This question could take us in many avenues depending on who answers.
When talking with a person about Christ, specifically teaching about obedience to the gospel, there is some confrontation in the church about how one is to go about doing this. Some teach that one must asks certain questions about things in order to obtain a study as to teach one about the scripture. Certainly we understand this because of all the different views out there. But what if someone asks "How is one saved" should there be an attempt to ask open questions to try to motivate this person to want to study or should we just tell them what they need to hear, that is how to obey the gospel?
I reflect back to scripture and I see examples of this question being asked, it seems that those who asked had the right heart and mind because most of the occassions show that the indeed obeyed.
The point I guess is this: should we spend time doing long studies slowly trying to help someone understand, helping them cultivate their hearts to the point of true soil so that the seed will be firmly planted or do we just preach the message of Christ and if they are ready they will obey. Maybe it is a little of both, I don't know. I understand that God wants people that are willing to take the time to get to know Him, I do not believe that the bible teaches street corner conversion. Only because repentance sometimes takes a long time to understand and to obey. A love for God has to be developed in the persons mind and heart and we know that the word does this. I spend hours upon hours teaching lost people about the bible using a good system only to realize that most do not obey. I understand the idea of a narrow gate, I also understand its not about check marks for me, but planting seeds for the future, scattering them abroad, letting them fall were they lay.
The point a guess is when do you move on to new people, what is the most effective way to help people in this manner, we want to motivate people to be obedient Christians rooted deep with in scripture.
Any thought out there?
This site has been in operation since 1999, and we have had lots of correspondence during that time. Virtually all the correspondence has been conducted via email, and all of the correspondence has been initiated in two ways: Either someone completes one of the online correspondence courses, or someone simply submitted a question or comment via our feedback form. That's the background. Here's the data:
If we responded within 24 hours of the first contact, especially if it was the same day, we always got a response. Correspondence would be much more engaging. Correspondents were much more thankful and responsive. Discussion always progressed much further. In short, the correspondent was much more open, if we responded within 24 hours of first contact.
Beyond the first 24 hours, the response rate would fall of dramatically. I'd say we had a 50% chance if we responded within 24-48 hours of first contact. By the time we 2 days had transpired, we had a small chance, less than 25%. After 3 days, I would not expect a response. If more than a week transpired before we had time to respond, we rarely heard back from the contact. I can only think of one positive response that we experienced on a correspondence course after the 1-week window, and I my memory may be failing me there...
Now, here's my conclusion: It appears to me that there may be a very small window of time of openess. If you miss it, you will just have to wait and hope and pray. In fact, we have had many people say to us within that first 24 hours, "I'm not really sure why I contacted you, but...", or "Maybe it was a mistake to open myself to you, but...". Because they did contact us, we had an opening for discussion and study. However, after some amount of time, which probably varies with the person and their circumstances, the person's heart resumes its usual routine, and the opportunity is lost. Hopefully, another window will open at another future time, although it will likely be with someone else. We have only had 1 person resume a conversation about 2 years after the first one closed.
I generally try to give preference to the fresh contact because of my experiences thus far. Plus, by the time I have studied a while with someone else, we generally have a good standing, and they will understand if I cannot respond immediately, especially if I explain why. So, there is more trust that can be exercised with the long-term study to ensure that the new-study is satisfied.
You always should keep studying as long as they are willing to listen, but maybe you should give preference to the recent contact - assuming all else is equal.
I'll try to dig through my files to get some hard stats, but hopefully this experience will shed some light.