During FFICM’s president and founder, Rich Gardner’s, 27 years as a missionary, he helped men and women in Nigeria read about God’s love for them by translating the New Testament into their own language of Afizere. During that time, he saw Christian outreach events where hundreds of people would come forward to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Sadly, in many areas, very few of those that committed their lives to Christ followed through on their decision.
He knew we had to help these lost and hurting people. Like sheep without a shepherd, they lacked anyone to lead them to what they hungered for. Left alone, they wandered away into the unknown.
The answer wasn’t hard. But he couldn’t do it alone. “Train them,” God seemed to say to him. “Show them what it means to have a relationship with Me, not to follow a religion.”Rich and people God brought alongside him began to work together to develop a strategy, not just to evangelize, but to follow-up with new believers so that they would have a strong and lifelong relationship with Jesus.”
Without follow-up, new believers often don’t know what living a Christian life looks like. Once they make the decision for Christ, they often feel isolated and alone, especially if their family and friends are not Christians. They often feel confused by Christian terms and view their new faith as a set of rules. New believers need people to walk alongside them in their new faith, to encourage and mentor them. There are challenges to being Christ-followers, but having a firm foundation in their faith and a personal relationship with Christ help new believers thrive.
An important way to help a new believer live this new life is to develop a strategy of materials to present to them. The goal is to reach new believers right once they commit to a life of following Jesus because then they can receive support as they walk through this new life and start these biblical habits of thinking.
When we do follow-up, we focus on speaking the truth simply, without using any Christian jargon. In our follow-up materials, we use compelling pictures to communicate concepts that will help them get to know Jesus as a person; to inspire them to grow in understanding of truths and godly practices without turning them into a list of things to do. In addition to helping them better understand their faith, we connect them with a person and community to encourage them to go forward in their walk with Jesus. Our goal is for them to learn the tenets of the faith in such a way that they will understand the heart of God.