Growing a New Believer
Dr. Barry St. Clair
Having babies changes a person's life! It involves so much more than the nine months it takes to bring that child into the world. It includes the lifelong commitment to nurture the baby to adulthood - and to pay the bills as well!
Spiritual "babies" require the same long-term
commitment. The Bible tells us that new believers, like "newborn babies,
crave pure spiritual milk" (1 Peter 2:2). New believers have certain needs
that they can't meet for themselves. Like babies, they need "parents"
who will meet their needs for love, nourishment, protection, and training.
Love. New converts need to know the security that results from being accepted and cared for. Communicating love is more than talk; it includes action. Christ gave us the key to this when He said: "Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12). Jesus' love for His disciples was characterized by His willingness to give. If we are going to communicate His kind of love to new believers, we also must be willing to give - of our time, our resources, and ourselves. For a new believer, this kind of love begins with the friendship of someone like us.
Nourishment. New believers, like newborn babies, totally depend on someone else to feed them. It is as absurd to expect a new believer to feed himself as it is to expect a newborn baby to go into the kitchen and rustle up his own breakfast. Someone else must keep them fed and healthy. That happens when they are "brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching" (1 Timothy 4:6).
Protection. Young Christians, babies, and sheep have a lot in common. When it comes to defending themselves, all are pretty helpless. New believers need to be protected because "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Young Christians don't know how to handle Satan's attacks. They need help until they learn how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Training. Just as parents train their children
for the challenges of life, spiritual parents must train their
"children" to be "rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the
faith" (Colossians 2:7). Young Christians need training in the basics:
assurance that Christ lives in them, intimacy with God by spending time with God
in prayer and Bible study, how to experience God's love and forgiveness,
enjoying relationships and accountability with other believers, how to share
their faith, and living in obedience to Jesus Christ. When someone nurtures a
new believer in this way, the road to maturity in Christ will be much easier.
THE AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY
Nurturing young Christians takes commitment, time, and preparation. So why would we agree to take on such an awesome responsibility? Think about these four good reasons.
1) We are a part of their spiritual birth. Our job isn't finished when we help someone become a believer. That person needs your help to get established in the faith. A good example of how that works is found in Acts 14:21-22. After preaching to the people, Paul took the time and responsibility to strengthen the new converts and exhort them to continue in the faith.
2) We have a responsibility as a member of the body of Christ. If we see a new believer who is not being cared for, our responsibility is to help him grow. Paul explains that the responsibility of every Christian is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry until we all attain mature manhood. We should no longer be children. Rather, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head." (See Ephesians 4:11-16.)
3) We love Jesus. Our care for those who belong to Christ proves our love for Him. In John 21:15-17 Jesus told Peter to demonstrate his love for Him by feeding His sheep (caring for fellow Christians).
4) Jesus commanded it. Jesus instructs us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20). Notice His choice of words. He doesn't say we're to make "converts." We are to make "disciples" - people who are consistent followers of Jesus.
What a tremendous privilege to take care of God's children. We can be a part of achieving His goal to "present everyone perfect [mature] in Christ" (Colossians 1:28).
WHAT TO DO
Leading a person to Christ is important, but it's only the first step. The bigger challenge is helping him grow to maturity. Until new believers learn to walk by them-selves, they need our help.
Follow these guidelines when working with a new Christian:
(1) Meet with him immediately after he receives Christ.
Studies show that a person who is contacted within 48 hours after becoming a
Christian has a much easier time growing in his/her relationship with Christ.
(2) Meet with him at least four times after he becomes a Christian. (Use the material at the end of this week's session for each meeting. Another option: use the six-session Getting Started booklet, which you can order from Reach Out Youth Solutions.)
(3) If he asks a question you can't answer, be honest. Say, "I don't know" Don't try to make up an answer. Tell him you will try to find the answer before you meet again.
(4) Don't get discouraged if the person does not respond as you had expected. The growth process takes time. If you keep on loving, nourishing, protecting, and training the other person, growth will take place.
Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) that some people would not grow after they received the Word, but that many others would grow by leaps and bounds. Your task is to follow up with people in the power of the Holy Spirit and then let God take care of their response. Remember this: "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:7-8).
Remember, helping new Christians grow is one of the great adventures of fol-lowing Jesus!
1. Study John 21:15-17 carefully and write down what you think your role is in feeding Jesus' "sheep."
2. Study the follow-up sessions at the end of the session. After reading through all four lessons, write an outline for each lesson on a 3" x 5" card. Use this when meeting with students for follow-up.
3. Think of one student who is a new or young believer. Set up an appointment with that student. During the next four weeks, share each of the lessons on follow-up with him/her.
4. Memorize I Peter 2:2 and maintain your daily time alone with God in Mark.
NOTE: A six session booklet entitled Getting Started placed in the hands of the new believer is an alternative tool that will help him/her grow. Order it from either our office (1-800-473-9456) or the Our Resources section of our site.
l. Begin with some friendly conversation. Use the FRIEND acrostic.
2. Go through the "Jesus: No Equal" booklet
(also available through Our
3. Help this student understand that Christ is in his life. Read and explain: (1) 2 Corinthians 5:17. (A new Christian begins a relationship with Jesus that's so completely different that the New Testament calls it "new birth;") (2) 1 John 5:11-13 (We can know that we have life); and (3) Romans 8:38-39 (Nothing can separate us from God's love.)
4. Ask: "What about feelings? What if you wake up one morning and don't feel like Jesus is in your life? Does that mean He has left you?" Explain that Christians do not need to depend on feelings.
Demonstration: Point out to your student an empty chair. Ask, "Will this chair hold your weight?" This represents a fact. Now ask, "Do you believe that this chair can support your weight?" If so, this is faith. Now ask your student to sit in the chair. Now you actually feel that you are sitting.
You have the comfort and security that result because your action to sit in the chair was taken by your faith based on the facts.
This demonstration illustrates the relationship of fact
(God and His Word), faith (our trust), and feeling (the result of trust).
(THE CHAIR GRAPHIC WHICH IS IN THE ORIGINAL BOOK, IS LEFT OUT TO OPTIMIZE DOWNLOAD TIME. WE USED THIS DEMONSTRATION INSTEAD.)
5. Focus on some practical ways to grow in Christ. Go over the last section of the "Jesus: No Equal" booklet.
6. Encourage questions. If you don't know the answer,
say so, and try to get the answer before you meet again.
7. Ask him to read Mark 1-4 and memorize 1 John 5:11-12 before you meet again. 8. After setting up a time to meet again, close in prayer.
CONFESSING SIN (Session # 2)
1. After some conversation, ask how things have been going since he received Christ. Try to discover any needs he has.
2. Ask: "Are you confident that your past, present, and future sins are forgiven?"
3. Explain that even though Jesus will never leave us, we Christians can easily take control of our own lives and not let Christ control us. That leads us into sin.
4. Explain that Jesus died to take away the penalty and power of sin, but the presence of sin still remains. Christians experience forgiveness when we honestly confess our sins to God.
5. Read 1 John 1:8-10 and explain that confession is agreeing with God concerning our sins. Point out that sin can be an attitude of indifference or rebellion toward God as well as an action. We agree that our sin is wrong and that Christ has for-given us through His death. Confession does not make us any more forgiven, but it acknowledges our sin to God and expresses our gratitude for His forgiveness. Confession keeps us in close fellowship with Christ.
6. Assign Mark 5-8 to read for the next appointment.
7. Set a time to meet again, then pray together.
FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Session # 3)
1. After casual conversation, ask, "How have you experienced God's forgiveness this week?"
2. Explain that God wants us to have an exciting life. In order to have that, we must live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Read the following verses to support the explanation: John 10:10; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22-23; and Ephesians 5:18.
3. Read Romans 8:9-11 and explain that the Holy Spirit lives in everyone who has received Christ. However, even though the Holy Spirit lives in every believer, He does not control every believer.
4. Explain that we are commanded to be controlled by the
Holy Spirit. Read John 20:22.
5. Read 1 John 5:14-15. Explain that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit by asking God to fill us. Ask your friend to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
6 Explain that a Christian may need to confess his sins and to ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit many times in one day. By these two steps, confession and filling, a Christian can live life at its best. Illustrate by using the following comparison. Say something like: "Physical breathing requires a simple two-step process. Exhaling removes impurities from our lungs. Inhaling brings in clean, pure oxygen. Spiritual breathing is similar. We exhale by confessing our sins (1 John 1:9). Then we inhale by asking God to fill us with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)." Explain how important it is to do this every day. Challenge him/her to use spiritual breath-ing every day this week.
7. Assign Mark 9-12 and memorize Ephesians 5:18 together.
8. Set up a time to meet together again, then pray together.
GETTING TO KNOW GOD (Session # 4)
1. After some casual conversation, ask, "How has the practice of spiritual breathing helped you this week?"
2. Show him the "wheel illustration based on Acts 2:42. Look up these verses as you
explain each segment.
Christ the Center (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20)
Obedience to Christ (John 14:21; Romans 12:1)
The Word (Joshua 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:16)
Prayer (John 15:7; Philippians 4:6-7)
Fellowship (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:24-25)
Witnessing (Matthew 4:19; Romans 1:16)
3. Talk about beginning a daily time alone with God. Look at Philippians 3:10 to discuss the purpose of spending time alone with God. Look at Mark 1:35 to see who set the example. Have time alone with God together using a Bible Response Sheet (like the one in Session 10), and a Prayer Action Sheet (like the one in Session 12). Focus on Galatians 2:20. Work on making the application personal, practical, and measurable.
4. Challenge him to have a time alone with God for 10
straight days. one verse each day from the list in question #2.
5. Ask him to finish reading Mark (chapters 13-16).
6. Talk to him about being baptized. If you have not done so, youth group.
7. Challenge him to get into a discipleship group using Following Jesus by Barry St. Clair. Give him this book as a gift.
This article is from ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR LEADING STUDENTS, which is Book THREE of the series, BUILDING LEADERS FOR JESUS-FOCUSED YOUTH MINISTRY, by Barry St. Clair (pp. 40-47, used by permission). This series of three books is designed for an adult leader to use in training other adults to share leadership in a local youth ministry. Find more about each book by visiting OUR RESOURCES.
Barry St. Clair is founder and director of Reach Out Youth Solutions, which equips youth workers and young people for strategic ministry through the church around the world. He has worked with youth leaders and young people for over 30 years in evangelism and discipleship. Barry holds both Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministries degrees and is the author of numerous books.