You want your church to be healthy and vibrant, and you want to see people grow and reproduce their faith. It all begins with how we respond to new—or young—believers. One simple tip can foster a hopeful and encouraging evangelistic culture. And two warnings can protect you from unintentionally crippling the faith formation of new believers.
Tip: Celebrate Good Times!
Following Jesus is more than a casual response. It’s a commitment that transfers the deed of a new believer’s life to Jesus’ control. Kind of a big deal and one worth celebrating. Jesus recognized the value of celebration. In Luke 15:10, after a woman rejoices over finding a lost coin, he says, “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” Churches should celebrate a person’s decision to follow Jesus or someone’s recommitment to Jesus. Even look for faith steps anyone takes and acknowledge them publicly or privately.
Celebrating is healthy. It not only commemorates a life-changing decision, but it reminds the rest of the church that a (spiritual) baby has been born. Just as friends and relatives come alongside parents when a physical child is born, bringing gifts and meals and making themselves available to help, the church must respond similarly with the arrival of a spiritual baby. Rally around new believers, offer assistance, help them learn how to feed themselves and teach them to walk. Without this, your church will fill with spiritual babies who fail to thrive and become dependent upon the church for sustenance.
A helpful practice is developing a “sponsorship” program, a simple gesture that connects a new believer with a more experienced believer. There can be a formal curriculum, but it’s best to provide someone available for “need to know” learning. When people need an answer, they are motivated to listen and learn.
A second suggestion is offering a simple 4-6 week study that can be done in a small group or with a sponsor. Or offer tips to get started–best used with a sponsor–like this list and and this list.
Warning 1: Don’t Create Spiritual Orphans
Many churches celebrate, but then cross that off their To-Do list and focus on the next church activity. Beware of busy. Busy churches are not always healthy churches.
Spiritual activities can be constructive, but they can also be destructive. Busy churches don’t strive to be unhealthy. But when a church fills its calendars with classes and activities they’ve “always done,” without considering how each scheduled item fulfills the church’s mission to make disciples, the church is prone to evaluate their success by attendance rather than changed lives. An unevaluated church calendar is a costly mistake and runs the risk of raising spiritual orphans.
A church filled with spiritually immature believers who can’t feed or reproduce themselves is not a church. It is an orphanage. This is not a judgment, but it is both an assessment and a warning. Healthy churches don’t let young believers grow into spiritually immature older believers. We can do better. And we must, or we will negatively impact a generation of new believers.
A church filled with spiritually immature believers who can’t feed or reproduce themselves is not a church. It is an orphanage.
A busy but unhealthy church also reinforces the false gospel of busyness. This teaching says Jesus loves you WHEN you attend our events. It reveals itself through unending lists of activities that targets everyone. This gospel is not good news, especially if you are unable to participate in every offering.
Warning 2: Don’t Serve Candy for Dinner
Some churches show their generosity and commitment to new believers by providing a new Bible as a gift—a beautiful and wonderful idea! It’s a visual reminder of what Jesus has done in their lives, and it reinforces they are part of a church community.
However, a Bible is only beneficial if a person is taught to read it.
Giving a Bible to new believers without helping them understand how to read it and connect with the God who loves them can be dangerous. Imagine giving a child a credit card and asking him to purchase groceries for the week. You hope they buy fruits and vegetables and proteins, but they don’t know how to do that, nor do they want that. Instead, they purchase candy, chips, cereal with cookies in it [Cookie Crisp? Really?], and more candy. In the end, they end up sick and malnourished.
A new believer will be motivated to read the Bible, but he won’t know where to begin. He will likely start at the beginning. By the time he is midway through Leviticus, he will become disillusioned and decide it is best to leave Bible reading to the professionals. As a result, his Bible will become a good luck charm he looks at rather than a love letter he reads from his heavenly father. Dangerous.
Churches and disciple-makers need to strategically invest in the lives of new believers so that they not only learn how to thrive as followers of Jesus but also get equipped to reproduce themselves. Next week, we will look at practical steps your church can take to create a reproducing culture while at the same time developing a system to protect and provide for the new believers God brings to you.
NOTE: I recognize not everyone reading this can make changes at your church. But everyone can pray for their church leaders, respectfully share ideas, and independently act on those ideas.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What do you think would be a good first step a church can take in serving a new believer? Or, what has helped you grow your faith?
6 thoughts on “1 Tip and 2 Warnings That Will Make Your Church Better”
Having just completed some To-Do Lists, this was very helpful, especially the part about being too busy.
Thanks, Gregg, for your ministry!
Thanks for the reply, Nathan. Yes, we can be busy. Too busy. Let’s be strategic!
The word orphan scares me because it is totally opposite to the will and heart of God. Following calendars and activities will turn us into a religious person, empty and lonely. Help us Lord to learn how to be part of the body of Christ in the kingdom of God. Help me to share what you have given me to others. Mathew 10:8
So, so true! Thanks, Alma. “Scared” is an appropriate word. That is a healthy fear. May we put more of a priority on God and what he is doing than on our clocks and calendars.
This couldn’t have come at a better time….. a very dear friend had a very big Jesus moment ( I will tell you all about it when we have a moment) and is not a big believer prior to this. We talked for 3 hours because she wanted me to know about how she was feeling but I haven’t had a chance to talk with her again to keep her on this road and inform and enlighten her and it’s upsetting me. I think being busy is really what keeps me from doing the things I want to do on my road with Jesus..
Thanks for sharing, Lisa. While it sounds like you are frustrated, I actually think you have made a great discovery about what really matters! Let this be a reminder for you going forward about taking advantage of opportunities that can make an eternal impact. And while you’re thinking about it, give your friend a call now. I’ll pray!