Summary: When new people come into the church they need attention just as Saul needed it. Let’s think about specific needs they have. 1- They need acceptance 2- They need protection 3- They need patience 4- They need instruction
INTRO.- How were you treated the first time you ever came to church? Obviously, if you were raised in the church as a child, more than likely, you were treated well.
Of course, if a certain little child comes to the preacher, looks up at him and says, "You have a big belly." That child WILL NOT get treated as well as others! But what if you were an adult? What if you came into the church at some later time in your life? Say you were anywhere from 25 to 55 years old? How were you treated? How did people respond to you?
ILL.- Bob Russell of Louisville, KY, tells this story about the time when he was a student at Cincinnati Bible College in the 1960’s. IN MY SENIOR year at Bible college, I met a tall, gangly basketball player from the University of Cincinnati. He was 6’ 11" and weighed 190 lbs. He had been an All-American from New York state. We struck up an unusual friendship. I’d grown up in a Christian home and was studying for the ministry, but Neil had almost no Christian training or understanding. In fact, he was the most foul-mouthed person I had ever met! When we would meet to go to a basketball game, for the first ten minutes he would just spew out profanity until he would remember whom he was with.
About the only common interest we had was basketball, and we went to each other’s games. But as that friendship great, I invited Neil to go with me to the country church where I preaching on weekends. He was an instant hit with the people because of his height and they were an instant hit with them because they fed every Sunday after church.
He came with me several times and finally the basics of the Christian life began to sink in. I had the opportunity to study the Bible with him on several occasions. Then one Sunday morning in that country church, Neil walked forward and gave his life to Christ.
His baptism was very unusual. The baptistery was right under the pulpit area where they had to move the pulpit to a trap door. The candidate had to walk across the platform from the changing room. When Neil came out of the changing room, I could hardly keep from laughing. He had put on the longest robe we had and it still looked like a miniskirt. It came down to the middle of his thighs. He got into the baptistery and I baptized him in sections. I thought I would never get him back up! BUT IT WAS A GREAT DAY OF REJOICING AS NEIL GAVE HIS LIFE TO CHRIST.
About two weeks later, a group of us from the seminary were playing basketball at the local ’Y.’ Neil was playing with us. He took an elbow to the ribs and winced with pain and also let fly a four-letter word. He shouldn’t have done that but I was kind of proud of him because I had heard him use a lot worse than the one he selected!
But one of the preacher boys stopped the game and put the ball under his arm and said, "Well, is that any way for a Christian to talk?"
No, it wasn’t, but IT WASN’T ANY WAY FOR A NEW CHRISTIAN TO BE TREATED EITHER. That young preacher failed to understand where Neil was coming from. He failed to be patient and sensitive.
Henry Drummond wrote, "How many prodigals are kept out of the kingdom of God by the unlovely character of those who profess to be on the inside." Brothers and sisters, how do we treat people when they come to church? And how do we treat them when they come into the church?
PROP.- When new people come into the church they need attention just as Saul needed it. Let’s think about specific needs they have.
1- They need acceptance
2- They need protection
3- They need patience
4- They need instruction
I. THEY NEED ACCEPTANCE
Acts 9:19 "Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus." He was apparently accepted by the Christians. And that was a good thing because not everyone accepted him.
Acts 9:26-27 "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus."
I supposed if a known murderer had just become a Christian and wanted to join our church it would be natural to be skeptical or afraid. It might be like scarface Al Capone trying to join a church. However, in Paul’s case, he had a friend named Barnabas who accepted him and introduced him to others as being a real Christian.