Baptism is not the end of evangelism. The process of helping people go to Heaven continues throughout their lives. It’s especially sad when the congregation fails to help people get past the first few months.
The Bible identifies at least four things all new Christians need to grow in Christ.
Let no one feel insulted to be called a babe in Christ. The Bible uses that term to describe someone who has been born again and is still coming alive to the new realities of life in Christ. It’s a time to cherish. It’s a blessing to have babes in Christ in the congregation; it means the church is growing!
The word of God is the nutrition needed during infancy, to provide growth. “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
Encourage babes in Christ to read the New Testament in one year; that pace is less than a chapter a night. Encourage babes in Christ to attend good Bible classes. Make sure the pulpit preaching includes plenty of plain, practical sermons. Consider sending all new Christians to a month-long “Christianity 101” class conducted once a year. In a few months, a growing Christian will mature in speech, conduct, and participation.
Babies are cute; but a thirty-year-old man drinking from a baby bottle is sad, disturbing, and alarming. Similarly, it is a problem for five- and ten-year members of the church to behave like babes in Christ still. We must teach babes in Christ the word of God so that they may put down the bottle and pick up the steak knife, mastering the basics and feasting on more solid food (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Worship does not just involve communication between a Christian and God; it involves communication between a Christian and every other person sitting in the congregation. Colossians 3:16 says, “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Thus, good uplifting worship of God is one of the best things a congregation can provide for new Christians. In a worship assembly, we “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Let us never take a lackluster, lackadaisical approach to singing, praying, or any facet of worship.
We have a tendency to spare new members the work of the church. We don’t want to impose early on. But in fact, getting involved is one of the best ways to feel needed and appreciated. No one likes to ride the bench.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be best to be asked to teach a teen class right away. But new Christians should be helped to feel the joy that comes from taking a hot meal to a shut in, visiting a person in the hospital, writing a kind note, waiting on the Lord’s Table, driving an elderly person to the store, offering hospitality to a family. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When we try to protect a new Christian from work, we stunt his growth.
Human contact is important for a new believer, too. Maybe you were raised in the church, and you take fellowship for granted. A few good sermons are not enough to make a person strong. He needs a loving family. He needs close relationships.
By virtue of being children of God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18), we become siblings in Christ. New Christians are now “of God’s household” (1 Timothy 3:15). We are happy to see one another (3 John 15, 1 Corinthians 16:20). We become the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends to replace relationships lost in the world (Mark 10:29-30). In Paul’s letters to churches, he uses the phrase “one another” exactly 40 times. That’s more than once per chapter! Such things as “love one another,” and “greet one another,” and “accept one another,” and “admonish one another,” and “wait for one another,” and “serve one another,” and “show tolerance for one another,” and “be kind to one another,” and “comfort one another,” and “build up one another.”
There’s only so much time before and after services; thus, gatherings outside of church are an important way to grow close as brethren. Early disciples were “breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46).
It’s a rare individual indeed whose commitment to abstract truth can overcome the profound rejection he feels from a group of people who do not accept him, befriend him, talk to him, eat with him, and help him. Make new Christians feel like a vital part of the family of God! –John Guzzetta