80 Percent Walk Away

Posted by Jesus over 2,000 years ago as His last message to His followers: 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Imagine starting a new business.

I’ve had a secret fantasy to open a bike shop for years. 

When someone got mad at me as a pastor. When another said my sermons were too long. When a person left the church because the music was too loud or the sanctuary too dark.

I thought of selling Trek bikes in a small Hallmark-style village.

It is a dream, but I won’t start a bike shop. I’m not mechanical. I could sell bikes but not fix them. My customers would leave in frustration after hearing my sales pitch, purchasing a bike, and then not being able to get the chain adjusted. 

The church today – good at selling the gospel. But do we fix brokenness?

Years ago, I noticed that 80 percent of my customers (people that I led to the Lord) never came back. They walked away from faithfulness to Jesus within the first three months.

This is a known fact in Christian world, but little is done about it.

The modern church is great at reaching the lost but not good at keeping the saved.

I have been in contact lately with Dr. Ron Braley who recently wrote his doctoral thesis on discipleship at Regent University in Virginia Beach. I mention the 80 percent in a book that I am writing and wanted to make sure that my statistic was accurate.

I wrote Ron, “One of the points that I’m making in my new book is that 80 percent of those who accept Jesus walk away from faithfulness soon after conversion. Would you agree?”

Ron Braley’s “more expert than I am” response was, “Statistics included in my dissertation suggest that nearly all people who ‘make a decision’ fall away soon after, presumably because no one has walked with them in a discipleship rhythm. So, I think your 80% could be optimistic.”

80 percent is optimistic – should more church leaders open bike shops?

There has been a lot of talk, podcasts, and conferences about discipleship recently. Are discipling practices getting better? A report by Disciple Lab querying 3,832 church leaders in February 2021 lists the following statistics: 

  • 92 percent of church leaders strongly believe the Great Commission of the church is important
  • 53 percent said they had no substantive discipleship wins to point to in the last year
  • 42 percent of those same leaders are not confident in their church’s ability to make disciples in the future

Even though the Great Commission was posted over 2,000 years ago, most churches do not mention it in their mission statement or list it as a goal for the next year.

Should we sell Trek or Cannondale bikes in our bike shop?

I admit to frustration with even my own discipleship attempts. But do we have to settle for 20 percent? If Jesus gave a Great Commission and promised His authority and presence when we disciple…

… we ought to be able to keep 80 percent.

If we can learn to fix bicycles correctly and keep our customers happy, why can’t we disciple those who accept Jesus? 

This is the focus of my ministry – Discipling Another! I love to preach Jesus, but I also want to disciple those making the decision to become a follower.

HHHHMMMHHM… if I did open a bike shop, I bet that I could get a discount on my next bike!