One of the saddest things I have encountered over my many years in the Christian faith is the ability of churches and various groups to put on events which see 'people coming to faith' causing much rejoicing and a sense of achievement. The problem was that it didn't take long to realise that whilst hands were raised and 'sinner's prayers' prayed, those whose conversion we celebrated left never to return or perhaps slowly trickled away.
Those who raised their hands and prayed and left were generally the people who'd travelled in for the show - and there we so many of these. They came to see the big names and sung the songs and were (I have no doubt) touched by the evening's happenings. I am sure that they, caught up in the event, really meant what they'd prayed and really intended the experience to be the beginning of a journey - but then they got home!
One of the potential strengths of the Billy Graham guys with regard to mission events was the fact that they engaged in a rigorous administrative process whereby people who'd come forward were effectively 'clerked' (the old term for what happens when a patient came in) so that they could be referred to one of the subscribing churches near to them to ensure that the faith journey was supported and nurtured.
Of course many of the churches near to the new convert were not members and so it was often the case that the 'named' church might not be near enough or of the same mindset, nationality or worship style as that which they'd fit in with and so they were soon lost. Other churches just failed to engage in the follow up because of poor admin', error and general 'naffness' and this, again, meant they were lost.
Many of those who came forward at one of the churches I was part of were prayed with after the service and encouraged to return and yet those who did soon found themselves drifting off because they were not nurtured - something some at the time I was with the church might deny but the numbers proved the sadness to be true.
The real issue is that some of those I have encountered who were struggling and far from Church have often told me how they were Christians because they'd put their hand up somewhere and were therefore 'Christians'. The problem with this is that whilst someone has told them that, they have not taken on board the responsibility of parenting them and so, churches with allow people to raise their hand and then leave never to be seen again are no better than those around me who father children and leave.
In Hebrews 12. 7-8 the Bible tells us :
'God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.'
One of the things I struggle to do is to help those who make a commitment to Christ (wherever I am) turn it into a mature and disciplined discipleship. Not always easy and when you consider some in the Church who have been Christians for years and yet remain largely unconvicted or discipled it easy easy to see the challenge before us (but at least they still come I hear people say).
I am drawn back to a sermon preached by Billy Joe Daugherty at an Elim Convention in the late eighties/early nineties in which he proudly proclaimed that he was 'not a B!!!'. It shook the old dears with their handbags and hats and cause men to tut and shake their heads and yet he was right.
If we are to take upon ourselves the task of fathering spiritual children then we need to also take upon ourselves the task of discipling and disciplining them too. Imagine the headlines in the Daily Fascist about those 'single-parents and the way their children turn up because they are not properly parented'. Have you ever read them and found yourself agreeing with the sentiments contained?
Now ask yourself the question: 'Have I ever done that with God's spiritual children - led them to a place of commitment and then left them, never to see them again?'
If you (like me) can answer 'Yes' to that can I ask this question:
How are we going to make sure that doesn't happen again?