Disciple-Making: Get Em Started Right
By Carlton L. Coon
As I’ve said to the point of redundancy:
* Making disciples for Jesus Christ happens by intentional action.
* Disciple-making is not a “church growth” method. Disciple-making is “growing Jesus’ kingdom” and “growing people.”
* Making disciples is long-term. It is not a quick-fix. Discipleship strategies are a bit boring when compared with high-profile events. Don’t misunderstand I enjoy breaking an attendance mark as much as anyone. However, event-focused action does not grow people. Events convert the lost and encourage the saints, but they do not develop leaders. Disciple-making, however, does.
* Disciple-making grows servant-ministers as contrasted to attendees. Disciple-making is the process by which one develops leaders. The downside to “events” being the primary strategy – note the word “primary” – is it leaves a pastor constantly looking for laborers and leaders.
Any pastor or church that makes a lasting impact has been in the business of making disciples whether it called it that or not.
Remember the birth of your child or grandchild? During the escalating intensity of labor, nurses have been in and out of the room. The doctor has visited. Vital signs of mother and infant are constantly monitored.
Roll the clock ahead a bit . . . the baby has just been born. There is a bustle of activity in the delivery room. A newborn must be taken care of. There are measurements to take and statistics to record. Grandparents and close family make a quick visit. Pictures are taken. A nurse reminds the new mother of her responsibility of feeding and caring for the little one. Those moments begin a cycle of ongoing care, which continues for years to come.
Several websites show that more effective prenatal and postnatal care have decreased the U. S. infant mortality rate from 165 deaths per 1,000 births to 7 per 1,000 in the past 100 years. How babies are born has not changed since time began . . . what has changed? The level of pre-natal and post-natal care.
Parents and grandparents never feel discouraged because only one baby was born. In reality, even if a particular hospital has a dozen babies born in a single day, each delivery is individual. These happen one at a time. Each infant is provided care in an individual way.
Now, imagine the altar and baptismal tank as the church’s delivery room. What happens when there is a spiritual birth in your church? Do we hug the new baby, show them to a changing room, and say, “Hope to see you next week?” Is the new birth briefly celebrated and then ignored? Think back if you were a spiritual newborn just having received the Holy Ghost what would you like to happen? Let me offer a thought one we used to good effect for almost fifteen years.
Nursery Care Altar Counselors
What if a trained altar counselor met with each one who was baptized or received the Holy Ghost? Just as the nurse is there to expertly handle a new baby, an altar counselor could be on hand to provide specialized care for this youngest of new saints. Think of how it might happen:
1 The altar counselor meets the new believer as they come out of the baptistery changing room or the altar area The altar counselor takes the initiative introducing himself or herself to the new convert and explaining that the pastor has asked them to share some things about the church.
2 The altar counselor would guide the new convert to an office or room designated for this purpose. Christian Life Center in Stockton, California, has a room designated for such purposes.
3 A Home Missionary will likely have to serve as his or her own altar counselor.- Counsel may have to be provided on a couple of chairs in a corner of the rented meeting room.
An Ideal Altar Counselor
1 A self-starter who can accept responsibility without consistent prompting. If the person is assigned to serve, they need to get the job done.
2 Somewhat outgoing in personality. Part of an altar counselor’s role is relationship-building. The assignment to handle this responsibility cannot be viewed as a “must do” thing. If the altar counselor is wishing to be at Taco Bell with a friend, the counseling session will be negative rather than positive.
3 Ideal altar counselors see themselves as delivery room nurses who get to connect to, touch, and ensure the health of a brand new baby.
From time to time honor the altar counselors for the work they do. Pastor, it is a good idea to periodically honor those who work behind the scene, whether they do altar counseling, drive a Sunday School bus, or clean the church. The little-seen parts of the body are vital to health.
A delivery room nurse is also in the business of vital statistics. The nurse measures and weighs the new baby. Footprints and handprints are taken. Parental information is gathered. The baby’s new name is recorded.
Ever read a news account of a hospital losing a baby? Or perhaps giving an infant to the wrong mother? Hospitals have become paranoid about “losing babies.” Do we feel the same way? Think about it:
* Do you know the names of the spiritual babies who have been born during the past year?
* Do you have the new convert’s address, phone number, and email address? Have you ever lost a baby? Simply couldn’t find them? Such a loss is serious at your local hospital.
* What is their level of health in essence, are they in a Home Bible Study? Who are the person’s friends in the church?
* Is the baby ready to be nourished? This nourishment likely needs to come through an orientation or new convert’s class. Perhaps a more important question is “mama” ready to feed a baby?
Thus, an altar counselor has vital statistics to gather. In this instance it is not length and weight. Important data includes the new person’s name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail address, and certainly information regarding the Home Bible Study (HBS). If the new believer is not involved in a HBS, who can teach them? How quickly can the two people be connected to each other?
Misplaced or unused knowledge is as useless as information one does not have access to. Who gets the vital statistics? Pastor, discipleship director, Home Bible Study teacher, and those who minister to an age group. There are some suggestions later about how to communicate this information. Resource for training altar counselors and a form for an altar counselor to use are available at: training. o e fission ivision.co
Resources For A New Convert
The altar counselor is not an inquisitor. They also provide resources to the newcomer. This welcome packet should include at a minimum:
* Phone numbers the altar counselor, the church, the discipleship director, and pastor.
* Information regarding the church website.
* The church’s schedule and specific information about the new convert’s class.
* Specific information about children, youth ministry, and the nursery, if applicable.
The following resources could be included to great benefit:
* A book welcoming the new believer. If the pastor can write a book or booklet, it would be wonderful. In our case we used a book based on something I’d taught our church, The Daily Things Of Christian Living. Provide a prayer clock and a CD of the pastor giving the new disciple instructions on how to pray the prayer clock. Your new convert will not pray an hour each day. If you can get them praying twelve or fifteen minutes each day, there has been progress.
* A handout and guidance on how to read a chapter of the Bible to gain the greatest benefit.
* Provide a listing of gospel radio stations the new believer might be interested in. Satan uses song lyrics to drive home his message. A new believer should be introduced to a different message.
* Apostolic music. If the church has a music project, this CD can be given to the new believer.
* Take a celebratory picture of the new convert. A copy can be given to the new believer. At Pastor Elias Limones’ church in Pittsburg, California, one wall contains pictures of all the new converts of a particular year.
These varied resources can be put into a three-ring binder or a packet.
Making It Work
Some practical things can help make this work. Put the packets together before they are needed. Have copies of the altar counselor’s report already made.
Churches of every size can benefit from having a place for central communication. Create a group of mailboxes or cubbyholes to get information from one person to another. If a church can establish a process to communicate this information electronically, it will be even better.
Vital statistics should be entered into a spreadsheet. There is a pattern for this in The Pastors Resource For Local Impact available online at http://www.upci.org.
For there to be any benefit, there MUST be regularly scheduled review by the pastor with the discipleship director. This weekly or monthly review should include a line-by-line review of the status of every new convert.
Bishop Haney shares a key to their growth in Stockton, “We didn’t let anybody slip through the cracks. If somebody missed both services on Sunday, by our staff meeting early the following week, somebody needed to be able to let me know where they were at and why they were missing.”
Questions must be asked and answered:
* Where is ?
* Is he attending a Discipleship class?
* What can we do to help get him in a Discipleship class?
* Have you talked with him?
Brethren, this is hard work. For those of us who enjoy preaching, it is harder work than preaching on Sunday. This sort of effort is systematic. Like a hospital dealing with babies, this work will never end. If you are in the business of making disciples, you and your church will never outgrow this work. You or someone you train has to do it from now on. There is no emotion just practical plodding work.
This article Disciple-Making: Get Em Started Right written by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. is excerpted from Directors Communique the May/June 2008 edition.