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We can’t underestimate the importance of guiding people into a deeper relationship with Christ.

At the same time, I’m a little concerned that the words “next steps” seem to be more and more generic with less and less meaning. Similar to the 250-word mission statement and the random core values hidden on the back of a webpage, strategies and systems can become irrelevant and even distracting when they are used halfheartedly.

Shouldn’t “next steps” be more than a few action points tacked on to the end of a sermon? Should they be more helpful than a fill-in-the-blank? Maybe it’s time for us to rethink the next steps we are offering.

When developing next steps:

1. Engage with people before planning next steps for their lives. 

Too many churches try to force feed their next steps. Without listening and engaging, how can you know where someone is trying to go? What has tripped them up in the past? What are their specific goals?

Failure is destined to happen if everyone is not aligned.

2. Make it easy to get started.

Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to take a next step while not understanding how. In the business world, this concept is called providing low barriers to entry.

If you are challenging someone to take a next step, make sure the right tools are available.

3. Give a clear call to action. 

Next steps should be worthwhile. Why ask someone to do something that is not going to have a major impact on his or her life?

Challenge people to take steps that will provide remarkable results.

4. Share success stories.

If someone sees how a particular next step benefitted another person, then they are more likely to participate. There is nothing like providing examples that say, “I tried this next step and here is what happened in my life.”

Too many times we challenge people to volunteer time, give money and develop spiritual habits without taking time to show that success is possible.

5. Decide on “next steps.”

Next steps should constantly be evolving. People don’t “graduate” in their spiritual walk. They don’t earn a diploma or finally arrive.

Great churches constantly evaluate innovative ways to encourage spiritual growth.

How do you offer next steps in your ministry to help people gain traction in their faith journeys?

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Zachary Bartels

commented on Apr 24, 2013

PLEASE, brothers, I implore you: do not end with LAW (i.e., what you need to do, "next steps," etc.). End with the GOSPEL (what God has done for us in Christ). To do anything else is dereliction of duty for Gospel preachers.

Bill Williams

commented on Apr 24, 2013

@Zachary, while I heartily support your call to avoid legalism in preaching, I feel the need to offer the balancing statement that we also must not necessarily dismiss "next steps" as preaching LAW. The word "Law" in the Scriptures has several specific meanings, and it cannot be generalized to mean simply "what you need to do." Otherwise, we run the risk of preaching a passive Gospel that does not call for any type of response. And yet, NT preaching demands a response. The first Christian sermon, preached by Peter at Pentecost, ended as follows: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Peter spoke these words in answer to the question his hearers were asking him: "What should we do?" Peter did not answer: "Well, I can't tell you what you need to do, because that would be preaching Law, and I'm wrapping up the sermon right now." No, he answered the question by providing the next step. He recognized that when the Gospel is preached rightly, when we truly experience the impact of what God has done for us in Christ, we cannot remain passive listeners. The Gospel requires a response, and the faithful preacher will instruct listeners as to what that response should be. Again, thank you for your much needed caution against legalism. The line between legalism on one hand, and how Peter ended his sermon in Acts 2 on the other hand, can appear blurry at times, so your point is very well taken. Blessings to you!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 24, 2013

Also in response to what Bill is saying, James 1 :22 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

John E Miller

commented on Apr 25, 2013

"The Gospel requires a response and the faithful preacher will instruct listeners what that response should be." That is an exceedingly wise comment and puts to shame many of the weird and wonderful theories about preaching that we find here from time to time. Thanks for that gem Bill.

Bill Williams

commented on Apr 25, 2013

@John, likewise, thanks for the words of encouragement!

George Franco

commented on Apr 25, 2013

@Zachary, Please tell me what bible version you use, it sounds like the one I want to use cause mine seems to keep telling me I do need to do stuff, hard stuff like changing, like not indulging in the sinful nature stuff and instead becoming more like Jesus. Mine also tells me that Jesus said that I need to actually obey him despite the wonderful thing he has done for me. So please let me know what your bible is because sometimes I don't want to take any next steps, especially if they encroach on my own will, frankly sometimes I don't want to do anything that is hard at all, so I am all for sitting down and letting Jesus do everything. @Bill Williams, your on the money. I wish I was as gracious as you are, clearly I haven't taken enough steps toward the change I need. Bless you both.

Zachary Bartels

commented on Apr 27, 2013

I use the ESV. I also preach the law to convict sinners and the third use of the law as a yardstick for believers. But I don't hang a heavy yolk around their necks. I absolve them with the blood of Jesus. That's Gospel preaching. To do otherwise is to leave your congregation with the impression that they must be good enough for God.

Bill Williams

commented on Apr 29, 2013

@Zachary, you are absolutely right. Preachers should not hang heavy yokes around their listener's necks, nor leave them with the impression that they must be good enough for God. I'm sure you also recognize that preachers can, however, instruct their listeners in how to respond to the Gospel and show them "next steps" without falling into the legalistic track you warn us about. Blessings to you!

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