Growing up Baptist, I heard a lot of “Just As I Am” sung at the end of church services. The preacher wanted people to walk down the aisle and accept Jesus, a noble goal for sure. He’d keep the service going as long as it took to get someone to the altar. All us evangelicals ‘light up’ when people pray the prayer, stand up, raise their hand . . . somehow ‘go public’ with their decision to accept Christ. And don’t get me wrong, that’s something to celebrate. But we screw up when we think that’s it . . . that it’s over when someone is saved.
In my last post, I told you the story of how my friend Craig came to accept Jesus. But his story doesn’t end there. Within a few months, Craig was invited to share his newfound faith with over 1600 people at the High Technology Prayer Breakfast in Atlanta. (Talk about going public!) Through Craig’s honesty about his doubts and the genuineness of his heart, God brought over 100 people to faith that day.
After coming to faith, Craig’s joined a men’s group and experienced Christian community for the first time. He committed to a church, bringing his family and getting them involved. He and his wife even joined a couple’s small group and grew in their faith together. Eventually, all his children came to the Lord as well. Now, Craig reflects Jesus to the people he works with everyday. He’s open about his faith, he prays for his employees, and looks for opportunities to help them with their next steps.
What we can learn from Craig is that helping someone cross the line into faith isn’t enough. Jesus didn’t tell us to make converts, He told us to make disciples. There’s more to becoming a Jesus-follower than just ‘praying the prayer.’ We need someone to take us by the hand and lead us . . . through multiple steps, not just the first one. To use an old-timey word, we need someone to ‘disciple’ us . . . to show us how to follow Jesus and grow in our faith. The big surprise is how much joy comes from being the person doing the leading. Just like a parent delights in seeing his kid make progress and grow, a spiritual ‘parent’ finds that same kind of joy. And what’s even cooler is watching the investment you made in someone multiply into the lives of his wife and kids and the people in his life. All it takes is tracking along with your friend, praying for him consistently, staying in touch . . . asking good questions, expressing interest in his spiritual growth, and offering him suggestions for possible next steps.
I’ve been fascinated with how people seem to ‘get saved’ multiple times . . . how they ‘rededicate their lives’ over and over . . . how they can ‘pray the prayer’ in February and be right back where they were in life by June. I think it boils down to a misperception of the Christian life as an instant result of saying a few words to God. Yes, some people seem to be instantly and thoroughly transformed at salvation. But for most of us, it ain’t over when we pray the prayer. It’s the start of a process . . . a journey. And we need someone to lead us from finding Jesus to following Jesus.
Take a minute and ask God this right now . . .
“Lord, who would you have me invite into a conversation about personally helping them take a ‘next step’? Show me what that next step might be and give me the courage to initiate the conversation. Please.”