Article by Joey Ratcliff
We have the responsibility to make it as hard as possible for Satan to reclaim a soul that has been forgiven and transformed. Is it completely up to us to get someone to heaven? No. (Keeping a soul is ultimately God’s work.) Is any human person the expert on flawless discipleship? If so, I’d love to meet them or read their book! The challenge is not an easy one, but it’s ours to claim. Coming from the challenges and successes we’ve had at the church I help to pastor in Frankfort, here are some strategies we’ve learned for keeping that little lamb from re-escaping the fold.
1. Replace Their Sinner Friends with Christian Friends (Mark 10:29-30)
We must more purposefully and fully incorporate new Christians into the body. We, as believers, are called to be the glue that keeps a believer connected long enough to experience full transformation. Our love is the “sticky” agent that makes it hard for them to walk away. Of all the strategies that may be employed, this element is one of the most critical for the new believer’s success.
Without support and friendship, loneliness can drive new believers back to the people who “were always there for them.”
2. Find a Stable, Wise, Reliable, Teachable Person to Commit to Them (Philippians 3:17-19)
Stable: A collapse in the life of a disciple-maker will result in confusion and loss for the person who is following them.
Wise: Biblical understanding and discernment will aid a disciple-maker in responding to the unique challenges that arise with every new Christian. Unwise leadership will be demonstrated in agenda pushing or overreaction by the leader, resulting in confusion and defeat in the new Christian.
Reliable: Intentionality and consistency are core traits in this person. If they do not show up to church regularly, they likely will let the new Christian go for extended period without contact, and that could spell failure.
Teachable: If a person is not teachable, they will not model and reproduce this trait in their disciple, and the new Christian’s over-independence will result in their straying. Additionally, a person who is not teachable likely has significantly incorrect doctrine, and they are the wrong person to be establishing a new Christian.
This commitment should be one that is not easily abandoned, no matter what personal affronts must be endured or failures must be restored. I recently realized that I was no longer connecting with a new Christian like I thought I would and should, so I asked for help from another Christian who had connected with them in the past. God caused their paths to cross, and now we have two Christians who are committed to the spiritual success of that person.
3. Inject Confidence Into Them (1 Thessalonians 3:2-7)
We inject confidence into straying believers by pointing to whatever spiritual desire may remain.
Teach them to study the Bible for themselves. As nice as it feels to have someone rely on you for their spiritual sustenance, the goal should be to teach that child to feed themselves. A healthy child eventually gets off of formula, and if the goal is to make disciples who make disciples, your disciple needs to know how to read and understand the Word. Additionally, a person who is discovering truth for themselves now has personal ownership in the process. It is no longer your relationship with God that you are showing them. They have experienced the reality of communication with God.
4. Encourage Them to Experience Transformation (Romans 6:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2:7)
5. Immediately Prioritize Their Church Attendance (Hebrews 10:25)
The practice of church attendance must be established early on.
For any church that is actively making disciples, this need for intentional development in retaining new believers has surfaced. We know too well that Satan does not quickly give up on his plan to destroy every one of us. Though this list is not exhaustive, these strategies can go a long way in helping us to care for the flock as Christ’s under-shepherds. Identify the greatest needs in your church’s context and commit yourself to being the answer in someone’s life. We cannot save or keep anyone; that is the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Yet may God give us the grace to be effective and to endure in the work to which He has called us!
About the Author
Joey Ratcliff is Discipleship Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church and an MDiv student, taking classes at Wesley Bibilical Seminary and God’s Bible School. He can be reached through Facebook or by email at PastorJoey@FBHChurch.com.