By Curtis Woods
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — I will be honest — sometimes I am hesitant to share my faith in areas where I cannot pin-point Gospel-centered churches that exemplify a love for God and people through a clear discipleship strategy. I fear leading someone to Christ without connecting them to a local church since, as St. Augustine said, “If you do not have the church as your mother, you do not have God as your father.”
Of course, a Protestant reader could reject Augustine’s counsel since his pre-Reformation statement likely referred to the Roman Catholic church, but you get my point. Born-again believers are nurtured on the sincere milk of the Word through the bottle of the local church.
We cannot leave newborn babes in Christ on the side of the road to fend for themselves after we have completed our gospel conversation.
In our society, it is illegal for a parent to give birth to a child without making any provisions to care for the newborn’s needs post-birth. The parent will be rightly prosecuted by the law for dereliction and abandonment. I face this dilemma each time I prepare to lead someone to Christ. I expect God to save sinners, so I better have an after-conversation plan for continual spiritual nourishment.
We all have fears keeping us from doing the work of an evangelist. Prayerfully, this strategy will help us do more than make decisions. We will make disciples.
Here are some helpful actions you can employ to avoid leaving the newborn on the side of road, in the park, at the workout facility, restaurant table or cash register.
First, contact at least five churches who will provide harvesters for every new convert the Lord allows you to catch. Harvesters are designated persons who are willing to meet with a new believer on church grounds with others present. This will protect both parties from false accusations and relieve unnecessary anxiety. The evangelist should explicitly make this statement during the Gospel conversation.
Second, call the contact while you are with the new believer and connect both parties on speaker. Introduce them to each other so the new believer is connected to new friends in Christ. The harvester will provide the newborn with a name, location, date and time for them to meet for follow-up. These points should be established and agreed upon before you leave the convert.
Third, remind the newborn babe in Christ how important it is for every child of God to have a healthy church family. That church family will teach the new convert the spiritual disciplines so the person can grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
At this point, you should explain the importance of each branch staying connected to the vine. Jesus describes Himself as the true vine and believers are the branches (John 15). No truly converted person wants to wither and die — so that person learns to cling to the vine by abiding in Him.
Fourth, document the name and contact information of the new convert for a personal follow-up call in two weeks to assess their progress toward church membership and Christian discipleship. This gives new believers and churches accountability to take the gospel conversation from biblical conversion to biblical discipleship.
Curtis Woods is associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This article was first published in the Western Recorder.