By: Doyle Pryor
Senior Pastor, First Southern Baptist Topeka, KS
One of the people in our community when visited on a “Can We Talk?” visit was asked if they remembered where our church was, responded with this question, “That’s that church where people get saved, right?” As a pastor I internally fist-pumped! However, our goal isn’t conversions, it is disciples. Any disciple-making program that doesn’t include evangelism is not disciple-making at all. Jesus, when calling disciples, said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” (Matt.4:19).
So how does the culture of a church transform to becoming a church that fulfills the Great Commission of making disciples? Of course the beginning point is evangelism. We have adopted a strategic approach of moving people through a discipling matrix from spiritually dead to new believers and we feel we are in a very good place with “Can We Talk?” strategy of creating a Gospel culture. But then the question is, now how do we mature them into disciples, then disciple-makers?
As soon as someone makes a decision resulting in Salvation, we try to place them with a spiritual mentor/coach who can help them with their first few months of spiritual life. They learn things such as how to spiritually eat (getting in the Word), walk (obeying what God reveals in scripture), talk (both praying to God and representing Christ in their culture), and yes how to clean up their own messes (receiving and giving spiritual correction) are critical if the new believer is going to make it. The “Can We Walk?” material or similar is valuable, especially when it comes to explaining what has just happened to them and some next steps like obedience through believer’s baptism, but nothing is more valuable than getting them involved in the salvation process themselves.
Yes, we will immediately begin mentoring, but mentors don’t just tell them what they need to know, they show them. So our mentors recruit them for their “Can We Talk?” teams. On that team they are learning how to define what Jesus has done for them, they are learning key scripture that explains the great salvation they have been saved with. They are learning how to articulate what Jesus has done in their own lives and how to share that with others through their testimony. And they are taught a simple outline that will allow them to be ready to represent Jesus well in their world even inviting others to a life-changing experience they they have had.
We have discovered that the retention rate of new believers goes up in our church about 95% if we are successful in helping them to become “fishers of men.”
Yes, there is more to discipleship than evangelism, but evangelism provides the easiest and most immediate path for the new believer to hear, obey, and duplicate what Jesus has commanded. It is a strong foundation that the person can then build upon the spiritual disciplines needed for multiplying discipleship. And best of all, a disciple-multiplying culture is being created.