From Lullaby Land to Laborer
by Dr. Waylon B. Moore
The Church in the U.S.A. is sick. At least 4,000 local churches disband every
year, and the Church at large is losing 3,500 members daily. On the basis of
population, comparisons show that we have only half the churches we had in
1900! Only 1 percent of churches grow from conversions to Christ versus from
transfer of membership and other additions.
God's goal for our lives is that we know, love, and glorify Him. Jesus gave us
a summary of the Bible: follow Me. We are saved to follow Jesus from a baby decision to discipleship. The Apostle Paul described this process:
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you
). As a child grows to adulthood, a Christian should grow up to be God's
laborer in the harvest. The Church will not grow numerically if its members are not growing!
Yet, millions of new babes in Christ never grow up. Why not? Two intermingled forces thwart the spiritual progress of the believer. The first one is the believer's Enemy, Satan. Only focused prayer and mentoring will counter-attack the Enemy's lies and seduction. The second negative force working against new converts involves a misunderstanding of their pediatric needs. A new believer is a spiritual baby. Paul called himself a father to those he'd won (1 Corinthians 4:16,16). We're commanded as babies to
desire the . . . milk of the word
(1 Peter 2:2).
This viewpoint shows that spiritual newborns are about as fragile as physical
newborns: helpless, selfish, unfocused. New converts start on equal footing
whether banking executive or third grader. They need parenting.
Unfortunately, most churches have a dirth of spiritual fathers and mothers. So,
spiritual orphans by the thousands function relatively
in their walk with God. There are two things people can't do alone: get
married and finish strong spiritually. God designed us to need fellowship with
How does a couple parent their infant? This important process involves four
things: loving, feeding, protecting, and training. It's no different with
parenting. A book or a bottle does not equal a parent. It's done by one or two
people, with the help of a group (Sunday School, church). Let's look at
four golden keys to maximizing assimilation
of new converts and new church members:
3. MODELING THE WORD
4. WARM, EVANGELISTIC ENVIRONMENT
Nurture and assimilation must be personal and persistent, over time.
Dr. Billy Graham learned that all decisions needed personal follow-up. In the
1950's, Dawson Trotman was brought in as a consultant to the Graham Team. He
researched the best process to follow-up the thousands who made decisions for
Christ. Trotman made sure that the growth process began right at the altar.
First, he correctly required individual counseling of each person. Next, there
was check-up by a second advisor/counselor at the stadium. Third, each decision
card was mailed that night to the preferred church listed on the card. A pastor
had the convert's name and pertinent information by the next morning.
That third step was where the assimilation process sometimes fell apart. As I
worked in a number of Graham Crusades, one of my jobs was to ascertain how
pastors followed up on these referrals. In Houston, I remember my shock as I
visited pastor after pastor who had a stack of decision cards on his desk! They
had not visited a single person two weeks after the crusade had closed! We
learned a major principle:
the longer the gap, the harder the assimilation.
Time is vital for life-guarding successful assimilation. Notice both the
with which the Apostles evangelized and mentored:
In Jerusalem, believers went to the Temple every day, and people were saved daily (Acts 2:46). The Apostles preached daily in the Temple and from house to house (Acts 5:42; 19:9). How did Paul plant a growing, evangelistic church at Ephesus in 36 months? Paul assimilated and mentored them
at all seasons, house to house,
night and day
(Acts 20). Can we do any less, as we mentor men and women?
Let's parallel this finding with new insights from the medical world about the
learning future of many children. How much time do most kids spend with their
parents? The most basic child-care responsibilities, such as bathing,
feeding, reading and playing, produced the following estimates. The average
mother who is unemployed spends 12.9 hours per week devoted to undivided child
care. The working mother averages 6.6 hours a week. The employed dad spends 2.5
hours a week with his children.
A specialist M.D. says, Kids don't do meetings. You can't raise them in
short, scheduled bursts. They need lots of attention.
When someone just gets saved, he is the most impressionable, like wet cement.
Set up an appointment within 48 hours after conversion. The Lord from Glory
invested three years, at 14-16 hours a day, parenting 12 spiritual babies.
Jesus changed spiritual diapers, and patiently listened to gu-gu baby talk. We may not have that kind of time, but we can introduce them to simple Bible study immediately after spiritual birth. Among other resources, I suggest our
booklet using John's Gospel.
Begin specific prayer for the new believer immediately. Ask God to give them
hunger for the Word, conviction about sin, and availability to be mentored. Why
not begin preventative medicine? For 40 days pray for each convert or new
church member, passing out a prayer list. Use the Epistle prayers of Paul.
Arise, cry out in the night. . . ; pour out your heart. . . in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for. . . your children, who faint from hunger
MODELING THE WORD.
Assimilation is done by someONE, not someTHING.
is responsible in your church to immediately follow-up new converts? I started
a 13-week new members class where I pastored. But, this class was secondary to
critical one-on-one mentoring of new converts.
Recruit and train your sharpest men and women for this ministry. New Testament
converts drank warm bottles of Bible milk from the correspondence of Paul,
Peter, and John. In addition to writing the Word of God, these mentors modeled
it. It's no wonder that we read about godly Timothy, Titus, Priscilla,
Philemon, and more who were all encouraged by a mentor. Paul reminds the
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the
Holy Ghost, . . . as ye know what manner of men we were among you
(1 Thessalonians 1:5
). The Word, plus modeling! Every spiritual baby needs one or more caring
parents to pattern God's Word. Mentoring from the pulpit to the pew just
doesn't cut it! Doctors have discovered with a baby that the best a care
center [nursery] can hope to do is approach. . . the benchmark of a
single caring adult.
WARM EVANGELISTIC ENVIRONMENT.
And you also became imitators of us and of the Lord. . . so that you became an example to all. . . in every place your faith toward God has gone forth. . .
(1 Thessalonians 1:6-8
). All through the book of Acts there was a warm, evangelistic environment.
People were getting saved and living their talk. A new convert responds to his
environment. If it is warm and exciting, he heats up! However, he will learn
bad habits from the carnal. When I pastored, I avoided putting a new convert
in a lukewarm Sunday School class, even if that meant I had to by-pass age grouping.
Evangelistic fervor is contagious! While my son Bruce was on staff at First
Baptist Church of Jacksonville, they had 200 single adults witnessing every
week! They insisted that each new Christian be immediately invited to go on
visitation with his Sunday School department. Surrounded by committed
Christians, a high standard was raised, and he developed a heart for the lost
Dale Schlafer, Promise Keepers' Dinner, Tampa, FL, May 15, 1997.
Time For Life, Penn State Univ. Press, 1995 estimates,
Newsweek, May 12, 1997, p. 65.
The Myth of Quality Time,
Newsweek, May 12, 1997, p. 62.
Stanley Graven, M.D., Lecture at Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL, May 1, 1997.