Question #1 - "What Next?"
So let’s start with the first one question people ask when they are starting something new and largely unknown...
When you move into something or go somewhere or engage someone, it begs this question almost instinctively. Sometimes it’s natural to see the next move, but often people feel lots of nervous energy looking for what to do “next”. We are made this way.
When people come to church, they are looking for signage, bulletins, arrows, and brochures. These are universal signals transmitting important information to the newbie, the guest. You can spot a visitor quite easily most of the time because they are looking around all over the place trying to find their whereabouts like gadabouts. Just like I felt in the gym on day 1, getting to that door is step 47 for most people and they are disoriented unless a non-anxious, normal presence helps them toward their next step. It’s even better if this person informs the ‘starter’ that being out of sorts is pretty common, almost normalizing the newness. The whole service should be conducted with this sort of conscientiousness from start to finish…Conversations, Music, Announcements, Bulletins, Videos, Stories, Illustrations, Sermons, Prayers…you name it.
But I want to go further. I believe we must actively show people what’s next in their relationship with God. This cannot simply stay spiritual and collective, they must be guided by someone to know what are the next steps to take in their faith, building a foundation of understanding and practice. There are a myriad of ways to do this to be sure, but let me say this bluntly: “If people are not discipled they are unlikely to ever become disciples.” The thought of that sends shutters down my spine after 20 years of ministry. I haven’t always been as deliberate and intentional about this fact. I have relied on the Spirit to “guide people into all truth” instead of heeding the Great Commission which states: “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I’ve commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20 I won’t unpack each truth stated here phrase by phrase, but let me focus on what I’ve underlined above.
People need to be discipled--taught the ways of Jesus, the truths to be obeyed. This verse says there are “things” that can be known and lived, and we are responsible to teach “all” of these things to people who long to become disciples. As a trainer would come along side someone at the gym, we are called to guide people how to live like Jesus. We do this by teaching them the ways of God and by showing them how the truth of His Word applies to everyday life. I think I’ve underestimated and understated how many people—in the beginning—are asking the question: “What next?” They genuinely want to know how and where to start and long for someone to help them “know” the truth and “grow” in their faith. But often they are left to wander and wonder, figuring it out on their own never knowing for sure if they are on point or beside the point. “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every single time.”
We have to know “What’s next?” when a person asks “What next?” We need to possess a map of sorts showing them the next step they need to take in their relationship with Jesus. If we don’t, these people often move on in their search for truth looking elsewhere for connection and direction. That’s why it’s all-important.
Tomorrow we will look at the next question...