It was the thrill of a lifetime! Dr. Weissman asked me to “assist” in the delivery of our youngest child! I’m still not sure what “assist” meant, but I was there!
What a holy moment when a new life is born right before your eyes! In the spiritual realm, it’s a holy moment I’ve been privileged to see countless times, across this country and around the world as people open their hearts to the call of Jesus and are born into the family of God!
The night my son arrived, I was grateful the doctor didn’t just deliver the baby and say, “See ya!” Rather, he supervised a series of post-natal care steps that insured this baby got off to a healthy start. Every obstetrician knows you’re not done when you’ve delivered the baby – you’re also responsible to provide that child with basic post-natal care.
God expects no less of His spiritual obstetricians – better known as evangelists. Jesus chose and appointed us to “bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Sadly, too much of the history of evangelism is fruit no one can find. Why? Because we weren’t ready to take care of the babies we were birthing. Effective post-natal care of God’s babies is not incidental – it’s intentional. It’s knowing we’ve done all we can to help that new believer start strong with Jesus.
Fundamentally, fruit that lasts is a partnership between the evangelist and the local church. But neither can pass the buck to the other. The passion and priority for follow-up should be primarily generated by the evangelist. The fire that burns in the evangelist’s heart to bring the lost to Christ must also burn to see their commitments thrive and grow.
Having seen – and tried – a lot of follow-up that didn’t work, I’ve concluded there are five principles that drive effective evangelism follow-up.
1 – A GOSPEL THEY UNDERSTAND
Whether our “fruit” is disciples or just “decisions” begins with the Gospel presentation itself. We need to be sure the Gospel is clear, complete, and understandable. Have we done all we can to insure the lost heart understands what sin is, what its penalty is, what happened on the Cross, the reality of a resurrected Jesus and what it means to believe in Him? If the Gospel is not all there, or it is obscured by our unfamiliar Christian lingo, the new believer is already starting out in a hole. Wherever possible, there should be carefully trained counselors who represent one-on-one what the evangelist presented to the crowd. Our prayer is that of God’s great messenger Paul: “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:4).
2 – IMMEDIATE ACTION
Satan believes in immediate follow-up. “As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them” (Mark 4:15). Often we lose to the enemy in the fight for follow-up because he starts his immediately, while we may do it whenever we get around to it. Our preparation for any outreach is not complete until a follow-up plan is ready to launch the night the babies are born.
3 – A PERSON, NOT JUST A BOOK
While a Bible is essential and a devotional booklet is great, new believers also need a person to walk with them through these early days in Christ – praying with them, guiding them, helping them make spiritual connections. The evangelist can help prepare some of the people of the church to be those “new life” coaches.
4 – A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
Historically, step one in follow-up is to “invite them to church next Sunday”. In our post-Christian, spiritually polarized culture, that may actually bring an early end to our follow-up relationship with the new believer. There is no doubt that the Church is the lifelong spiritual home of every Jesus follower. But it’s not always the best first step in effective follow-up. The kind of environment in which a person was reached is the best environment for beginning their follow-up. If they were reached on “neutral ground” (e.g. – restaurant, auditorium, beach, living room), they will feel safest coming to a follow-up event in a place with a similar feel. Feeling safe may be the single most decisive factor in whether the new believer takes the next step.
5 – DOING, NOT JUST LEARNING
When that new believer received Jesus, they didn’t get a set of beliefs or a religion, but a relationship. You don’t develop a relationship primarily by learning facts about a person. It happens through experiences with a person. If we want that new believer to grow in their new relationship with Jesus, they will need more than a follow-up booklet with blanks to fill in. We love to introduce new believers to the five secrets of a great relationship with Jesus.
- Read what He’s written to you (Bible)
- Talk to Him (Prayer)
- Be with His friends (Church/Fellowship)
- Do what makes Him happy (Obedience)
- Talk about Him (Sharing Christ)
As we teach each secret, we give them an action step to do the next week where they can experience what they just learned about Jesus.
God loves His babies. He sends those babies to a “nursery” He can trust. I pray that He may find in you and me those who don’t just deliver His babies and leave them, but who share His heart to nurture them into lifelong Jesus-followers. I imagine Jesus would give us evangelists the same challenge He gave Peter in John 21:15-16:
Jesus: “Do you love me?”
Us: “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus: “Then, feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep.”
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