Learning To Swim And Follow Jesus

Eighty percent of those who decide to follow Jesus walk away from the faith, mostly within three months after their decision.

 Years back, I wrote a book on discipleship entitled Swimming Lessons.

My point of the book is that it’s best if someone teaches you to swim.

I taught children to swim at inner-city elementary schools when I was a teenager. I figured out a way to teach a kid how to swim in about 15 minutes of pool-time instruction.

Obviously, they weren’t going to win the Olympics, but that wasn’t my purpose. I wanted a young kid who fell into water and sank to be able to get to the surface, float, and get to the side of pool.

Fifteen minutes was all it took with most kids, if they would just trust what I said.

In those days of swimming instruction, I encountered an interesting comment more than once. Someone would ask what I did over the summer and I would tell them that I taught kids to swim.  

Then they would say…

No one taught me to swim when I was little, my dad just took me to the deep end and threw me in.

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “Well, that’s one approach, but I wonder how many drowned?”

I hear something similar when discussing abiding in or maturity in Christ. 

One-on-one discipleship is the best method of laying a foundation for the faith of a new believer. Foundational discipleship isn’t rocket science – it’s the four foundational disciplines (prayer, Bible, fellowship, and evangelism/discipleship), how to overcome temptations, learning to find joy during trials, and walking in the promises of God – all of which can taught by a discipler with a new follower in three months.

Same with teaching a person to swim. Teach them the basics, show them by example, and give encouraging testimony – building their confidence that they won’t sink when they let go of the side of the pool.

Swimming is best taught one-on-one.

As I’ve talked to many Christians about foundational discipleship, I’ve heard a similar comments to the one I heard while teaching swimming…

“I’ve never been discipled,” “I don’t see the importance,” and “I did just fine.”

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “But what about the 80 percent who drowned?”

Sometimes, I hear additional comments like…

“I go to church once a week,” “We have a great worship team,” and, “I enjoy the sermons.”

“We don’t need one-on-one discipleship because we have small groups.”

I enjoy churches with preaching, worship, and small groups. But it takes a new follower of Jesus a year to integrate into the larger body of believers and it takes five to six months to join a small group (in the best circumstances). But new believers walk away within three months. 

HHHHMMMHHM! It’s best if churches have one-on-one discipleship.

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