New members like life and action!
The newborn child brings life and activity into the household. The early apostolic church understood the needs of those new in the household of faith. Note the apostle Paul's interest in new converts: "For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." I Thessalonians2:ll,12,NIV.
New believers need special care and help in the early stages of their experience if they are to grow and mature into serviceable Christians. Certain basic needs of a new Christian must be considered. This new life, this new love and this new spiritual energy will seek avenues of expression.
New Avenues of Spiritual Expression and Growth
New members are ruled from the heart by Jesus Christ. You will observe that these new members share in common at least five spiritual impulses:
1. The impulse to pray.
2. The impulse to worship.
3. The impulse to serve.
4. The impulse to share the new life in Christ with others.
5. The impulse to enjoy social fellowship.
Those in whose hearts Jesus Christ dwells by the Holy Spirit will want to follow the example of their Lord by giving expression to the same customs and desires:
1. An example of desire to pray: "He went up into the hills by himself to pray." Matthew 14:23, NIV.
2. An example of desire for Bible study and worship:"He went into the synagogue,... and he stood up to read." Luke 4:16, NIV.
3. An example of desire to serve:"For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve." Mark 10:45, NIV.
4. An example of the desire to teach and witness about the new life'Then Jesus went around teaching." Mark 6:6, NIV.
5. This invitation is an example of the desire to enjoy social fellowship"Jesus and his disciples had also been invited." John 2:1, NIV.
No new member can live, grow, and develop without these avenues of spiritual expression and life. The pastor and older church members have a responsibility to provide these opportunities. In some areas of special need the local church will find it imperative to develop some new ministries for these new members. Keep your new disciples busy working and looking ahead. Help them to grow and mature into strong Christians!
What the Church Should Provide for New Members
Counsel is given that new believers in the early stages of their new experience will need special attention and help:
"New converts will need to be instructed by faithful teachers of God's Word, that they may increase in a knowledge and love of the truth, and may grow to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. They must now be surrounded by the influences most favorable to spiritual growth." Evangelism, p. 337.
"Those who have newly come to the faith should be patiently and tenderly dealt with, and it is the duty of the older members of the church to devise ways and means to provide help and sympathy in instruction for those who have conscientiously withdrawn from other churches for the truth's sake, and thus cut themselves off from the pastoral labor to which they have been accustomed. The church has a special responsibility laid upon her to attend to these souls who have followed the first rays of light they have received; and if the members of the church neglect this duty, they will be unfaithful to the trust that God has given them." Evangelism, p.351.
"After individuals have been converted to the truth, they need to be looked after. The zeal of many ministers seems to fail as soon as a measure of success attends their efforts. They do not realize that these newly converted ones need nursing watchful attention, help, and encouragement. These should not be left alone, a prey to Satan's most powerful temptations; they need to be educated in regard to their duties, to be kindly dealt with, to be led along, to be visited and prayed with. These souls need the meat apportioned to every man in due season." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 68.
We have already noted the five basic spiritual needs of new members: prayer, worship, service, witnessing, and fellowship. In these quotations we see again how these five basic needs are to be recognized and supplied. Ten areas are identified as necessary components of an adequate nurturing and discipling program:
2. Watchful care
7. Education to duties
10. Spiritual food
Because this early period of New Member Ministry is so important, much more needs to be done in the future than has been done in the past to provide the proper spiritual care.
Discipling to a New Way of Life
In this early period of discipling, new patterns of living are to be established. During this time many adjustments will be made as one changes from the old life-style to the new life in Jesus Christ.
Just imagine the change! Put yourself for a moment in the place of a new member. So much is new! Old places, old friends, old amusements, and old habits are being exchanged for new and different experiences for the one who is a new creature in Christ.
The new member faces new situations, new concepts, and many new people. New ways of living, new ways of worship, and new friendships are being formed. Surely, the new member needs understanding, watchful caring, and love!
While trying to develop meaningful relationships with new people this new believer will appreciate helpful and caring attention. For the new believer, the road to enduring discipleship has begun.
Elders and church members will find that the planning, organizing, and conducting of a New Member Ministry will take time, but the compensation is measured in more permanent results.
Adapted from the book Discipling, Daniel E. Caslow, Pacific Press Publishing Association,