Win and Charles Arn point out that involving new members in witnessing activities is not an optional, but an essential part of the process of effective disciple making. They point out that some of the most receptive people to the gospel are the "extended family" members of new believers friends, relatives, and associates who are outside of Christ and a church. The Arns have also developed a six-step process for introducing these "extended family" members to Christ by teaching new converts to relate to their extended families by:
1. Caring. Personifying Christ's love. Attempting to meet the felt needs of those with whom the new believer has an acquaintance relationship.
2. Strengthening Relationships. Table-talk settings in which stronger relationships are built through casual and comfortable interaction.
3. Involving Other Members of the Body. Introducing extended family to other believers as a way of introducing them to the wide variety of ways in which Jesus works in the lives of people.
4. Enhancing Personal Witness. Using Scripture appropriately to expand the understanding of Cod's will in various real-life circumstances.
5. Providing a Variety of Exposures. Special events, public meetings, or gospel presentations which move beyond one-on-one spiritual encounters, but to which the extended family members are brought by the new believer who becomes the catalyst for his/her extended family's increasing involvement with spiritual things.
6. Developing Patience. Remembering that each person in the extended family is at a different level of spiritual development. Not all fruit ripens at the same time. Consistency from the new believer toward his/her extended family is more to be desired than quick results 1
Expecting and enabling new believers to minister is obedience to our Lord's command and it is a necessary part of the process by which new believers become disciples. McGavran and Hunter, discussing "Training the Laity for Church Growth," argue that all three terms in the title are crucial:
For Church Growth. The training must be for growth, the goal must be clear, and it must be defended against multitudinous good things which obscure it.
The Laity. The laity must be trained. It might start with the clergy, but only as it surges out beyond these professionals and enrolls great numbers of your members will danger be averted.
Training. The process includes motivating, goal setting, instructing, exhorting, building up convictions, harnessing sociological data, practice (actually doing), feedback, and improvement. This is not a quick and easy gimmick. It is a costly venture with the unalterable purpose to seek and save the lost.2
Allan Hadidian approaches putting new members to work in ministry from a similar perspective. He says, "Three processes must be used: teaching, training and transforming. Teaching involves knowledge and emphasizes the principles a disciple should know. Training involves skill and emphasizes the practical things a disciple should be able to do. Transforming involves conviction and emphasizes the perspective a disciple should have."3 Notice the emphasis on "doables." Far too often new members are led to believe that they should be spectators rather than participants. In fact, spiritual strength and maturity will come only as they participate as "co-laborers" with Christ for the lost.
Actions confirm belief. By ministering, new believers live out Jesus' own life of service as He empowers them by the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase Peter Wagner, any scheme that separates ministry action from discipleship has built into itself its own destruction.
Lindgren and Shawchuck call this process of putting new members into ministry "spiritual empowerment." They say, "Our understanding of spiritual empowerment is that it is an ongoing pilgrimage involving an open search for, and sensitivity to experiencing, a growing relationship with God that expresses itself in behavioral action both personally and corporately." 4
In other words, the process of conversion remains incomplete until new believers are involved in meaningful personal ministry as an integral part of a wider corporate strategy of utilizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to their fullest potential for the salvation of the lost.
In reality, this is what many people are looking for and longing to receive from the church. They need something more than just a friendly greeting, no matter how genuine or well intentioned such a welcome is. They need and expect involvement. Nelson Annan says, "Some churches welcome people the first time they visit, but no other interaction ever takes place. Newcomers are not challenged to get involved in the church. Eventually they begin attending some other church where they are not only warmly welcomed, but also encouraged to be an active part of the family." 5
Appropriate balance is the issue. Calling, equipping, and sending must occur simultaneously within the body. While some are being trained, others are being deployed who are calling yet others to decision and discipleship. Dudley and Cummings say: "Church growth must involve all of this. Its insistence on quality balances its concern for quantity. The whole includes proclaiming the gospel, winning and baptizing converts, incorporating them into responsible membership, nurturing their spiritual development, equipping them for further service, motivating them to missionary tasks, and supporting them as they go out to exercise their gifts in bringing in still others. Unless the whole cycle is in place and functioning, the feverish attempt to add to the membership rolls by baptizing will soon break down for lack of a support system." 6
James A. Cress writes from Silver Spring, Maryland. He is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
1. Win and Charles Arn, ed. The Master's Plan for Making Disciples, p. 95-109.
2. Donald McGavran and Gerge G. Hunter III, Church Growth: Strategies that Work, pp. 79-80.
3. Alien Hadidian. Discipleship : Helping Other Christians Grow, p. 81.
4. Alvin J. Lindgren and Norman Shawchuck. Let My People Go: Empowering Laity for Ministry, pp. 22.
5. Nelson Annan. More People! Is Church Growth Worth It?, p. 46.
6. Roger L. Dudley and Des Cumming. Adventures in Church Growth, p. 32.