A recent research study was helpful in showing the importance of friendship in the process of becoming a new disciple. The study, reported in Church Growth America magazine, identified 240 new converts presently active and involved in their churches. In addition, a second group of 240 people were identified who were classified as backsliders. A third group of the same size were identified who had been presented the Gospel message but had not responded to salvation.
In individual interviews with these 720 people, each person was asked to characterize the person who had presented the Gospel to him or her. They were asked if this individual would best be described as a friend, a salesman, or a teacher.
The results of the survey were very revealing: Almost all (94%) who saw the church member as a “friend were still in church at the time the survey was taken. However, those who saw the church member as only a salesman often made an initial decision, but soon dropped out of church – in large numbers (71% were no longer attending).
Finally, 84% of those who saw the church member as simply a teacher generally did not respond at all. The implication of this survey was clear: The non-Christian who perceives your relationship with him or her as that of a friend is far more likely to respond to the Gospel and to continue in the faith than is the person who sees you as either a teacher (instructing in doctrine, sin and morality), or as a salesman (manipulating toward an eventual decision).
If you want to see a greater percentage of converts retained, teach your saints to do more than witness. The old adage says, “You must win a friend to win a soul.” This is very true, but in addition to this, you must develop a program to help your new converts make friends with others in the church. If you would like more information on how you might do this, download file NCGE10.txt from AIS or call 1-800-800-0247. Free to AIS subscribers, $5 to non-subscribers.