Dr Billy Graham used to say that it took 20% effort to bring someone to Christ and 80% effort to keep them in that relationship. One of the delights of life in our circuit is the importance given to Alpha, where people without faith discover God alongside those who already have a relationship with God. The relationships which are formed in these small home meetings bring people into discipleship. One thing we have discovered is that some people don’t believe in Christ immediately on the first course they belong to, but in subsequent ones where they serving as a helper or maybe in an ‘after Alpha house group’. The pattern people follow today, as I have often remarked, is that they: Belong; then Believe, then Behave as disciples. Alpha is a good example how the new evangelism works. Those churches who grow through Alpha, with new believers, try and find ways to enable the guests to continue the journey, either by including them as helpers on a new course, or by creating new groups or by changing the established house group they already have, to suit fresh embryonic believers. That is the 80% effort the great Evangelist knew was and is necessary.
Now, (and this may not come as a shock to you), I am a bit of a rebel. More poacher turned gamekeeper than anything else in life. With the ‘Bs’ I have noted above, the heading I most dislike is “Behave”. It smacks of a strict childhood and having to conform at school etc. However, what the term really describes is the inner transformation by the Holy Spirit in the most unlikely people. Following Christ is more than just ‘saying the prayer’ in the Why Jesus booklet. The other Bs. Belonging and Believing continue as we behave more like Jesus. To be wholesome believers we need each other. As the writer Rob Bell says in his book Velvet Elvis: ‘Jesus expects his followers to be engaged in the endless process of deciding what it means to actually live the Scriptures’. This is the heart of being a disciple.
John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement, set out in “The Rules of the Society of the People called Methodists’, 1743, the value Methodist Members need to hold to be members of the ‘Society’ (the traditional term for a Methodist Church):
‘There is only one condition required in those who desire admission into these Societies; viz ‘a desire to flee from the wrath to come, to be saved from their sins.’ But wherever this is really fixed in the soil it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation …’ .
He is talking about that desire for the Spirit of Christ to shape our lives, our values, our futures. The Apostle Paul says ‘let the Spirit direct your lives and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature’ Galatians 5:16. Wholeness, behaving as a follower of Jesus is about this. We become nicer people, loving others, including those we find tricky because of God’s love transforming us. So, be encouraged and encourage each other into authentic discipleship.