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Posted by James Hall on

I read with sadness our general superintendent's report of the nine of ten years of the Decade of Harvest for which we have reported numbers. 3,000,000 of the 3.5 million people who were reported as praying for salvation in that nine year period were not added to a body of A/G believers. (A suggestion: Jerusalem church reporting practice was to only count those who were "added", not those who made "decisions". It would help our focus if we adopted that practice.)

When Kevin Weaver was still at James River A/G, he told me they were keeping (adding) about 85% of those who prayed to receive Christ (their criteria was the new believer was attending both morning worship AND Sunday School) - a phenomenal statistic. In one three year stretch, James River had over 1,000 first time adult conversions, with around 850 added to the church!

The key to such success? Their emphasis throughout their growth years has been friendship evangelism. Preceding the many walks to the altar by repentant sinners in the services, were friendships and fervent witness by church members to those sinners BEFORE they were willing to walk. I believe those relationships with sinners PRIOR to their conversion served to tie them into the body AFTER their conversion. Kevin also believes the clear explanation of commitment to Christ and to other believers as part of the salvation invitation were additional keys.
The strong sense of purpose to reach the lost that was basic to unity of the body was a great holding force for those new ones who came in with connections to many others who also needed salvation.

A/G emphasis is primarily on event evangelism - with most responders having little or no relationship with church members prior to "going forward", and so easily drift away afterward as the church waits for them to make their way to discipleship events.

When church members become "friends with sinners", it is easy to continue to be "discipling friends" with new believers. The older Christian is welcomed into the home (or other comfortable setting for interaction/fellowship) of the new believer for friendship discipling - planned or spontaneous. This tie helps brings them into the church family.

The denotation of (literally) "DISCIPLE the nations" (not "make disciples") is a mandate of PROCESS - commanding relational evangelism AND relational instruction after conversion that will see them through water baptism and be able to "teach them to DO all that (Jesus) commanded (us) to do." (as per Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus spent three years modeling His mandate. James River A/G has spent several years modeling the mandate for us. May God continue to bless many through them - and may the mainstream of the Assemblies pay attention and practice obedience! 3,000,000 souls is a high price for our neglect.

Lord, give us Your love for the lost,
and Your joy in the found!

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