Healing on the streets

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?

7 Ways to narrow the conversion-discipleship gap

Healing on the Streets

Healing on the Streets

Recently we looked at the great job Healing on the Streets is doing of connecting with people and sharing the gospel. Thousands have come to faith in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

Yet there’s a gap between conversions and people who are continuing as disciples. Once we start sharing the gospel, it’s a problem we face. A few thoughts about what to do. . .

1. Expect people to fall away

Jesus told the parable of the soils (Mark 4) because he knew through his own experience that many people encounter him, begin the journey and then turn back.

A dramatic healing will not guarantee that people will follow Jesus as disciples. Start reading one of the Gospels, you won’t be reading long before you find an example of a miracle followed by unbelief. Ten lepers healed on the street, only one returned to thank Jesus.

It’s not your fault.

2. Healing is not the endgame

Jesus healed because he had compassion on people. But healing doesn’t make a disciple. Only the gospel does that. The goal is disciples, not just healings.

3. Count baptisms not "conversions”

According to Jesus, you make disciples by baptising them and teaching them to obey everything he has commanded.

Today we’re not convinced that someone is a true follower of Jesus unless they have put their hand up or prayed a prayer. In the New Testament, they weren’t convinced until someone was baptised. Baptism always followed the decision to repent and believe.

4. Teach them to obey what Jesus has commanded

Stop trying to get someone to attend your church. Start teaching them to follow and obey what Jesus has commanded. Begin with a simple tool like the 7 Commands of Christ. Meet with them, preferably in their home with any friends and family they can muster.

Discipleship always leads to church. Attending church doesn’t always lead to discipleship.

5. Try healing in the home

Jesus always went looking for people of peace (Luke 10, 19) who welcomed he messenger and the message and linked them both to a relational community. Healing on the streets is a great way to get started. But if you’re not finding houses of peace, you may want to try offering to pray for people in their homes.

6. Tackle the problem with movement principles

We don’t start training by teaching principles. We start by teaching obedience to Christ’s command to make disciples. But once you’re out there doing just that, you will encounter obstacles. Sometimes more of the same won’t change things. You need to see the obstacle through movement eyes and apply principles under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

To deal with the obstacles in the context of the big picture learn from these two movement pioneers. I can also recommend What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World.

7. Get back to basics

When all else fails, why not read through the gospels and Acts multiple times as a team, while you’re praying and fasting for a breakthrough. Meet and share what you are learning from what Jesus did and what the risen Lord continued to do in Acts.

Related

Healing on the streets - Alan Scott reports in

Alan Scott

Alan Scott

Healing on the Streets was birthed and pioneered by the Causeway Coast Vineyard on the streets of Coleraine in Northern Ireland in Easter of 2005. Adopted by many churches the Healing on the Streets model has spread around the world. It’s a gentle, non-confrontational way of connecting with people on the streets of our cities and introducing them to Jesus.

Causeway Vineyard website

Alan Scott reports that over the last 20 months almost 4,500 people have come to faith in their Northern Ireland community. That’s an average of around seven people a day.

Alan has some reflections on what is happening:

Our greatest impact is among those people - and in those areas - that historically have been difficult for churches to reach: the urban poor are most responsive. There seems to be particular favour among those who have never encountered faith, those struggling with addiction, single mothers, long term unemployed, those living on council estates and those wrestling with systems of poverty.

Unfortunately conversions on street don’t necessarily result in discipleship.

Disappointing levels of church connection: the miracle question has not led to massive connection. Whilst almost 4500 people have come to faith, we estimate that just under one seventh of those have connected in local churches.

Read the full report.

Let’s celebrate what God is doing through Healing on the Streets, not just in Coleraine, but in all the other churches they have inspired and trained.

I’m impressed that Alan is tracking the impact of the ministry in conversions and disciples. He’s also reporting the drop-off between the two and wondering how the gap can be closed.

Let’s just soak this in for a minute, a local church goes out into its community and offers to pray for people and share Jesus. Consistently, every week for 20 months people are coming to Christ.

Now here’s what we all need to do, before you start theorising about the gap between conversions and disciples, go and do likewise. Follow their example, follow Jesus’ example, and find people far from God. Offer to pray for them. Ask them if they would like to know more about Jesus.

Then we’ll talk about narrowing the gap between professions of faith and discipleship.