How can we encourage converts to make friends in the church? One way is to assign each convert a ‘care partner’ or ‘spiritual parent’ to work closely with the convert the first year. This is often the person that brought the convert to the Lord. This care partner will attend the New Life Class with them, teach them the Home Bible Study, check on them when they miss church, and help them make new friends.
By Tim Massengale
The title for this article was borrowed from an article written by Bro. Irvin Baxter, Jr, former pastor of the United Pentecostal Church of Richman, Indiana, now the director of Endtime Ministries International. Bro. Baxter wrote the article, which appeared in the July 1984 issue of the Pentecostal Herald, to highlight some personal research that he had done on the subject of new convert care. In the introduction of his article he wrote, “What community in the United States of America or, for that part, in the world, would stand idly by while nine newborn children out of ten were lost while yet infants …? Yet this is the situation in the present Jesus Name movement. A church that in a year sees one hundred people receive the Holy Ghost, many times retains only ten or fifteen by the end of the year. The rest remain only a statistic in a terrible infant mortality rate.”
Having worked with Apostolic churches in the area of church growth for many years, I must sadly report that there has been only a slight improvement to this sobering statistic. While a few churches are seeing excellent retention rates of fifty, sixty, even seventy percent, the vast majority see far less.
A Wakeup Call
A number of years ago I recall hearing one of our Apostolic evangelists recount a vision that the Lord had given him. He said that in his vision he saw himself standing before a large, beautifully built hospital. Gleaming marble steps led up to an impressive glass and steel entrance. Out of the glass doors came a doctor and two nurses. In their arms one carried a delicate newborn child wrapped in a blanket. They were gazing lovingly at the infant, remarking how perfect her tiny hands and fingers were, how clear were her eyes, and what a wonderful thing it was that a new child had been born. They rejoiced over this fact and their excitement was unmistakable.
As they talked, the one carrying the child carefully set her down on the hospital steps and the trio continued on down the street, still discussing this blessed event.
Immediately a second group emerged from the hospital with yet another child and he saw the scenario repeated exactly as before, now leaving two newborns on the hospital steps. And then it happened again, and again, until the steps were literally covered with infant children.
These babies were all crying, cold, hungry, yet no one was paying them any mind. They were too excited about the births to be distracted by the care these babies required. Before long the crying bundles grew still as they began dying from neglect and starvation.
Now sad! But sadly how true. We rejoice over the soul that has been baptized or receives the Holy Ghost, but how many of us realize that this new spiritual infant that the Lord has blessed us with must now be carefully cared for exactly like a newborn infant? They need spiritual food, love and attention, and carefully training until they grow into a mature child of God.
The New Testament Example
The New Testament church began with explosive growth. There was over 3,120 converts the very first day. That’s a lot of new babies! It had to be the work of the Holy Ghost to inspire the Apostles on how to establish these new Christians.
The writer Luke records that after the three thousand were baptized, the new converts continued steadfastly in three areas (Acts 2:41-47): First, instruction (vs. 41, 42, & 46). Secondly, fellowship (vs. 42 & 46). And thirdly, unity of involvement (vs. 44 & 45).