Why "praying the prayer" is not enough

Manchester Push 2016

Manchester Push 2016

I was struck recently by the experience of one of our teams on outreach in Manchester (above) They were out offering prayer and sharing the 3Circles gospel outline.

A young man turned and believed on the street and prayed to receive Christ. When he was asked, "when can we catch up again?”, he made it clear he wanted no more contact.

Do we count that as a “conversion”?

Recently I’ve heard reports 1,200 people praying to receive Christ on the streets of Reading, UK. Christians are heading out to pray for people and read out a gospel presentation. 

Even if some have fallen away, there must be hundreds who we can identify as new disciples. How many have moved from conversion into baptism and discipleship?

Over the last two years around 4,500 people have come to faith through Healing on the Streets in Northern Ireland. Causeway Vineyard estimates less than one in seven are now in a local church. Good on them for keeping track!

The great thing about the folks in Manchester, Reading and Northern Ireland is they are out there connecting, praying, sharing. As DL Moody said, I prefer my imperfect method of sharing the gospel to your method of not sharing the gospel. 

But what can we do to bridge the conversion-discipleship gap?

I think we’ve been measuring the wrong things. Praying a prayer to receive Christ is only one element of conversion. NT conversion is one experience that has five elements: repentance, faith, confession, the gift of the Holy Spirit and immersion.

That’s why I’m beginning to think that instead of counting prayers of commitment we should be counting baptised disciples meeting in groups. 

Meanwhile in Manchester the follow-up of contacts continues. It’s hard work. Some have fallen away. Others have stuck and are learning to follow Jesus and take the gospel into their world. 

Isn’t that what Jesus trained his disciples to do?