There is a divine mandate given to us to preach, teach, and baptize. While we may be excellent in exposition and get many baptisms, I believe we still lack one thing: the element of discipling new converts and believers. At our church we’ve attempted to close the back door with some new methods that are also reasonably priced. Do you like free? I do. The Lord has helped us gain new converts through these new, simple discipleship methods. I have baptized many before, but not like this.
I’d been searching for a new way of modeling the ministry of Jesus, to do something different. One method that has worked in my church is to meet people in a neutral environment. Jesus taught his disciples in a place of comfort for them. For many today Starbucks is a place of comfort. It’s a place to relax and talk, a place to be themselves. I embarked on a discipleship journey with someone at Starbucks before they were interested in being baptized. We would meet once a week and talk about life, being a man, sports. Eventually that led to him asking what he had to do to join our church. We started having weekly bible studies at Starbucks. He did get baptized. But after his baptism we still meet at Starbucks to talk about life, being a man, and sports. This encounter has lead to others joining us.
The second method that we have been using in our church as a discipleship project is a church fantasy football league. As many know, fantasy football is often used to bet, gamble and most of all talk trash. We instead use it as a positive way for the men to bond. But more than that we reach out to those that Rick Warren would describe as on the fringes of the church. It’s attracted both men and women.
After a few months one of the men on the fringes who was in the league asked for Bible studies and was baptized. He said he never felt prodded or pushed to make a decision to join the church. He said he just felt like he was a part. We use the fantasy football league to encourage positive fellowship with fellow believers. I wish I could say that on Sabbaths all that is exchanged are normal Sabbath pleasantries. But the important thing is that the league is a way that people use to find common ground, a springboard for conversations about, life, kids, work and the week. The camaraderie that has developed in the group has built anticipation and assisted us in fulfilling the gospel commission.