Dealing with Common Problems Encountered In New Convert Care
By Gary W. Kuhne
Now that we have examined the content of personal follow-up and discussed how to plan for implementing this program in the life of the new believer, we are ready to dismiss practical considerations. Regardless of how much you have prepared or how much you try to avoid them, you are going to run into problems in your personal follow-up ministry with new Christians. Not everyone is going to respond in a positive manner to your program of Christian nurture. How are you going to deal with the problems you encounter in follow-up? Are you going to pass over them, as many people choose to do? Will you deal with the problems that arise as you feel led at the time? If you answer yes to either of these options, you are in for a frustrating time in your personal follow-up ministry. You are going to find that neither offers a satisfactory solution to your problem. You cannot merely pass over problems and hope they will go away. Instead of going away, they usually grow larger and more ominous. If you wait to think about how to deal with problems until they arise, you will become painfully aware of how limited you are in the area of biblical counseling. The best solution is to prepare ahead of time to meet any problem you are likely to encounter. This will not only better equip you for effective personal follow-up, but it will also greatly increase your confidence.
The question that arises in your mind at this point probably focuses on where can you go for the answers to follow-up problems you might face. This is a legitimate question. As I began to do personal follow-up, early in my ministry, I was faced with the same problem. I found no place to go for these answers. This forced me to do much of my problem-solving by trial and error – definitely not the way to do personal follow-up! The bad experiences of this period of my life greatly motivated me to take precautions against a repeat of this problem for others. For the past several years I have spent much time in discussion with fellow staff, other Christian workers, and involved laymen, seeking to identify the most common problems in follow-up and determine the most effective ways of dealing with them. This chapter is an outgrowth of that work. The problems of this chapter are not so much counseling problems as they are hindrances to consistent Christian growth. I hope that by dealing with these problems in this chapter I can save you frustration and heartache. Space will limit my discussion, but I trust sufficient depth will be given to insure applicability to your personal follow-up ministry.
As I mentioned previously, in my discussions with my staff, fellow Christian workers, and laymen, I found certain problems to be occurring frequently. I have since compiled a list of problems in the order of their frequency of occurrence in follow-up. This is in no way the last word in this area, but rather reflects the findings of those with whom I have had contact. Perhaps you have found other problems equally frequent or maybe you would reverse the order in which I have listed them. This in no way reflects disagreement, but rather different experiences. It is an area where I am open to further discussion. The following is the list of the most common problems in the order of their frequency.
The new Christian:
1. Is unwilling to meet with you for follow-up.
2. Is unable to receive assurance of salvation.
3. Has continued problems with guilt in his life.
4. Has an undisciplined devotional life.
5. Is afraid to identify publicly with Christ.
6. Is involved in a weak or liberal church.
7. Faces strong family and peer opposition.
8. Cannot believe in the credibility of the person doing follow-up.
9. Encounters strong intellectual problems.
10. Goes to an extreme in some area of questionable doctrine or aspect of Christian living.
The rest of this chapter will concentrate on practical insights into dealing with these problems. I will examine possible causes and steps toward solution. It would be impossible to deal with every possible cause of a given problem, so my discussion will concentrate on the most common causes. The rest will be up to the direction of the Holy Spirit in your life and your own practical experience gained through working with people in personal follow-up who have these problems.
Problem 1: Unwillingness to Meet
This unwillingness to meet will be the biggest problem you will encounter. Many people who make a decision for Christ, either at a meeting or personal evangelism encounter, are strangely unresponsive to attempts at personal follow-up. This problem also surfaces at different points in the process of following up a new believer, not always just at the beginning of your work with him. I would like to offer some insights into its causes and some suggestions as to its solution, but I will freely admit there are many situations which do not fit into the analysis I am offering. Let’s first examine possible causes.
My experience over the past years has shown me that one of the prime reasons for reluctance to meet is an insincere commitment. A better way of stating this is that the person probably isn’t really a Christian. His commitment could have been insincere for several reasons. Maybe he prayed to receive Christ during a personal evangelism contact merely to get rid of the person sharing Christ. I find this happens often with those personal workers learning to share Christ who have not developed the sensitivity a more experienced Christian would have in evangelism. Sometimes a commitment made during an evangelistic service, program, or movie was purely an emotional response without the intellect and will entering into the transaction. In a case like this, the person did not really repent and receive Christ as Savior. A more extensive discussion of what is involved in true conversion will be given under the section dealing with those who lack assurance of their salvation. Although there are other possible reasons for an insincere commitment, the important truth to understand at this point is that this could be the problem lurking behind an unwillingness to meet for follow-up.
Another possible cause of an unwillingness to meet for follow-up lies in satanic opposition. A new believer is perhaps more vulnerable to Satan than at any other time in his life. It will be easy to cast all kinds of doubt into minds of new Christians. Satan will seek to make him feel foolish, question the validity of his belief, tempt him to keep his decision quiet. And he will use many other deceptive devices to hinder the new Christian’s development in Christ. Since this is a strong possibility in any unwillingness to meet, you must be ready to deal with it. Remember the warning in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Your new Christian would make a good meal. You need to protect him. Remember the promise in James 4:7 “. . . Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Peer pressure also plays a strong role in the problem of unwillingness to meet for personal follow-up. As soon as a person makes a decision for Christ, his friends and relatives will try to hinder his growth, because they don’t want him to change. Perhaps they will seek to monopolize his time so he can’t have devotions and go to fellowship meetings. Or they will ridicule him and put him down if he continues to follow Christ. These and other pressures can do much to make a new Christian reconsider his commitment and cause him to balk at follow-up.
Sometimes the problem is simply a lack of understanding as to the purpose and need of follow-up. The new Christian simply doesn’t understand why you want to meet with him. He has been “burned” many times by people who had ulterior motives in being nice to him and seeking to be his friend. Life has taught him not to trust people. If he is unsure about the purpose of follow-up, he is bound to have a certain degree of suspicion in his dealings with you. This could account for his reluctance to meet with you.
Although there are other possible causes for a new Christian’s unwillingness to meet for follow-up, the ones discussed should give you a head start in understanding this problem. Let’s move on to discovering some possible ways to solve this problem.
The place to begin is prayer. This is an effective tool for solution. We find Paul continually mentioning prayer for young Christians in his Epistles. Consistent intercession will do much to change a new believer’s attitude. This truth is fundamental and will apply to all follow-up problems.
There is a second means of solving this problem. It is to stress the need for growth in the Christian life. I have found many people who mistakenly feel just receiving Christ is all that is involved in the Christian faith. When this is the case, they must be made to see that it is also necessary to grow in Christ. Explain to them that while they are “babes,” they need someone to act as a parent to them, to feed, protect, and nurture them until they are strong enough to go it alone. This will often clear up the misconceptions as in why you are desiring to get together.
For those whom you suspect are not truly converted, it will be essential to cover the “will-intellect-emotion” aspect of true conversion. The next section will deal with this in more depth.
The most crucial point of all in dealing with this problem is to get the new Christian to level with you and honestly state why he doesn’t desire follow-up. You won’t be able to get the person to agree to follow-up in every case. But with a grasp of what have just covered, you will experience above-average success. Continue to seek to get together, and don’t let one, two, or even three setbacks discourage you. If after several times of seeking to meet for personal follow-up, you are still unsuccessful, then leave the door open to further contacts, but move on to someone else. As a basic minimum, at least try to get the new Christian involved in some kind of group fellowship even if he is unwilling to participate in personal work.
Problem 2: Lack of Assurance
The second major problem is the number of new Christians who seem to be unable to receive any assurance of salvation. Primarily I am talking about those who still don’t have any assurance, even after you have gone over assurance verses in the follow-up appointment. I make this distinction to rule out those whose lack of assurance stems from a lack of knowledge. Most of the people who lack assurance gain it in the normal process of personal follow-up as they gain an increased knowledge of the promises of God. It is when this normal development of assurance does not occur that you have a problem. What do you do if this problem faces you in your personal follow-up of a new Christian?
The most probable reason a person persists in an attitude of lacking assurance is that he isn’t really saved and has nothing to be assured about. You can explore this possibility in more detail by elaborating with this person on the basic components of true conversion. True conversion is made up of repentance and saving faith. Both repentance and saving faith have the elements of will, intellect, and emotion involved in them. It is up to you to make a simple explanation of this complex theological truth. The best way to make a simple explanation is to know as much as you can about this truth. I would advise some concentrated reading on this subject. Below is a short summary of these truths, followed by a simple way to communicate them to the person lacking assurance.
1. Repentance. Repentance is an essential element in true conversion. In the evangelism of some in this present day it seems to at times be understressed. We know that repentance is important from the following verses:
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46, 47).
From these and other portions of Scripture, repentance is clearly shown to be a necessary part of true salvation. The question at this point is: What is repentance? A simple definition would be to describe repentance as a change or turning involving the intellect, emotions, and will.
Intellectually, repentance is a changed view of sin, self, and God. A person understands that sin is really wrong and that it matters to a holy God. (Most people will admit that they sin, but they feel it doesn’t matter, since they think God marks on a curve.) A person views himself as guilty before God and recognizes that God is just in condemning him as a penalty for his sins. These are the changes that occur in the intellect during true repentance and are reflected in the following verses: Psalm 51:3-5; Job 42:56; Luke 15:17, 18.
Emotionally, repentance is a change in attitude and feeling. It includes a sorrow for sin and a desire for pardon. This element is reflected in the following verses: Psalm 51:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10; Psalm 38:18.
The change in the will that grows out of true repentance is an inward turning from sin. This inward element is extremely important because the outward turning from sin is a product of the transformation wrought by inner regeneration. To place it as a condition for salvation rather than as a product of salvation is dangerously close to adding a work to salvation. This element is reflected in the Greek word metanoia, which means a change of mind, not a change of actions.
2. Saving Faith. Repentance is certainly essential in conversion, yet it doesn’t constitute all of the elements of conversion. Equally important is the element of saving faith. The Scriptures abound with teachings on the necessity of saving faith:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God . . .” (Eph. 2:8).
These are but two of many verses referring to the necessity of faith for true conversion. The question again arises, what is saving faith? A simple definition of saving faith is that it is a conviction of truth involving the will, intellect, and emotions.
Intellectually, saving faith is the belief in the truth of God’s Word as it relates to the essentials of salvation. It is here that the Holy Spirit convicts a man regarding truth. A person must believe God when He talks about sin and salvation. This is clearly implied in Romans 10:14, 17. Saving faith is faith based on facts; it is not just an emotional leap into the unknown.
Emotionally, saving faith is an awaking of the soul to its need of salvation and a desire to commit oneself to the truth of the gospel. This element is clearly shown in Psalm 106:12 and Matthew 13:20. Although this is a basic element of saving faith, it is not the only one. Appeals to the emotions are communicated more quickly than appeals to the intellect, yet they will not produce true conversion apart from the communication of the facts of the gospel.
In the element of the will, saving faith is a personal trust in Christ shown by (1) trusting Christ as Savior, (2) turning from self-controlled living (i.e., surrender of heart), and (3) determining to follow Christ obediently as Lord. This element is also necessary as shown in John 1:12 and Revelation 3:20.
We have looked at how true conversion is a product of repentance and saving faith. The question of how to effectively communicate this truth still remains. The previous discussion is obviously too deep for a new Christian. I have developed a simple diagram for communicating this truth and it is shown in Figure 19. As I draw out the diagram with a person involved in follow-up, I simply explain the principles involved. Often the Holy Spirit uses this time to really convict him about the truth of the gospel. Following is the diagram I use:
Commitment of the Total Man
1. Turn from sin.
2. Surrender life.
3. Receive Christ.
4. Obey God.
1. Recognize sin and guilt.
2. Believe facts of salvation.
1. Sorrow for sin.
2. Awareness of need.
3. Commitment to truth.
Fig. 19 Conversion Diagram
By using this diagram I can communicate the truth without using words difficult to define for a new Christian. This method has proved effective in the experience of many people.
Are there other possible reasons why a person could not receive assurance of salvation in addition to the fact that he may not be saved at all? I have found through experience several other possible causes of this condition in a new Christian. I will list them but not elaborate on them because the vast majority of cases are solved in the preceding fashion. The following is a list with Scripture references for further study:
1. Unwillingness to make restitution (Num. 5:6, 7).
2. Unwillingness to forsake a gross sin (Prov. 28:13).
3. Unrepented bitterness toward parents/family (Heb. 12:15; Eph. 6:1, 2).
4. Severe counseling problems.
Problem 3: Guilt
Often in follow-up you will encounter someone who seems to have a problem with guilt in his life. He has a difficult time actually experiencing forgiveness. This problem varies widely in complexity. In some cases the solution may be simple, in others it might require some competent Christian counseling. If it is one that requires counseling, I hope you have access to a good pastor-counselor in your vicinity. I am becoming increasingly convinced of the necessary role of trained, competent, biblically oriented counseling to supplement the work of personal follow-up.
The first step in dealing with this problem is to teach the new Christian what the Word of God says about confession of sin. There are two points to make clear to the new Christian: Temptation isn’t sin, and God promises forgiveness and cleansing. Many new Christians are suffering from false guilt caused by a misunderstanding of temptations. They often mistakenly identify the temptation as the sin. They need to be shown that temptation is not sin, that they can expect it to come, and that they can have victory over it according to I Corinthians 10:13. Once a person realizes this truth, the problem of guilt is often solved. A correct understanding of the totality of cleansing promised in 1 John 1:9 will do much to keep the new Christian from being overly introspective.
At times a persistent guilt problem reveals that restitution has not been made when God was leading the person to do so. Restitution not only implies the paying back of unlawful gain, but also the need for reconciliation. In your counseling with this new Christian, see if there is someone with whom God has been leading him to seek reconciliation. Matthew 18:15 implies the importance of this step for real growth in Christ. For an in-depth examination of this truth and its relationship to effective counseling of guilt see the book Christian Counselors Manual by Jay Adams.
At times guilt is an indication of incomplete repentance on the part of the new Christian. Perhaps there has been a secret refusal on his part to forsake a particular sin. He must be shown that confession is not a gimmick, that it was not given as a way to “kiss and make-up” with the Lord, but it is a valid way of dealing with sin only when that sin is forsaken. Isaiah 55:7 slates:
“Let men cast off their wicked deeds; let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon!” (Living Bible)
If guilt still remains after you have taken these steps, refer the new Christian to a competent biblical counselor. You have done as much as you are able to do. Even though I encourage this referral to counseling, keep in focus that guilt could be a deceptive device of Satan to make the new Christian doubt God’s love and forgiveness. Pray that God would give you discernment in this problem.
Problem 4: Undisciplined Devotions
A consistent devotional life is one of the most important building blocks for growth in Christ. It is through this means that a Christian begins to discover what it means to be in personal daily communication with the Lord. Lack of consistent devotions is usually the cause, directly or indirectly, of much spiritual ineffectiveness. It is important that this condition not be allowed to continue for too long a time. Consistency in prayer and Bible study must be developed in the life of the new believer.
There are several reasons a person might be having problems with his devotions. First, there may be a lack of motivation to study the Bible. Perhaps the new Christian doesn’t realize the need for a devotional life. He has no understanding of the role of the Word of God in true growth. He has never read 1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”
True motivation is a product not only of “what,” but also “why.” The new Christian must see “why” the Bible is so important to growth. Second Timothy 3:16,17 explains the “why’s” of Bible study:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
This passage elaborates the uses of Bible study and lists them: teaching, reproof, correction, and training. The Bible teaches us God’s will for our lives. It also reproves us when we are doing wrong. The Bible never stays on the negative, but goes on to the positive and teaches us how to correct our wrong-doings. It then goes on to show us, in a general way, what to do to insure that correction lakes hold by training us in righteousness. When a new Christian begins to understand the “why” of devotions, he often needs no more encouragement to become consistent.
A second reason a person might have difficulty being consistent in his devotional life involves a lack of adequate training. In many cases, a person simply doesn’t know how to have a devotional time. If this is the case, it will do little good to keep exhorting him to have one without also showing him how. You will find some people who need more than just some insight into asking questions and meditating on Scriptures. For these people to become effective in Bible study, they need the additional help of a planned program of study in already-published, devotional study books.
A third reason for devotional problems arises out of a lack of discipline. The new Christian may have trouble disciplining himself to study. In this case, it will be important to discover whether this lack of discipline is only evidenced in devotions, or if it is also seen in other parts of this person’s life. If it is only evident in the area of devotions, then it can usually be solved by dealing with it as a motivational problem and giving him a relatively easy devotional study book to prevent discouragement. However, if the lack of discipline is evidenced in other areas of his life, it becomes a much more difficult problem. This person has a habit of laziness. Although the new Christian often desires devotions, he is prevented from having them because of this problem. In this case, it is best to begin helping him live in a disciplined way in other areas of their life as well as in devotions. This will take a great deal more time and is much more difficult than any other problem with devotions.
Problem 5: Fear in Witnessing
This particular problem is a common one. Many new Christians (perhaps many old as well) are afraid to publicly identify themselves with Christ. Most often this fear expresses itself in a fear of witnessing, because witnessing is about the only way a person publicly identifies with Christ in a country where persecution of Christians is infrequent. It is important that this problem be dealt with early in the personal follow-up of a new believer. The best way to deal with it is to find the cause of the fear and show the biblical solution.
For many new Christians, fear in witnessing is nothing more than a normal fear connected with talking to strangers. This kind of fear, especially for those suffering from shyness, is natural. Even Paul fell into this kind of fear, as described in 1 Corinthians 2:3: “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” Many can identify with this feeling. The solution lies in merely pointing out that this is a common problem, and then showing how God can give the strength one needs to serve Him.
At times, a fear in witnessing arises out of a lack of training. Many Christians, both new and old, are simply not sure what to say about Christ. This problem is a simple one to solve. All you do is lead them into some training. There are a number of good training programs available for this purpose.
In some cases, fear in witnessing has its roots in the face that a person has been living an inconsistent life and others know it. This is the old hypocrisy problem, Paul was aiming at it when he commanded in Philippians 1:27: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Consistency of life will clear up this problem for most people.
In some instances, people have a genuine fear of persecution for identifying with Christ. In cases like this, focus your counsel on the truth that he need not fear man when God is on his side. “The fear of man lays a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord is safe” (Prov. 29:25). God can strengthen him to face all persecution. There is never an excuse not to be identified with Christ in this world. God can always work out His perfect will, even in the midst of adverse circumstances (see 2 Timothy 2:12: Matthew 10:32, 33).
Problem 6: Involved in a Weak Church
Often when you begin follow-up with a new Christian, he is already involved in a local church. Perhaps it is liberal or dead and cold, a bad environment for the babe in Christ. You are faced with the dilemma of how to move him to a new church tactfully. The first step in this transfer is to teach him the church’s role in his own growth in Christ. Often, just understanding what God’s purpose is for the church will motivate the new Christian to seek out better church fellowship.
It is also good to explore the ability the new Christian has to change churches. In the case of a youth ministry, often the parents refuse to allow their child to go to another church. It is important that you don’t encourage disobedience in this situation. Involve the young person in a good Bible study or fellowship group that meets outside the church. This is not as good as involvement in the church itself, but is better than no fellowship and teaching at all.
In the case of an adult who is reluctant to change, don’t push hard at first. This will tend to put him on the defensive and could affect your whole personal follow-up relationship. The whole issue of church membership is a touchy one. Your church could be labeled a “Sheep Stealer” if you are not sensitive in this area. Although I am convinced it is God’s will to put a new believer in a growing, warm Christian environment, it is not always clear where this new church ought to be.
Certainly it is imperative that a new believer be strongly urged to leave a cult or sect, as well as a clearly liberal church. When leaving a cult or sect, the new Christian is easily moved to your home church without incurring problems with other churches. I have found it best to move a new Christian from a liberal church to an evangelical one within his own denomination, if there is one available. Be discerning and remember, in the final analysis, the most important thing is the growth of the new Christian. If this means conflicts, then you needn’t feel guilty.
Achieve the change you desire step by step. Begin by inviting the new Christian to church activities that do not conflict with regularly scheduled services at his original church. As he gets involved, it won’t be long before the difference between good Christian fellowship and what he is experiencing in his own church will become evident to him. This should do much to aid him in making the transition. Don’t force the issue but allow for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit in his life. I am assuming that the person doing the follow-up is involved in a good church. If this is not the case, then you should carefully analyze why you are attending a church to which you would not invite a new Christian.
Problem 7: Family and Peer Opposition
A problem facing some new Christians is active opposition to their new commitment by family and friends. I touched on this briefly under the problem of persecution in witnessing. Some people face extreme opposition in their closest associates. This kind of opposition often turns many away from following Christ. When this is a problem, you must begin immediately teaching the new Christian about the worth of knowing Christ. Begin to share Scriptures like the following:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:7, 8).
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29).
When the source of this opposition is too close to the new believer, it places even greater urgency on you to establish a friendship with him and get him into fellowship with other Christian friends as well. Only then will his chances of making a break with his old friends improve. In the case of his family, he cannot sever relationships. God’s command to honor and love parents was given for all time. It is only when parents seek to make a child deny his faith that he is not under obligation for obedience. If the door to the family closes, it must never be from the Christian’s side. This would only hinder the gospel’s chances in the hearts of the family. Stick close to a person experiencing this kind of opposition because he needs all the personal attention he can get. Pray much concerning this kind of a problem.
Problem 8: Credibility
Sometimes a person doing personal follow-up encounters a credibility gap with the person he is following up. By a credibility gap I mean the new Christian doesn’t trust or believe what you tell him. This is a serious problem because the new Christian must look upon you as an authority before he can gain the proper motivation to learn and apply what you are teaching him. There is no easy answer to this problem. I have found credibility to have many facets. It is difficult enough merely to analyze why someone lacks credibility, much less tell someone else how to achieve it. In a future book on leadership development, I hope to explore in much greater detail this question of credibility. For now I would like to offer you a list of the ten most common factors people identify as reasons for credibility. This list is compiled from counseling with all age groups. I hope it will stimulate your thinking in this all-important area.
Factors Contributing to Credibility:
1. Being well organized in keeping follow-up appointments.
2. Knowing where to find answers in the Bible.
3. Being nondefensive, open.
4. Knowing clearly what you believe and why you believe it.
5. Being able to share answers out of experience, not just theory.
6. Fruitfulness in evangelism.
7. Enthusiasm in ministry.
8. Remembering what was discussed at previous appointments.
9. Consistency of life.
10. A good home and obedient children.
Problem 9: Intellectual Hang-ups
A new Christian will sometimes be exposed (through classes or discussions) to a convincing argument against some point of Christian truth. In the face of this argument, he begins to have questions and perhaps even doubts about his faith. It is important that you help him through this crucial period of his life. Don’t pass over it hoping he will outgrow the questions.
The first thing to impress upon the new Christian is the ability of the Christian faith to hold up under testing. The Christian faith is not gained at the cost of intellectual suicide. It is not a “blind” leap of faith into the unknown. It is a factual faith built on the revealed truth of God’s Word. There are legitimate and logical answers to almost any question with which he might be confronted. This point should be clear in the mind of a new believer.
The second point to share is that the new believer’s faith is never to trust on any other foundation than Christ. Although answers to questions are unimportant, they are only to reinforce, not replace, the foundation of Christ. It is important to make this point clear so a new Christian will build his faith on the revealed truth of the Word of God rather than philosophical speculation, no matter how convincing it may be.
Another truth to communicate is the fact that questions in themselves are not wrong. Questions often are indications of a hungering and thirsting to know more of God’s truth. Don’t ever scare a new believer into not asking questions. This will seriously hinder his growth. Asking questions is not wrong. Rather, it is allowing these questions to breed doubt in our minds that makes it sin. We may question, but it should be from the standpoint of confirming where we stand and seeking a more definitive picture of our position. Make certain the new believer understands this.
The best way to answer serious questions is through suggested readings and subsequent discussion. Many excellent books on nearly all aspects of Christian apologetics have already been written. These should prove to be beneficial for your edification as well as the new believer’s.
Problem 10: Doctrinal Difficulties
Some now Christians become involved in extremes in some aspect of doctrine or Christian living. This is a serious problem and can greatly retard their growth. This problem arises because of the immaturity of a new believer. As a new Christian, he is a babe in Christ, and, like other babies, exists on the emotional level most of the time. There is little intellectual content to his faith. ‘This makes a good breeding ground for questionable extremes.
The first step toward solution is to involve the new believer in a strong teaching situation where he will gain much solid biblical knowledge. This input will greatly help to stabilize him. Think through with him the points of legitimate differences among Christians (i.e., baptism [mode], church policy, etc.). He should see that you are not so narrow as to allow no differences of opinion. But he must see that you are unswerving concerning major doctrines that are legitimate grounds for dogmatism. The basic doctrines of the faith need defending and the truths of abundant Christian living must be guarded against extra-biblical additions. Caution him against attending meetings of groups that would fall outside the walls of solid evangelical Christianity. These things should do much to solve this problem.
We have examined a number of basic problems in this chapter. I hope you are getting a feel for some of the things you will face in a ministry of personal follow-up. The ideas expressed in this chapter are meant to stimulate your own research, not stagnate it. Because of the limitations of space, I have purposely not gone into a number of minor problems. The methods of dealing with problems explained above should give you guidelines toward developing your own solutions to the problems you will face in your personal follow-up ministry.
Article “Dealing with Common Problems Encountered in New Convert Care” excerpted from “The Dynamics of Personal Follow-up”. By Gary W. Kuhne.