You are the manager of customer retention. You report to the boss one day, “Wow, we had a great three months of business and 80 percent of our customers walked away.”
Then the boss says to you, “Great job, I’m really excited about 20 percent and I think that our board will give you a bonus.”
What is the chance of this? Accepting an 80 percent walk-away rate is a horrible way to conduct business. Yet it happens every three months in your church, in all the churches of your city, and in all the churches around the world.
This anecdotal fact, little-discussed in any church, makes us uncomfortable.
What?! We just spent 1o million dollars on a new sanctuary that attracts thousands, and 80 percent of those who accept Jesus in this new building walk away from faithfulness in the first three months?!
Worrisome but true. Even worse, few succeed in Christendom throughout the world, improving the statistics.
The solution is discipleship. Dallas Willard, an evangelical expert on discipleship writes:
Discipleship is the status or position within which spiritual (trans)formation occurs.
Post-WWII evangelicalism does not naturally conduct its converts and adherents into a life of discipleship, nor into pervasive Christlikeness of character — with the routine, easy obedience that it entails.
What this most recent version of evangelicalism lacks is a theology of discipleship.
HHHmmmmHHHmmm. Post-World War II evangelicalism not discipling, nor encouraging a life of discipleship, even lacking a theology of discipleship!? A very bad business plan. One that needs to be desperately updated.
Paul writes to the Philippians:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9
Discipleship, not theory, but understood practice and reduplication in the lives of others, is taught by the Apostle Paul as the path of maturity. Those discipled remain faithful. The church must turn from programs and buildings (fine to have but useless without discipleship) to practicing the words of Jesus…
“Follow me!” (Matthew 4:19)
Understanding discipleship solves the enormous “walk-away” rate of new believers. I developed First Steps Conversations through study, research, and practice for the past 49 years. It is a simple first-three-months, one-on-one, foundational plan of discipleship.
I sometimes consider if First Steps is effective. This week, a former inmate of Marion Correctional Institution (MCI) visited me. He said:
In 2004, we began discipling other inmates using First Steps. We did a study that of 260 inmates discipled, 240 were still faithful a year later. In fact, we were so successful reaching the lost that we began calling MCI, “Marion Christian Institution.”
Discipleship—a great business plan!