Easter is just about three weeks away. Easter Sunday is a big Sunday for churches everywhere. Not just because of the significant meaning it has for our faith, but also because it is historically a weekend when we will have more people in church than any other weekend of the year.
For some reason, at least in American culture, people are more open to coming to church on Easter than any other time of the year. For me, Easter has always been a time of discerning how to preach the gospel in a biblical, interesting, and compelling way. And we are hopeful and prayerful that people will find Christ.
Whatever the style or tradition of your church, Easter is a time when new babies are birthed into the family of God. It is the moment that we often refer to as conversion or regeneration. It is the supernatural experience of someone in an instant moving from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive (Ephesians 2).
We celebrate that moment. We love to see people get saved. This is such a big deal that Luke 15 says that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. A new baby has been born. Someone’s eternal destiny has been forever changed.
But what then?
Sadly, too many pastors and too many churches put all the focus on birthing babies and not raising kids. Having a baby implies raising a baby.
So, here is an important question for you to consider this Easter. “What is your plan for follow up of new believers?”
For much of the time I was on staff at Saddleback Church in California I was responsible for the follow up of new believers. It was not unusual for us to see hundreds of people come to Christ at Easter. So being responsible for follow up was a sobering stewardship.
We tried a variety of different approaches to help new believers get started in following Jesus. We did new believer classes, offered new believer receptions, made phone calls, and created new believer resources that we gave away. And usually there was an underwhelming response to what we offered.
Honestly, it was quite frustrating. We had an authentic desire to help these new Christians begin to grow in their faith.
Then, one day I felt like God gave me a breakthrough in my understanding of how to best help new believers. Think biological family and physical birth.
The same way we care for a baby born into our family is the way we care for a new believer. As a result, I came to this conviction… The greatest gift we give a new believer is not information, it is RELATIONSHIP. The primary need of a new believer is nurture not knowledge.
When a child is born into a family, at first there is very little teaching. It is more about affection, attention, love, and nurture. That is not to say that teaching and training is not important. It is important, getting these new Christians into relationship with other believers is the first priority.
In some respects, a ministry to new believers should be an adoption placement service. We have new babes in Christ who need to placed with healthy spiritual families (small groups).
A passage in 1 Thessalonians 2 was the passage that changed my paradigm for how we help new believers. Paul said to these early Christians…
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. 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 2:7b-8 (NIV)
Those verses ooze with relationship.
I know that even when it comes to relationships we can’t force new believers. There must be a dependence upon the Holy Spirit and His role in spiritual growth. There is a part of spiritual growth that is beyond the natural. It goes beyond a good strategy, a good plan, or a gifted discipler. There is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that brings lasting transformation.
Yet, true discipleship of new believers always involves the vital role of human beings. The Holy Spirit partners with available and faithful believers to bring growth and maturity in the life of a new Christian.
So, this Easter, make sure that when a new baby is born into the spiritual family of your church, do your best to get them connected into life-giving relationships. For it is out of the fertile soil of “community” that they will move toward “maturity”.
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