Thoughts On New Convert Care
By James Hall
In order to survive today, new believers will need to be taught to know and apply the Word of God, or they will be deceived and drawn away from the faith. It is their foundation and their compass. Bible reading, Bible exposition, and Bible curriculum are all necessary for the child of God to breathe spiritually, let alone grow spiritually.
If new believers are to live by faith, it will take a conscious effort on the part of the spiritually responsible to show them how to live by faith rather than by their senses.
If done correctly, an intentional ministry of the care and keep of spiritual babies could prove to be the single greatest tool for church growth in the history of the Assemblies of God. At the same time, it is a ministry the national office cannot develop because it is almost entirely relational and as unique as the individuals involved.
The greatest opportunity for transformational discipleship will take the greatest of all commitments: the commitment of love by spiritual moms and dads and brothers and sisters who will become responsible for babes in Christ who need a healthy, Christian, one-on-one mentor. I call it the smallest group because you have to have someone who will help the spiritually helpless through the first days and weeks after their second birth. The need is obvious; the process is simple. With love, it is a joy; without love, it is a chore. With faith and persistence, the reward is beyond calculation. To add to the equation, you cannot institutionalize it. It is not a program but life.
New converts need someone not something to help them, just like babies because babies do not have any idea how to take advantage of anything given to them.
Babies need protection! They are very susceptible to falling. Ever notice how paranoid parents are around their baby when it looks like they are going to lurch out of their infant seat? Instantly, their hands are there to stabilize the baby or catch it before it falls. Imagine if every babe in Christ would have four Christian hands reach out in love to make sure when the new believer falls (and they will), they will not hurt themselves. They need to be protected from falling in dangerous places spiritually and taught to stay in a safe environment. They need to be bandaged up when they have been hurt by unthinking Christians or unkind remarks by former friends. They need to be taught what will crush or kill them, and they do not need to be subjected to church fights and splits. Some churches need to grow beyond strife for the sake of the babies.
Babies need a different diet than they have ever had before. They need the milk of the Word and processed foods they can easily eat and digest. It would be ludicrous to ask a baby to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. The poor thing would sit at the table of bounty and starve to death. The pastor’s sermon needs to be broken down into bitable sizes for them. The teacher’s lesson needs to be explained in more practical terms. The activities in a church service and the demonstrations of the Spirit must be made clear enough for them to learn. They must be taught they become what they eat spiritually, so they must learn to feed their minds with good things and godly thoughts. They will choke on a hundred promises of God but will digest one promise at a time. They must learn to discern what is spoiled or what is rotten junk from the lips of others.
Babies must live on a different schedule than adults. They cannot grow and be strong by trying to live by the convenience of parents. They must have parents who will respond to their cries for help and distress. Babies are interrupters. They can absolutely throw off your schedule; yet in the church, we try to put the babies on an adult schedule of service and programs. For a while, a new believer is going to need a mom or dad in Christ to be loving enough and flexible enough to respond to their spiritual emergencies.
Babies need someone who understands where they are in their development and take pride in their progress. When we are too hard on a child and expect too much, it makes them insecure and angry. When a new believer does something right, the whole church ought to cheer. This baby is on their way to becoming a great person for God. Imagine how many new converts could be transformed if a Spirit-filled believer, full of faith and love, would speak faith instead of criticism.
How does a pastor raise up spiritual moms and dads? It begins where all spiritual needs are met through prayer and faith to believe there are people in the body of Christ just waiting to be directed and used of God for the highest privilege in the church; namely, the making of disciples. Good pastors will be led of the Holy Spirit to seek out mature individuals and couples who love God and His church, share the burden of their heart with potential caregivers, and make certain such a ministry is driven by a love for new converts. Children are abandoned because they are not loved. Children are cared for by some of the most unlikely parents because love is the genius which takes failure out of relationships. It is amazing to watch new mothers with their first baby. It is like magic. They instinctively know what is best for the child, but they are not the least bit embarrassed to ask for help from others who have experience in taking care of babies.
When a new convert is identified, the pastor determines who would be the wisest choice to parent this new spiritual life. Because of their previous commitment to serve, the pastor will introduce the caregiver(s) to the new believer. The caregiver should plan to do immediate follow-up within a day or two and be prepared to spend some one-on-one time with the new believer in prayer, Bible study, and other growth opportunities. It should be an informal and relaxed approach built on friendship. Caregivers should have the goal of making the new believer comfortable in a small group setting or Sunday School class by introducing and/or accompanying them to a healthy group of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rev. James Hall recently gave a haunting illustration. When a new baby is taken to its first family reunion, it is passed from one relative to another for oohs and aahs; but when the mother knows it is time for the baby to eat or rest, she will look round and say, Who has the baby? and then proceed to take charge. May every Assemblies of God church always know who has the baby and that it is in good hands. Let our churches be the greatest spiritual adopting agencies in the world. The babies need loving parents and a good home to get off to a good start.
This article Thoughts On New Convert Care written by James Hall is excerpted from www.discipleship.org the April 2006 newsletter.