If heaven rejoices when someone gives their lives to Jesus (Luke 15:10), then we should, too. Jesus followers should be party people. But when the balloons begin to sag, and the sink overflows with dishes, new believers—and those who love them—need a plan. Surrendering their lives to Jesus was an enormous step, but their experiences with Christ have just begun. They need direction and support. New believers require next steps.
Churches and disciple-makers need to invest in the lives of new believers strategically, so they not only learn how to thrive as followers of Jesus but also get equipped to reproduce themselves. Beginning a relationship with God is not just about believing. It’s about following Jesus.
Here is the continuation of the list of 10 steps from Part 1. These steps feature ways for new believers to learn to connect with God on their own, recognize the value of community, and trust God when bad things happen. Click here for Part 1.
Next Step #6 — Get to know God
Key Truth: Spiritual growth
Develop healthy habits.
More and more restaurants and supermarkets highlight their healthy food options. Many people are developing new eating habits, disciplining their bodies to get or stay in shape. We need healthy spiritual practices, too. There are spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc. that give us the best opportunity to hear from God and obey him. But, just as a diet takes work, the same is true in our faith formation. Author Francis Chan writes, “The average Christian in the United States spends ten minutes per day with God; meanwhile, the average American spends over four hours a day watching television.” The TV or any electronic device can quickly become a web that captures our time. If you want to form your faith, avoid the trap, and develop the following habits:
- Read your Bible each day
- Pray to God throughout the day
- Attend church every week
- Serve at your church
- Participate in a small group
Let a trusted friend or the members of your small group know you’re trying to develop healthy spiritual habits, and ask them to hold you accountable. View these new habits as tools to help you grow, or fuel for your life.
Key Verse: Romans 12:1-2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
“Spiritual disciplines are to character transformation what calisthenics are to sport. They are tools that God provides in order to create the opportunity for inner transformation. But transformation of our character is developed as we begin to live out our new values among others.” – Bill Hull
Read your Bible 5-7 times a week for three weeks (that will help you develop the habit). Each day, write down one thing you learned that you could think about or apply that day.
Next Step #7 — Join a family
Key Truth: Church
You grow best with other believers.
We need one another. We need all the encouragement, love, forgiveness, instruction, kindness, goodness, peace, and hospitality that we can offer. The priority of community is so prevalent in the New Testament that the phrase “one another” is used sixty-one times. Fifty of those occurrences remind us what we are to do (love, greet, encourage, forgive, etc.). And eleven tell us what not to do (grumble, pass judgment, provoke, envy, etc.). Community life is essential. It’s not always a priority, however.
The irony is when I wrote “community life” above, I accidentally typed “community lite,” and, sadly, too many Christians settle for that. Nobody wins with community lite. All it provides is a half-hearted smile, a distracted welcome, and comments on the weather. Jesus wants more for us. He said, “Everyone will know you believe in me if you love one another” (John 13:35). Love requires action and commitment. When you see a need, be quick to meet that need. And when you can use help, don’t act as if everything is under control. Share with others so they can serve you.
Key Verse: Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
“Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful.” – Francis Schaeffer
Join a small group and model authenticity by sharing what’s going on in your life: the good, bad, and the frustrating.
Next Step #8 — Roll up your sleeves
Key Truth: Spiritual gifts
You have gifts to strengthen the church.
The Bible describes the church as a body. Every part of a human body is valuable, and the same is true in the church. Just as every part of the body can’t be a hand or the head, everybody in the church can’t be a greeter or in the band. We need to make sure all areas of the church get attention and care. In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes, “A friend of mine once said that Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.”
Nobody wins with community lite. All it provides is a half-hearted smile, a distracted welcome, and comments on the weather. Jesus wants more for us.
Ever eat soup with a fork? It can be done, but not effectively. If that’s your only utensil, you’ll probably drink it out of the bowl before using the fork. Perhaps you’re the soup spoon in the church, or the cheese grater, or the toaster. If you’ve ever thought you don’t have much to offer or time to serve, you’d be surprised. You’ve got more abilities than you think, and not every job requires a lot of time. You are part of the body, and the church is excited to now have a soup spoon! Or maybe you’re the can opener?
Key Verse: 1 Peter 4:10
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
“I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need.” – Millard Fuller
Sign up to serve at church. Don’t worry about finding the ‘perfect’ fit. Start serving, and you’ll find the right spot.
Next Step #9 — Don’t Lose Hope
Key Truth: Trials
You can trust God when bad things happen.
Here’s a “good news” sandwich for you:
Good news – When you asked Jesus to lead your life, he promised he’ll never leave you. He will be with you always.
Bad news – Having Jesus with you always doesn’t mean you’ll never have another problem. You still live in a world filled with sin, so “life happens.”
Good news – Whatever problem you face, you’ll confront it with Jesus. He will give you the strength and wisdom to deal with every situation.
You have a story, and it matters. Wild or tame, it’s your story, and it needs to be shared.
Jesus knows a thing or two about pain and suffering. He experienced the ultimate temptation, betrayal, and physical pain. There’s a Bible verse that reminds us to call on God in any situation boldly: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Prayer won’t magically make problems disappear, but the more we focus on God and remember he is with us, the better prepared we’ll be to respond to trials and overcome them.
Key Verse: Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“If you’ve ever had a day in which you’ve been blitzkrieged by demands, if you’ve ever ridden the roller coaster of sorrow and celebration, if you’ve ever wondered if God in heaven can relate to you on earth . . . take heart. Jesus knows how you feel.” — Max Lucado
Talk to God about any situation, and let others in your church know what’s going on, too. It’s good to have a friend in trying times so that, together, you can encourage and support one another as you watch God work.
Next Step #10 — Tell your story
Key Truth: Share your faith
No one knows your faith story like you do.
God has done and is doing exciting things in your life, so don’t keep them to yourself. Share with friends, family members, and others you see every day. Here are some ideas.
When people ask . . .
- “What did you do this weekend?” or “What have you been up to lately?”. . . talk about your time at church or another spiritual activity.
- “How are you doing?”. . . share what God has been teaching you.
When you’re with a group, get the conversation going by asking questions like . . .
- “What’s one thing you’re learning these days?” or “What’s one thing you’re excited about?”. . . and when it’s your turn, share one thing God has taught you.
- “What do you have planned tonight / this weekend?”. . . and when it’s your turn, tell about your plans for church or another Christian activity. If appropriate, extend an invitation.
You have a story, and it matters. And don’t think your story is boring. Wild or tame, it’s your story, and it needs to be shared.
Key Verse: Romans 1:12
When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). — The Apostle Paul
Ask God to provide natural opportunities to share your faith. Take advantage of them when they arrive.
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QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Is there a next step you think is missing? What would you add?