~ Keeping Those We Win ~

by Dr. Waylon B. Moore

My family considers me the resident omelet expert! However, getting that Western Omelet to slide out of the skillet whole used to be more of an art than it is today. I remember the days before Teflon!

This tool that works wonders in the kitchen is, on the other hand, the nightmarish condition of most churches. Teflon pews, if you will, or the “revolving door.” People are saved and they join the church. They come for a time, then, one day you notice they're missing from action. Whoosh! They've slid off the pew.

Why do even wonderfully evangelistic churches lose so many new converts? One reason is the time gap between initial salvation and their receiving customized care by a trained “encourager.”

Furthermore, we let people slip and slide off of our Teflon pews because we don't realize the “cost” of losing a new convert. Let's look at one perspective of what it costs simply to get one. What was your total church budget last year? Divide that figure by the total number of baptisms for that period. You will get the startling dollar figure it cost to win and baptize each one. Then, consider how many are still active. Their citizenship in the Kingdom and active involvement in a local church tangibly reflects thousands of dollars, and ministry hours.

Pastoring in Tampa, I wondered how effective our church was with our time and treasures. God gave us over 100 people saved and baptized annually for 13 years. In addition, up to 250 others joined yearly. Using the prior measurement, the cost was staggering — yet well worth it! This reality check gave our leadership a new perspective on our ultimate goal — winning and discipling people to be lifetime followers of Jesus. Lastly, new members disappear because they are in “diapers”! The church must have a plan — in addition to Sunday School, cell groups or Bible studies — for helping babies grow to maturity.

Let's look at how to begin a networking process so that new converts and members will stick, growing into reproducing disciples. Jesus' example teaches us how to replace Teflon pews with Velcro relationships. Notice three amazing parallels between what Jesus did with people whom He raised from the dead and the “sticking system” of nurturing new believers.

The Widow of Nain's Son: Provide a Caring Mentor

Approaching the city of Nain, Jesus is met by a funeral procession for the only son of a prominent widow. “He felt compassion. . . and touched the coffin. . . . And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’ And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (Luke 7:13-15, NAS)

Like comets, most miracles have a “tail,” an important lesson. In this miracle, Jesus gives a risen son, still in grave clothes, to his mother. One would think this act would be automatic and obvious, but it wasn't! Was Mom paralyzed in shock? Did the boy need physical help or special loving?

Gary Kuhne has well said, “Materials are a wonderful supplement, but a poor substitute for sharing one's life.” 1 Every new believer is “wet cement.” He needs a loving, caring person who will mentor, lift, and encourage him. This “encourager” should be recruited and mentored himself.

I modeled giving one-on-one time individually to a few Sunday School department directors and teachers. They, in turn, took assignments to mentor new believers who belonged in their departments. What a payoff we experienced as our mentors did five things with our baby Christians!

1) Taught key Scripture principles and promises
2) Prayed with, and helped set up a daily devotional time
3) Counseled about their problems
4) Lovingly evaluated their progress
5) Took the new believer with them in practical ministry

One hundred years ago, master preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon pastored a congregation of thousands. He observed: “The greatest works are done by the ones. The hundreds do not often do much — the companies never. It is the units, the single individuals, that are the power and the might.” 2

Jairus' Daughter: Teach How to Eat God's Word

What a poignant story we find in Luke 8 where Jairus' daughter is raised from death. Closing the door from the crowd of mourners, Jesus gathers with her parents and His closest disciples. Our Lord brings the girl to life, then gives orders: “Give her something to eat.” (verse 55). Food was vital sustenance for a girl who'd been raised from death to life. This need parallels the spiritual food which a new Christian must immediately have to thrive.

The example of the Early Church assures us that new converts were submerged in Scripture. Spiritual leaders in the book of Acts quoted the Old Testament Scriptures — in 250 references. In addition, they quoted the words of Jesus shared by the Apostles, which later became the Gospels. Christians didn't own a personal Bible. So, converts learned as the Holy Spirit led mature believers to model Biblical principles. Scripture had legs, if not pages! Furthermore, believers met often, not just Sundays. Note the use of “day” and “daily” in Acts (see 2:46, 47; 5:42; 16:5; 20:31 ).

We, too, must help people learn to eat from the Bible's “spiritual supermarket,” so they feed themselves. An author and supreme teacher from Dallas Seminary, Howard Hendricks, says, “First thing I do, crack out of the box, after a person gets saved is to get them into Bible study.” No one can “pig out” on a Sunday sermon so it lasts seven days. Providing a way for infants in Christ to have “something to eat” daily is our goal.

Does your church or ministry have a plan to immediately immerse each new believer into the Bible? The baby Christian needs simple feeding tools and bottles of spiritual milk at first, not a giant banquet of Scripture. When someone is led to Christ, first provide a study aid, along with a portion of Scripture. Next, show him or her how to start, or better, let him join you in your Quiet Time.

Lazarus: Fortify the Believer to Conquer Sin

In John 11, Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb to light and a new life. Imagine Lazarus coming towards a shocked, gasping crowd with tiny steps, hops, and wiggles. His legs, arms and face are wrapped in multiple strips of grave bandages. Jesus commands, “Loose him and let him go.” (verse 44, KJV ).

When we see someone saved, we praise God and shake his hands. But, do we see him with Christ's eyes, wearing grave clothes? How wonderful it would be if, once saved, each of us could walk in instant victory and maturity. Jesus could have said, “Lazarus, just huff and puff, and break out.” However, it's quite significant that Jesus asked others in the scene to unbind Lazarus. It is equally noteworthy that Jesus did not unwrap Lazarus Himself.

The Apostle John warns of three core desires that bind and destroy a life. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh (sex motive) and the lust of the eyes (security motive) and the boastful pride of life (success motive)” (1 John 2:16). Some call these men motivators: girls, gold, and glory. Some missionary ladies gave the terms a female perspective: controlling, collecting, and competing.

You CONQUER the sex motive by taking up the cross, denying yourself ( Luke 9:23 ).
You COUNTER the security motive through commitment of income and giving your time to God ( 1 Timothy 6:6-10 ).
You CONFRONT the motive to be successful by choosing humility and the servant heart ( Philippians 2:3, 4; 1 Peter 5:5, 6 ).

As with physical life, we learn to walk one step at a time ( Colossians 2:6; 1 John 2:6; Amos 3:3 ). We have a new life, a new Lord, a new home, a new walk. However, all of us bring the baggage of “grave clothes” from our past. The Lord's Spirit, through His Word in us, wills to replace these bindings with new attitudes ( Ephesians 4:22-24 ).

The Spirit teaches us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh . . . .” ( Romans 13:14 ). Each morning I prayerfully “put on” Jesus by vocally giving each part of my body to Christ; then, I visualize putting on the armor of God ( Ephesians 6:10-18 ). Every new convert needs the love, feeding, protection, and training of a mentor. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4, NIV ).

Begin Now:

1. “Gave him back to his mother.” Every convert needs some ONE to help him more than some BOOK. Train carefully at least one person in each Sunday School class or cell group to give 6 to 12 weeks of personal follow-up. Some churches call these mentors “Encouragers,” after the meaning of the name of “Barnabas,” who discipled Paul.

2. “Give her something to eat.” Provide some immediate tool to help the believer do daily discovery in Scripture. He should get his first “bottle” of spiritual milk at the time of his conversion or when counseled about his decision. The Encourager needs training in a resource covering: 1) the devotional life (Bible study and prayer); 2) witnessing; 3) victory over sin, and obedience; 4) stewardship of money and time; 5) baptism.

Question-and-answer Bible studies are quite rewarding for the time spent. One help to start with is our First Steps, with six lessons from John's Gospel. For continued growth, our new Living God's Word is perfect! It's interactive and takes just minutes per day.

3. “Loose him and let him go.” Help the person take off his grave clothes from the past life. Network the convert into a group of caring believers in his general age and stage of life. The group can share how they battle and win victory over old habits, hang-ups, and hurtful reactions. An accountability group both quickens and strengthens the process.

Jesus brought the widow's son, Jairus' daughter, and Lazarus back from the dead. Yet Jesus gave the completion of each miracle to another person. Likewise, salvation is Jesus' main miracle. We are the completion of His wondrous work — His heart and hands — to Velcro a new believer so he “sticks.”

1 Lecture, Missions Unlimited Discipleship Conf., W. Palm Beach, FL, 1989.
2 Leadership: Vol. XI, No. 4, Fall, 1990, p. 45.

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