How is your “Discipleship Pipeline”? Do you have one? Is it clear? Does it have any holes? In our desire to help all of our congregations become prevailing churches, we want to help them simplify what they’re doing and hone in on what is of most importance.
We need to be good at going, making and equipping disciples. Period. Why? Because that is the mission of the church. Admittedly, everyone knows that. We’re just not doing it very well. Hence the church vitality crisis that we are responding to in our Fellowship right now.
Can we put your “Discipleship Pipeline” under the microscope for a few minutes? Let me share how we are trying to help our Revitalization Churches establish theirs. We do it by asking the
Phil Spoelstra | Assistant District Superintendent for Revitalization
question, “Then what?” Follow me on this. Let’s pretend that a non-Christian comes to church on a Sunday morning. Fast-forward to the part of the pipeline where you’ve reached the end of your sermon and look carefully at just this chunk of the pipe, not the entire thing.
Critical question: are you consistently giving people an opportunity to make a decision to become a Follower of Jesus? Here’s what we’re discovering across our nation: we are not. Not even close.
It is no longer a definitive part of our Pentecostal culture. It used to be, but it ain’t no more. We need to. We 100% absolutely need to. Shaila Visser said it best when she spoke at our District Conference this year by saying that “we need to re-establish a culture of evangelism” in our church life again.
Why aren’t we? Maybe we’re nervous to close the deal. Maybe we don’t know what to say. Maybe we hate rejection. Who knows? Regardless, I want to strongly advocate that we muster up courage and conviction again and commit to bringing it back.
We shouldn’t ‘cast the net’ when the feeling is right or when the mood strikes us. That’s not intentional evangelism. Intentionality implies planning and priority. If we are taking our “Discipleship Pipeline” seriously, then we would be wise to strategically plan to give people an opportunity every week, or at least very frequently, even if we sense that there aren’t any non-Christians in the congregation that day.
Why? Because it affirms a “culture of evangelism” in the mindset of the church.
Why? Because it reminds people that the Sunday service should not be not exclusively about us.
Why? Because it reminds us when we prepare our sermons that we need to shape the Word of God in a way that is meaningful, relevant and life-giving to non-Christians too.
Why? Because our church people might start to get the hint that they can start inviting non-Christians to church and they’ll actually hear the Gospel.
Why? Because providing people with an invitation to give their lives to Christ is what we need to be about.
Pastor – find a way to give people an opportunity to make a decision. Don’t imply it. Just actually do it. Find the courage to do “the ask”! It shouldn’t matter if we are preaching on circumcision or the Second Coming. If we are preaching in a way that is meaningful, relevant and life-giving to a non-Christian, then we are giving the Holy Spirit room to prompt a response in peoples’ heart. Wouldn’t you agree?
Ok. Back to our imaginary story. So, let’s say that – in principle – you choose to end every sermon by giving people an opportunity to become a Christian (well done, by the way!).
Do you script it? Or do you hope that the Holy Spirit fills your mouth with words? Do you take two minutes to do this, or ten minutes? Pastor – ask yourself these questions. Because if you’re serious about your “Discipleship Pipeline”, this critical part of your ministry needs this kind of attention.
How do they respond? Do they raise their hand? Do they walk down the aisle? Do they fill out a card? Do they go to an app? Do they go to a prayer room? Pastor – are you clear on this?
After they respond, how do you follow-up with them? Do they meet you at the front so that you get their name and pray with them? Do they go to a booth in the lobby? Do you have material that you can give them in their first baby steps in Christ? Do you have a way of knowing who they are?
When I have asked this question to our pastors, a typical response has been “we just hope that they come back next Sunday and hope that someone gets their name.” To quote from my favourite line from the latest Mission Impossible movie: “Hope is a terrible strategy.” If we are truly taking our “Discipleship Pipeline” seriously, then we would be wise to have a plan in place to provide the next steps to our new brothers and sisters in Christ.
Remember – they chose to respond. They want to become Christians. They’re on our team now and it’s our job to help them. We can do better than just ‘hope for the best’. Let me suggest that you have a “New Christian package” that is readily on hand that you can give to them, however you choose to connect with a new Christian after a Sunday service.
What’s in the “New Christians package”? A Bible? A book? A CD? A DVD? An invitation to a small group? A Precious Moments figurine perhaps? (Joking!)
I promise you that they will go home and think about the decision they made. They might second-guess their decision. They might be elated. Who knows? Either way – you know that as a new babe in Christ, the enemy will try to rob, steal and destroy, so whatever you put in that package had better be well-thought through, because it just might be the deciding factor on whether or not they take the next step in their new spiritual walk with Christ. Wouldn’t you agree?
Ok. Let’s stop there. See what I am doing here? This is how we create a seal-tight “Discipleship Pipeline”. This is how we develop and refine our system. We continually walk through the journey of a non-Christian who comes to faith by asking the question,
“Then what?” and we don’t stop until we have answered the question in a way that ensures there are no holes and no gaps in the process.
Pastor – wrestle with it. Agonize over it. Pray it through. Banter it back and forth with your leadership. But assume nothing. Don’t let the baby steps of the precious new sheep that God has entrusted to you to be left to hope or luck when you have the opportunity to establish a plan that ensures their spiritual development.
We are called to provide spiritual leadership to helping people become disciples of Jesus. As “Great Commission People”,
it’s worth every minute of strategic planning.
Wouldn’t you agree?