When I think back to the early days of my salvation I remember three main things that my Pastor, Peter Ajala, used to emphasise constantly. Firstly was the will of God, secondly was serving the body of Christ, and thirdly was the importance of people. It was this focus on the value of people that first led me into follow-up ministry, although I did not know it had a name at the time.
Pastor used to preach about contending for people in prayer, reaching people through evangelism, loving people, visiting people, sacrificing for people, fellow-shipping with people. Everything we did as a church was a means of bringing people to Christ and then to discipleship. People were all important.
No person should feel ignored or unwelcome ...
Pastor Peter would be particularly annoyed if visitors or converts were made to feel ignored or unwelcome by church members, or when an over zealous member was over critical of a new convert's dress code and attempted to bring some correction too soon. He would often preach and say: "Stop trying to be the Holy Spirit! Leave people alone and let God deal with them at the right time!".
Good relationship is more important than who was right or wrong ...
I remember being rebuked by Pastor Peter because a convert had been upset by a comment that I made. I simply pointed out a mistake that the person had made in their understanding of some protein supplements that we had been discussing. Although I was correct, my forceful attitude had left the person upset. I was shocked when Pastor said: "Steve, it doesn't matter if you were correct. When someone is left upset who's right or wrong is irrelevant, all that matters is repairing the relationship. Now go and apologize". I learned a vital lesson that has stuck with me until this day. People are important.
A Pastor once told me that he "Couldn't stand" the people in his church. He said that he just wanted to preach to them and then go home. Needless to say, his retention level and relationship with his congregation was extremely poor.
The church must have a culture of valuing people ...
If you are going to create an effective follow-up system in your church the first thing you need to do is develop an environment where people are important. Your church must get this revelation, embrace it, and live it. There must be an understanding that no person in the church is insignificant. Regardless of age, gender, education level, ability, talent, background or culture, everyone who God brings to the church is important. It is vital that members take time to visit, call and encourage people.
Does your church value the one? ...
The church must place value on the one. Effort is needed for even one person. I got saved on 31st December 1999, in a New Year's Eve fellowship. Pastor Peter preached and did an altar call for lost souls to be saved. It was my first time in the church and did not know anyone. I assumed that it was a call to everyone there. I later learned that I was the only unsaved person there and that the altar call was given just for me. Even the one person is important. Would you put in your best efforts if you knew only one person would benefit. Does your church value the one?
Q: How will God ever give your church the multitudes if you are not willing to invest in the one's and two's?
About six months into my salvation Pastor gave a call for people to volunteer for altar work. There were many people coming forward for prayer for salvation and we needed workers to pray with them. I volunteered. Not to join follow-up ministry, but to but to be involved in bringing people to Jesus, because people are important.
Does the culture, set-up and program of your church focus on the importance of people and their need for discipleship?
The next time you go to church stand back and take a long hard look at it and ask yourself: "Is this church really set up for people and their need for salvation and discipleship?"
I recently preached at Potters House Preston Church and was very much impressed by the emphasis on people. The layout of the church, the welcome lounge, the refreshments area, the encouragement from the Pastor, the care and interaction with people all communicated that people are important. Pastor Daniel and his wife Lisa have imparted their love for people into their congregation.
Do the sermons preached in your church teach the congregation the importance of people?
Sermons from the following scriptures will help your church to embrace the value of people and correct wrong attitudes;
1 Corinthians 8:8-13
1 Corinthians 9:18-22
Listen to this audio sermon on the importance of people ...
A culture, not a programme ...
As I look back on my experience of follow-up over the years, in my mother church, churches I have pioneered, and churches I have visited, I recognise a crucial pattern. Effective follow-up is not rooted in a program, but in a culture where people are important. When you have such a culture good programmes and systems can be extremely beneficial. When you do not have such a culture even the best system may fail.