover their spiritual gifts. That 40 percent can seem huge when you are in a church that has no opportunity in place, but it should be unacceptable.

I have also discovered that only 25 percent of churches offer One-to-One Mentoring. If only 25 percent offer mentoring, how many do you think offer mentoring and a full-range Discipleship Program? Or, how many offer a full discipleship emphasis and mentoring as part of that total program?

We are presently rolling out a multi-faceted discipleship program that will take us until the end of 2009 to unroll the whole concept. As part of the whole program, we will be offering a mentoring beginning this summer/fall. The idea is to have a mentor assigned to every new believer the day they make a profession of faith. The mentor will follow that new believer in one-to one mentoring for about six months. Then the new believer will be able to take part in an on-going study designed just for them, or enter the mainstream discipleship program with the rest of the church. There will be redesigning until we get it right for the new believer.

What will be a key ingredient in making this work for the good of the new believer? Expectations are going to have to be set early on so the new believer will see the over-all gain from such an experience. Our people who assist in this needed ministry will also have to see the same thing from a mentor standpoint. In other words, everybody involved will need to be on board!

I'll keep you posted on how this whole thing develops. Remember, time is of the essence for the new believer. We have a certain time frame to capture the life of this person and then it will vaporize into thin air. It can be done and must be done for the sake of this new creature in Christ.

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