It was a little church with ten attendees and not much hope. I was a young pastor with no church, little experience, and an eagerness to preach.
The ten were told that they should disband the church. The rationale was that they hadn’t been doing anything, didn’t want to do anything, so why go on? They chose to dig in, hold on, and give it one more try. I was grateful for their decision because it gave me the opportunity to pastor my first church.
The church hadn’t baptized anyone in four years. As deeply saddening as that was, it was equally sad that they had little to offer a new believer. There were no Bible classes or prayer meetings, and no ministries. There was little beyond the Sunday morning worship service.
To be honest, there was no reason for the Father to entrust a new believer to our church. If they came, who would disciple them? Who would teach them Scripture? What opportunities would they have to serve, learn how to share their faith, and do missions?
My experience with that church planted the thought in my brain that if a church wasn’t going to nurture God’s new children, God wouldn’t entrust any to us. We addressed the problem by beginning a prayer meeting the first week, Bible study classes the first month, and a witnessing training class shortly thereafter.
Our visits in the community bore fruit quickly. Our first new believer was a 44 year-old man who is still active in that church these 28 years later. Many more followed him. We used the Survival Kit for New Christians to help them begin their new walk with Jesus. After one year we took 18 to Glorieta Baptist Conference Center for Discipleship Week. As a service project we adopted a 3 mile stretch of the farm-to-market road on which our church was located. Church members picked up trash and road signs told the community that our church was serving them in this way. We even initiated a new church start and bought an old feed store that we turned into a church building. In the three and a half years we were there, we saw God take a handful of people and use them to bring real transformation to individuals, families and even a community.
We have learned much in the years since then, but the basics have not changed. God blesses a people who share the gospel and train-up babes in Christ.
Let me share some practical things you can do to help new Christians follow Jesus. First, have mentors and materials ready before you have new Christians. Assign a mentor to each new believer. The mentor could come from their Sunday school class, but remember that young people enjoy being taught by an older, experienced person.
Regarding materials, the Northwest Baptist Convention will provide, free-of-charge, the new believer’s book Following Jesus from the Beginning. This is a seven-week study, which I have written, specifically for new Christians. Your Cooperative Program and NWBC Mission’s Offering giving allows us to provide this to all of our churches for new believer training. It is currently available in English, and will soon be in Spanish and Korean. Other materials include Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Revised and Expanded. Blackaby has several books and studies from which new believers will benefit greatly. I’m a Christian Now is a four week study for children grades 1-6 who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (you can order it, and other resources for new believers, through http://www.lifeway.com).
Second, provide witness training for new believers. Following Jesus from the Beginning teaches new Christians to share Jesus using MY316. Students are led to write down the name of every unbeliever in their life so that they can pray for them, serve them, and share Jesus with them. Often our most effective and eager witnesses are new Christians.
Third, provide ministry and mission opportunities for new believers. Opportunities to serve and share the gospel should be provided to every believer, young and old. We learn to follow Jesus by doing ministry, not just by sitting in a classroom listening to someone teach us.
I firmly believe that the Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me,” is the Jesus who will entrust His children to a church that will care for His little ones by training and teaching them well.