But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Romans 10:8-11).
Studies in church growth indicate that sending out new converts is a vital factor in any systematic evangelism program. The new convert has made a definitive transition out of an old environment and into a new one. This process never ends until death, but generally speaking, the major transition takes place within the first year, and really within the first six months.
The new convert has not yet left the company of his existing circle of friends. Over time, he will transfer allegiance to a new circle of friends within the local church. As this transition takes place, he will steadily abandon the lifestyle of those he is leaving behind. Their concerns will less and less be his concerns. Eventually, he will sever the ties.
In the transition phase, he has the greatest opportunity to share his story of what has happened in his life. His friends are more likely to be curious about this transformation in the early stages. He is still regarded as “one of them.” Something odd has happened to someone like them. They may be curious about this. As he grows more distant from them, they will be less likely to respond to his testimony. After ail, he has obviously left the group. He is someone else. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). A covenantal break has taken place; a cultural and associational break will follow.
In the meantime, there is a unique opportunity.
An Immediate Assignment
In his book on Communist training techniques in the 1940’s, Dedication and Leadership (1956), Douglas Hyde describes how the new Communist Party member was immediately told to sell copies of The Daily Worker, the official Communist newspaper. The Party knew that the new member knew very little about Communism. Nevertheless, he was sent out to sell the newspaper. Why?
First, it was a way to get him to face challenges. People would ridicule him. More important, they would ask questions about his beliefs, questions that he could not answer. This would provide an incentive for him to attend introductory evening classes in Communist theory.
Second, it was a way to show him that membership in the Communist Party was not passive. It involved taking risks and suffering discouragement. A high degree of commitment was mandatory. Membership in the Communist Party was not like membership in the local flower arrangement club. It was not just another membership. It was to be a lifetime commitment.
Third, it was a way to gain new recruits. The newspaper was a recruiting tool.
Fourth, it was a way to help pay for the printing of the newspaper. Some money did come in from sales. The same technique was adopted by the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) in the mid-1960’s. Well-dressed black men stood outside supermarkets and hawked copies of Muhammad Speaks, the organization’s newspaper. I remember one man, probably 6 feet 3 inches, who asked me as I walked toward the market, “Don’t you want to help black people?” Years before, I had heard the challenge of the most eloquent guilt-manipulator I had ever heard, Malcolm X, both on local TV and at a speech he gave at UCLA. I had also read C. Eric Lincoln’s book on the Black Muslims, so I knew what they believed: racism plus a garbled form of Islam. I therefore replied: “Not particularly.” That ended the discussion. He quickly walked away to pitch other, more politically correct victims. I was probably the only white person he had met who actually sounded like the white devils we were all portrayed as being. It probably made his day. But he didn’t get my money.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)