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The question is often asked of us, "What sort of follow-up do you have?" This particularly relates to any sort of Christian testimony that we give to the general public. We feel there are some basic assumptions behind such a question which need to be addressed.

The first assumption has to do with the message that we preach. People assume that "preaching the gospel" necessarily means going through a pat routine and formula for salvation, without which no one can be saved.

Of course, there is no basis for such an assumption in Scripture. We find no record of Jesus or any of the disciples doing this. Sure, a verse here and there could become your justification for such a formula; but the formula varies slightly with every verse that you use. So to get the real truth behind "preaching the gospel" we need to look at the whole of the New Testament, and especially we need to look at the "Gospel according to Matthew," the "Gospel according to Mark," the "Gospel according to Luke," and the "Gospel according to John".

The Gospel writers believed they were preaching the gospel by putting in writing the life and teachings of Jesus. So when we distribute Luke's Gospel in comic book form, we are preaching the gospel. It seems strange to us when church people say, "That's nice, but do you have the gospel message in there?" For them, the "gospel message" is something quite apart from the life and teachings of Jesus. It is something you tack on at the end. They do not realise how blasphemous it sounds to us when they say such things. How can they brush aside the life and teachings of Jesus, as though they are trivial incidentals that have nothing to do with salvation?

The other basic assumption amounts to assuming that the church is God. Protestants are shocked to hear Catholics teaching that faith in God and faith in the Catholic Church are one and the same; yet that is what comes across with so much of the Protestant "follow-up" mentality. We preach something that is supposed to give people forgiveness for sins, a purpose for living, eternal life, and the presence of God's Spirit living in them personally. Then we suggest that all of our efforts will be wasted unless we have some kind of "follow-up" program! In other words, we become the key player in the person's forgiveness, purpose for living, eternal life, and we even become the "holy spirit" that is going to lead them into all truth. How much faith do we have in our own message?

Look at Jesus and his disciples. What kind of a follow-up program did they have? It seems that Jesus left it to the people he reached to follow him up. Matthew 5:1 says, "And seeing the multitude, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set, his disciples came unto him." In other words, only his disciples had what it took to follow him up the mountain. But because discipline (or at least the kind of discipline that Jesus expected of his disciples) is left out of the super easy discount version of the gospel that the average church preaches today, they know that there is little likelihood that their so-called "converts" are ever going to bother to open their Bibles to the teachings of Jesus, much less give serious thought to obeying him.

At best, their converts may follow them (in preference to following Jesus), but even that is not likely without some kind of pressure.

And why is that? It is because their whole "plan of salvation" started with a no-works, do-your-own-thing, God-has-no-standards message to begin with. And so it takes some clever double-talk to get people away from that and on to going to church, laying off booze and cigarettes, and staying faithful to their spouses. They also know that, without subtle prods, people who take literally the ask-Jesus-into-your-heart-and-that's-all-you-need gospel will just go back to living life the way they always did, after the salvation ritual has been completed. Someone must follow them up to let them in on how it really works, i.e. how church attendance is the real source of forgiveness, purpose, and eternal life.

Our approach is not to offer such a misleading gospel to begin with. We cannot claim hundreds of converts just by asking for a show of hands at a mass evangelism rally, but when we do get someone making a commitment, they have a much clearer idea about what it is that they are committing themselves to. They know from the start that it is going to cost them everything. We get them to count the cost, so they will not start something that they are not prepared to finish. And we do this because it is what Jesus did. It's all there in the Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.... If only people would read it!

(See also Forsaking All.)

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