By T.W. Massengale
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 church. 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.
In individual interviews with these 720 people, each was asked to characterize the person who had presented the Gospel to them. They were asked if this individual was best described as a “friend,” or a “salesman,” or a “teacher.” The results were very revealing. Almost all who saw the church member as “friend” were still in the church (94%). However, those who saw the church member as a “salesman” often made an initial decision, but soon dropped out in large numbers (71%). Finally, 84% of those who saw the church member as simply a “teacher” generally did not respond at all. The implication is clear. The non-Christian who perceives your relationship with them as that of a “friend” is far more likely to respond to the Gospel and continue in his faith, than 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 people to do more than just witness. The old adage, “you must win a friend to win a soul” is very true. Then, in addition to this, develop a program to help your new converts make friends with others in the church.