Home Church Follow Up
Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt
"Follow-Up" refers to the process of ongoing personal investment and communication that should occur after a new person has begun to attend home church or Central Teaching. The goal of the Christian worker in this situation is to make available the truths of Christianity in a way that is understandable, and that is suited to the progress of the investigator. The Bible stresses the importance of "persuading men" of the truth (2 Corinthians 5:11) ; of "feeding the sheep" -- (i.e. those newly born into His kingdom, John 21:15-17); of fellowship (Acts 2:44-47); and of teaching (Acts 5:42). The final goal of follow-up can best be stated in the words of the Bible, that the new person would become "firmly rooted, built up in Him and established in...faith" (Colossians 2:6-7). At Dwell, we keep track of how many first-time visitors to home churches remain on as members. This ratio of first-timers to new members is our follow-up ratio.
- The body of truth contained in the Bible is immense. It would be a mistake to overwhelm an investigator with too much biblical content at once. The truths of the Bible should be made available gradually so there is a good likelihood they will be understood. Also, some people progress at different rates than others. To determine the rate at which truths should be introduced and explained use these criteria:
- The interest of the new person.
- The level of education of the new person.
- The response of the new person to what he/she has already heard.
- The desire of the new person to hear more.
- There are also more important, and less important truths to focus on at an early age in the Lord. For instance, complicated ethical issues will probably not be as healthy to focus on as grace and the means of growth. However, there is virtually no area of biblical truth that will not come up in the course of conversations with new people. We have to be prepared to give satisfying answers to these areas, without necessarily allowing them to become the center of attention.
- Finally, all who investigate Christ have negatives related to Christianity that must be overcome before they will be willing to come to him. In the first place there are the negative images of Christianity people have from offensive Christians and churches in their past. Perhaps even more difficult to overcome are the moral issues they must deal with. As sinners, we realize that surrender to Christ will mean major changes in our lifestyles. In many cases, this accounts for why people are reluctant to come to God for forgiveness. As the benefits of Christianity slowly dawn on new people (including the warmth of body life, the offer of eternal life through grace, the possibility of healing, the sane and comprehensive world-view offered in Christianity, etc.) these may eventually outweigh the negatives, leading to a willingness to encounter Christ. Even after receiving Christ, people may continue resisting God's work in their lives in order to guard their right to sin, and avoid fears they have of commitment.
In our dialog with new people, we should watch for signs of this inner approach-avoidance conflict, trying to prayerfully discern what God is doing in their hearts. We need to become gracious advocates for God in this conflict, neither pushing too hard, nor avoiding painful questions too long. We should avoid pushing for commitment from those who haven't begun to experience the love of God.
- Since follow-up is communication, it will be facilitated by good relationship with the new person. People not only need understanding, they need trust. Also, part of the message we want to communicate is subjective in nature-- that is, the love of Christ, as experienced in the local church. For all of these reasons, it is desirable to do our communicating in the context of developing social relationships if possible.
- We should welcome a new person with a personal invitation to return for more study and fellowship.
- Social involvement outside of home church often provides an opportunity to discuss spiritual things in a comfortable and natural setting. In addition, it shows the person that Christians know how to have a good time.
- Types of social involvement.
- Suit the type of social activity to the new person. Young singles like one kind of social experience, while married couples (especially with kids) like different kinds of activities.
- Try to make time for personal interaction and discussion sometime during your social time. Experiences that are totally diffuse (e.g. fun, but incompatible with serious communication, like watching a movie) are not as good as those with a mixture of diffuse and relational activities. This follows from the fact that we will find it more difficult to express either the love of Christ or the content of the Bible effectively in diffuse settings.
- While social time and friendship are legitimate components in follow-up, we should avoid the cultic practice of "love-bombing." How would you distinguish between legitimate friendship building and "love-bombing"?
- Committed Christians, such as leaders and responsible workers, should take the initiative to follow-up each new person. Older Christians are often helpful in follow-up because of their knowledge of the Word and their experience. At the same time, younger believers can get involved, especially if the new person is a friend of theirs.
- As believers grow, the question of personal mentoring, or discipleship comes up. Again, the one who brings a guest is the first choice for discipler. In cases, where this is not possible, another should be given this assignment, perhaps along with the bringer. In other words, an older believer may come in alongside the younger believer to help mentor the person.
- Initial follow-up can be done by anyone who happens to meet a new person in a meeting. However, continuing, or in-depth follow-up is most effective when done through the existing ministry spheres in the home church. Let the person who brought the guest, and his or her immediate circle of friends do the follow up. Focusing on those within a given sphere will prevent the new person from being "ganged up" on by several zealous workers, or completely neglected.
- Life Situation
- Good follow-up involves being sensitive to the life situation of the new person. While some new people may be single and lonely with time on their hands, Others may be a single parents holding down a full time job. Some new people may have no previous exposure to Christianity, while others may come from a strong church background. Occasionally, a new person may even have more important physical needs which require attention before effective follow-up can take place.
- Whatever their life situation may be, we should consider these factors individually when thinking about how to follow up with a new person. Since follow-up is a ministry that often includes relationships, consider who can most effectively relate to guests and their life situations. At times, this may even involve suggesting a home church which is more suited for the person's needs.
- Friendships and Ministry Spheres
- New people often come into the home church already having a friendship with the person who brought them. This person has the best opportunity to follow-up the guest he or she brought.
- In a case where the one bringing a new person is not spiritually mature or experienced in this type of ministry, leaders should take the responsibility to assure that an experienced believer from the same ministry sphere helps the younger believer. Avoid arrangements that will lead to guests ending up in a cell group different from the one who brought them (unless, of course, they are of the opposite sex).
- If the new person does not have a relationship with the person who brought them or if they are of the opposite sex, then again, the leaders should take responsibility to assure that someone takes responsibility for follow-up.
- If a new person expresses genuine interest, you should offer them an opportunity to attend cell group on a trial basis. Remember that those attending on a trial basis cannot be expected to have the same level of commitment as the other members. Some older home churches are finding that the term "cell group" is undesirable for communication purposes. In these situations, straight forward descriptive terms like "small men's Bible study" or "fellowship group" are preferable.
- Dissonance is not uncommon in the first few months of spiritual growth. Young believers should be warned ahead of time, and taught the biblical perspective on trials (James 1:2-5; Acts 14:22).