Saved by the Salvation Prayer?

Seth Barnes wrote an interesting post last week called: “Does the prayer of salvation save you?

Those of of us who do ministry in more evangelical circles may identify more with this than some. However, I think the basic premise of the post is important for all of us involved in the shaping of people’s lives, especially young people. That is, follow-up is just as important as getting someone to make a one-time decision. And if the latter is valued, it needs to not be done at the cost of the former.

Barnes writes:

The first AIM projects featured a heavy evangelistic component. The
whole objective of our effort was to get people to pray the salvation
prayer. I believed then and still believe that salvation comes through
Christ alone and that we have to repent and embrace forgiveness.
That said, I’m wondering how biblical our evangelism really was. In
many instances, for example, we couldn’t guarantee that there would be
any kind of follow up with the person we’d just evangelized. So, what do
you do with a person who prays a prayer but believes none of the words
he just said? Is that making Jesus Lord of your life?
Nowhere in the Bible do we see the prayer of salvation. What we do
see is people repenting and following Jesus. We see them assimilated
into a local group of believers and a discipleship process. To get
someone to pray and then walk away is kind of like creating spiritual

Even in the last four years of working for a missions organization, I’ve seen a shift away from this more “orphan” type of evangelism and a stronger move towards relational discipleship, or what some might call “spiritual formation.”

While salvation may indeed be a one-time decision, the effects of it are often found in a process.

What implications, if any, does this have for youth ministry?