TEXT: Acts 14:21-28; 15:35,36,41
Follow-up is an important and inseparable part of the Great Commission. Yet, many believers do not appreciate the depth of Christ’s command to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). According to authorities in the Greek language, the original translation actually reads “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations”. The Great Commission does not terminate with winning souls; rather, it continues with teaching and training them until they are mature enough to stand and teach others.
New believers must be completely cared for and helped until they are brought to spiritual maturity and fruitfulness. If every believer will resolve to respond to the Lord’s command to the church, the work will be done within a short time. Indeed, the Great Commission demands that new converts, who have just come to the kingdom, be nourished and trained in the Scriptures for the establishment of their faith and full integration into the body of Christ.
What then is follow-up? Follow-up has been describedas the conservation, maturation and multiplication of the fruits of evangelism. It is an essential part of church planting aimed at conserving new converts through consistent exposure to the truth of God’s word. It is affirmed to be the “spiritual paediatrics” of parenting in soul-winning, that is, the parental care given new converts to bring them up to spiritual maturity and fruitfulness. During follow-up, soul-winners are able to stand side by side with their converts and teach them the fundamentals of the Christian faith until they grow to maturity.
MOTIVATION AND NECESSITY OF FOLLOW-UP (Matthew 28:19; Acts 15:35,36; 14:21,22)
The new-birth experience is, no doubt, a marvellous one. But as the natural babe needs feeding for growth and training for maturity so does the babe in Christ require the milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2; Proverbs 4:11-13). For new Christians to attain the spiritual height that the soul-winner yearns for, they need to be nourished (John 21:15) with the word of God. It is the responsibility of the soul-winner to feed these “lambs” and “sheep” of Christ. Another is encouragement(Acts 14:21,22) during persecutions because of their decision for Christ and times of harsh realities of life. They also need guidance and instruction (1 Corinthians 8:1-13) on how to overcome temptations. Although most of the converts’ questions may sound childish to mature believers, the soul-winner should be around to answer them. New converts also require training(Proverbs 22:6) on the fundamentals of the Christian faith and how to develop good Christian habits. One of the characteristics of new converts is the tendency to seek clarifications on
various subjects regarding their newfound faith in areas such as choice of friends, restitutions, time-management, etc. They need to be guided appropriately because “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Moreover, new converts need intercessory prayer (Luke 22:31,32; Colossians 1:3,4,9-11), an aspect of follow-up that must never be overlooked. Prayers must be offered without ceasing for these new babes. Paul’s letters to the new churches reveal the importance he placed on personal intercession. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 3:10). If we fail to pray for the new converts, the enemy may take advantage of their ignorance. Finally, they need fellowship (Acts 2:42) even after they are established in the faith.
Follow-up takes time, attention and love and each soul-winner is expected to give whatever it takes to conserve, mature and integrate each soul won to Christ. Every believer is called into the ministry of soul-winning and must not only win souls but also disciple them to become truly mature Christians.
METHODS OF FOLLOW-UP (Mark 3:14; Acts 14:21-28; Philippians 2:19-22; 1 Thessalonians 3:10)
Jesus Christ, the greatest Soul-winner, evolved the best follow-up and discipleship methods. He kept His converts for a period of three-and-a-half years and taught them the word of God. Moreover, He trained them on various methods of evangelism. By this, we understand that after conversion, the soul-winner must endeavour to teach and train new converts so as to mature them and turn them to vessels for the expansion of God’s kingdom. He or she can delegate the work of the ministry to them in areas they can be involved but with close supervision to ensure that they do not derail.
Paul, the great soul-winner and church-planter, declared, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us ” (1 Thessal oni ans 2:7,8) . From his follow-up and
discipleship training methods, we observe, first, his use of personal contact (1 Thessalonians 2:7,8; 3:10). He knew, like a parent to a new-born babe or a shepherd to the flock and a teacher to his students, that personal contact is essential. The closer the soul-winner is to his converts, the safer they are and the farther the wolves will be from them.
Second, intercessory prayer was another method adopted by the early Church (Acts 12:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-6; 3:10). In his ministry, Paul spent much time interceding for new believers. Also, as Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail (Luke 22:31,32), we should pray for new converts. A man of God once said that it is better to spend ten minutes praying for them every day than to spend one hour praying for them in their crisis.
Third, personal representatives (1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-24) can be sent to new converts where the soul-winner, their spiritual father or mother, is not able to personally reach them. For example, whenever Paul was unable to personally visit new believers, he would send a trusted personal representative, like Timothy, to help him do the necessary follow-up. The representative must be someone who shares the same vision and can convincingly pass the message to the young converts. However, that there could be delegation does not mean that the soul-winner should abdicate his or her responsibility.
Fourth, i n these days of i nformation and communications technology, we can reach our converts through the electronic mail (e-mail), Internet, telephone, short-message-service (SMS) and so on. Finally, letter writing can be used to encourage, teach, warn and guide new converts (Acts 15:20,23-29; 2 Corinthians 13:10; 2 Peter 3:1; Luke 1:3,4). As parents are responsible for loving, feeding, protecting and training their children until they reach the age of maturity, so too, every soulwinner and church-planter has these responsibilities towards the new converts.
MINISTERING THE ESSENTIALS OF FOLLOW-UP (Matthew 25:34-40; 1 Thessalonians 2:7,8,11)
Shallow spiritual life and low standard of Christian living are the products of dearth of doctrinal teaching in many Christian assemblies. There are marked differences between a convert and a disciple. Our visitation, therefore, must be purposeful and goal oriented. To instruct, nurture and mature new converts in the faith, first, we must make them understand the word of God that their sins have been forgiven and that they are now children of God if they have sincerely repented and accepted Christ (1 John 1:9; Romans 8:16). Second, we must teach them how to live the new life and the principles of spiritual growth (Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 2:1-3). Third, we need to guide them on how to maintain a personal, private devotion –Quiet Time –everyday (Mark 1:35; Joshua 1:8). Fourth, we need to encourage them to share their testimony with others (Mark 5:19; John 1:40-46; 4:28-30). Fifth, we need to show them the
importance of attending church services regularly (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42-47).
Moreover, we need to teach converts the importance of maintaining a regular prayer life for strength and victory (Luke 18:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). Besides, follow-up progresses on the wheels of visitation and caring, hence caring should be part of our efforts and should not be done only when new believers come to church. Rather, we are to meet them where they are – home, workplace, hospital wards or prison – and show genuine love and concern for their spiritual growth and physical welfare (Matthew 25:34-40; 1 Thessalonians 2:7,8,11).
As soon as the salvation of the new convert is ascertained, soul-winners must explain the importance of getting baptized in water. The new believer must be taught the significance of water baptism from the Scriptures. He or she must be made to realise that it is God’s ordinance and command to be observed after conversion (Matthew 28:19; 3:13-17; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; 8:38,39; Romans 6:4,5). Every new convert therefore should be enjoined to yield to this important injunction.
MULTIPLIER EFFECTS OF FOLLOW- UP AND DISCIPLESHIP(Acts 16:41; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2:1,2; Acts 11:25,26)
Follow-up and discipleship training have multiplier effects on the church; they equip members for the task of rapid evangelisation. The urgent call for world evangelisation will be mere daydream without giving serious consideration to discipleship training. Only welltaught, serious-minded and heart-committed disciples can shoulder the responsibility of leading others and pastoring a church. We cannot have capable hands to handle a new church location except we give serious attention to the subject of discipleship. Follow-up, if properly done, will lead to the
multiplication of disciples. If, for example, each of us wins a soul and trains the convert to go out and win another soul every six months, in five years we would have evangelised our communities for Christ. If a hundred dedicated Christians i n a community individually and devotedly preach the gospel to just one person and follow-up the converts vigorously for six months, at the end of the sixth month, there would be two hundred dedicated believers. If these two hundred dedicated Christians would, as well, get one convert each and disciple the same within six months, at the end of one year, there would be four hundred devoted Christians in that community. If this process of one person winning and discipling another person in six months were continued, at the end of five years, the number would have grown to 102,400 membership without embarking on expensive religious crusades.
Although souls that may be won from this method of evangelism might not seem to be many initially, the growth will be phenomenal if it is sustained. In the Scripture, John the Baptist led Andrew to Christ (John 1:35-40), and Andrew, in turn, led Peter to Christ (John 1:41,42) and Peter, at Pentecost, led 3,000 to Christ (Acts 2:37-41) and those converts of Peter led multitudes to Christ (Acts 11:19-21). It is only when we get to heaven that we will be able to ascertain the number of converts that came into the Kingdom through the ministry of John the Baptist.
The mission of evangelisationand gospel saturation can only be realised through the vision of disciplemaking. Apostle Paul embarked on making disciples after preaching the gospel (Acts 19:9,10). Christian soulwinners should follow suit. Spiritual training is a lifelong process. Integrating disciples into the body of Christ is absolutely necessary and should continue. This way, converts will become soul-winners who will bring others into the Kingdom.