Follow through is all important! Just ask Kurt Warner, Albert Pujols or Arnold Palmer. Thinking of the golfing great, I’ve been a closet member of Arnie’s Army for years. I was remembering his follow-through the last time I played golf and almost made a hole-in-one. Yep, just missed it by three strokes!
Just as follow-through is absolutely essential for a quarterback throwing a touchdown pass, a batter getting the game-winning hit, and a golfer stroking the dimpled ball long, high and straight, follow-through is vital for our GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing Across Missouri) efforts.
God-stories are pouring in of how God has used GPS to involve church members in outreach, touch neighborhoods with the Gospel, bring the unchurched to church, fill God’s House with record numbers of people, and lead people to Christ. Yet, much remains to be done through all important follow-through. For us to say, “Whew, we prayer walked, hung the Gospel on many doors, welcomed guests Easter Sunday, and have even seen some professions of faith,” and don’t follow through, is like a mother delivering her baby, then, leaving him on the street corner saying, “I got you here. The rest is up to you!”
History and experience tells us that the first six weeks following a non-churched person’s first visit to a church is critical. It is when they are most receptive to the church and to the Gospel. This receptivity gradually declines. If no contact has been made between the church and the newcomer in six weeks, the newcomer will become indifferent to the church again.
Here is a five-step follow-up plan. I’m indebted to our church health gurus, Mike Cooper and Mark Donnell, for these ideas they contributed to the GPS church preparation guide.
They have already expressed an interest in your church by attending worship, so, express interest in them. Transfer names of guests and all information gathered from them into a master prospect file which is in the church office. From the master file, prospects should be assigned to the class they would attend if they came to Sunday School. Assign prospects to class members for them to make contact. The most effective contacts are still personal visits. Bring something with you when you visit. For example: Pupil book from your curriculum; church newletter; a gift basket – include mints, church information, tea and coffee, or other small gifts your church may have.
In addition to the visitation contact, ask other class members to write a personal, handwritten note, thanking them for coming, and inviting them to the class. Pastor, you may not be able to visit all who visit your church, but you can contact them by phone. During the 18 years I was pastor at First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, I made phone contact with every guest who filled out a card the week after their visit. I never spent a lot of time on the phone, just let them know I was glad they came and if there were any ways I could serve them, I wanted them to feel free to call on me.
Enlist a prayer team in your church who will commit to pray for those who visit your services. Then, when you make contact with the guests, ask them how you can pray for them. Take those requests to your class as well as pass on to the prayer team. I have always been surprised how many people want someone to pray for them, yet are shy to ask. Take the initiative and ask them if there is anything you can pray for them about. Some of the God-stories include encounters during prayer walks when people requested prayer and friendships began.
Always look for opportunities for your class to minister to the person you are visiting. They may have a loved one in the hospital you can visit. You could offer to bring food for the family during a time of need. If they are new to your community, be available to let them know where the post office is located, drug stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, schools, local government offices, etc.
Belonging to a Bible study class is a vital part of sharing the Gospel. When unsaved people join a Bible study, they have the opportunity to see first-hand what Christianity is like and study God’s Word. People want to feel wanted and needed. Historically, Sunday School has been the “reaching and teaching” arm of the church. It was not only the time and place where the Bible was systematically studied. Sunday School was also the place where the unsaved could hear the Gospel and be presented with the opportunity to trust Christ. Research tells us that a church will baptize one out of four hundred (1:400) lost people it tries to reach outside of its Sunday School or small group Bible study. Yet, a church will baptize one of two (1:2) lost people it enrolls in Sunday school or small group Bible study.
Invite people to visit your small group or Sunday School class. Give them information such as what time the class starts, where the class is located, and so forth. Offer to meet them at one of the church’s main entrances and help them find classes for their children as well as for themselves. Research tells us that 82 percent of nonchurched Americans will attend a class if invited. However, only 20 percent have ever been invited.
GPS has led us to “the red zone.” The red zone is the last 20 yards of the football field before you reach the goal line. The team that can best execute in the red zone is the team that will win the game. Follow through by following up on what God has done through your praying, inviting and Gospel distribution. (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)