Summary: The level of commitment you see in new members depends on how much time, prayer and intentional effort you put into their growth.
NEED: To Develop a plan to turn attenders into members (for a similar perspective see Warren, Purpose Driven Church, Chapter 17)
If our goal is to get people to come down that isle and tell us they will join this church, our plan can be rather simple.
1. Make them comfortable when they get here so they will want to come back.
2. Entertain them with pleasant things to watch and hear.
3. Get someone to talk them into making a commitment before they leave.
This plan has worked many times in the past in many ways. But I believe this degrades the idea of membership into something less than what God wants for His family. If that is all we expect, we shouldn’t be surprised when the household of God is full of consumers instead of contributors.
TEXTUAL IDEA: Eph 2:19-22 describes the family of God as a household where people can belong.
SERMON IDEA: Giving People a Place to Belong ((for a similar perspective see Warren, Purpose Driven Life, Chapters 15-21)
DIVISION 1: Witness Protection Program - Identity
Explain: Help them take on their new identity. When the government trains people to be relocated they are basically teaching them how to act like someone else. They learn how to talk differently, like different things, develop new habits. In a way that is what we are attempting with new believers. Those who have accepted Jesus are new creations. The Holy Spirit gives them a new identity. The language the old man used is put away and must be replaced with new terms and phrases that express the truths of their new found relationship with Jesus. Let’s visit that idea of language, desires and habits.
1. New language -
Much of our religious jargon stems from an attempt to describe heavenly things within the confines of earthly language. Emotion and attitude is of as much value as the specific words chosen in developing a spiritual vocabulary. Christian lyrics can’t make a song worship unless they are accompanied by an attitude of worship. That is why Paul tells that foolish talking and coarse jesting is not fitting (Eph 5:4)
2. New desires -
A persons relationship with Jesus will change their attitude about everything. They will no longer desire worldly things. But unless they are conditioned to express, share and act on spiritual desires it will be difficult for them to transform these habits that transform their personalities. I remember three distinct times in my life when I realized I must make changes to become a person I would like. The first time took nearly 18 months of work. The second time took nearly a year. The last time took only months.
3. New habits -
One reason it takes so long to change is because we have to recondition our thinking by applying it with new ways of acting. In time these new actions become habits and then become part of our personality. A new Christian needs to be mentored by someone in this process.
DIVISION 2: Ranger Buddies - Accountability
Explain: Belonging means you are not alone. In the Army no one travels alone. An Army of One means you have others to interact with at all times. In small unit tactics where men are often in isolated places with few resources, they develop a real dependence on their Ranger Buddy. Being all you can be requires the help of others. The worst you can be is someone who turns his back on his Ranger Buddy. We can develop that interdependence in the family of God.
A. Getting attenders focused on others. This can be a difficult task in our independence oriented society. This isn’t just a matter of getting them to see what people are doing at our church, though that is a great start. Lead them into understanding what needs are being met by what others are doing in this family. People today need to see the value in our relationships before they are moved to join. Joining a church used to be an act of conformity in our society. That is no longer true for the majority. We have become a value based society. That is why it is important to show attenders the value of the relationships associated with this family. Seeing others first is also a very foundational Christian principle.
B. Getting new members focused on others. Sympathy - a like / emotion Col 3:12
Application: Accountability Partners. It is also necessary to help people grow into roles as accountability partners. Help new members find accountability partners they routinely see when the church is gathered and when it is scattered.
DIVISION 3: Start them on an Exercise Program - Commitment
Explain: Growth, the building of spiritual muscles, requires:
A. Loosing fat. The early stages of a new believers life are filled with confession and healing. It is a special ministry when you can help someone through this stage. It is cleansing for both the teacher and student. But if a person lifts too much weight too early the soreness will prevent them from having an effective work out the next session. It is necessary to rest an appropriate amount of time in between sessions. These same concepts can be applied helping someone through a lot of destructive or negative past behaviors as they begin a walk with Christ. For, one don’t try to make them see all their mistakes at once. Prayerfully guide them through the process of allowing God to show them how much they can handle at the moment. Remember confession, by definition, is “agreeing with God”. If you go too fast or too deep too soon you risk loosing their commitment. Keep in mind the goal isn’t only to loose fat, but to grow new muscle that isn’t hindered by excess.