Tag Archives: new converts

Ways To Encourage Each Other – Adam Carlson

Webster defines encouragement in part as, The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.” Encouragement is something that everyone needs, especially within the body of Christ. The focus of this article will be to look at some ways in which this can be accomplished along with examples. This is a needed topic and one which will hopefully be beneficial to each reader.

Encourage by being there for one another.  Israel, the descendents of Jacob, fought against the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Ex. 17:8; cf. Ge. 36:8-16). During the battle, Moses was encouraged by Aaron and Hur to uphold his arms because he couldn’t do it alone (v. 12). It’s the same way today. One can’t do everything alone. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to be there for one another in times of need. The words of Solomon come to mind. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Pr. 27:10, ESV). When Christians realize the blessing of encouraging and being encouraged by one another, this is something that will become much easier to practice.

Please be there to fulfill the needs of brethren. I have been on the receiving end of encouragement during times of great need. The brethren stepped up and encouraged me and from their comfort I can hopefully pass on similar encouragement to others who need it.

Encourage by speech.  Hezekiah is a good example of one who could encourage. When he restored the system of worship as given to Moses, the following words are recorded: “And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Ch. 30:22).

In another instance during his reign Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Ch. 32:1). During this time of crisis, Hezekiah spoke to the commanders of the army: “And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah’” (2 Ch. 32:6-8).

Brethren can do a great work by simply speaking encouraging words. Christians are instructed to speak in a truthful and gracious manner (Ep. 4:25, 29; Co. 4:6). Words are indeed a powerful thing and great caution must be practiced before speaking (Ja. 1:19). The example of Hezekiah should be followed in that our words should encourage those who need it and inspire confidence in those who listen.

Encourage by helping new converts.  I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Barnabas, who is introduced in Acts 4:36. Notice how he was known as “the son of encouragement” because of his ability to encourage the brethren. Also consider the way he assisted Paul after his conversion. The brethren were experiencing a great deal of trepidation because of his previous conduct (Ac 9:26). Notice what Luke says next: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Ac. 9:27, emphasis mine). It must be realized that one who is new to the faith is need of encouragement often times due to their background. Some may face opposition from their families, others may face other struggles. They need to know they have people who love them and will do all they can to encourage them in their new walk.

Let us examine another episode in the life of Barnabas. Luke writes, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Ac. 11:23-24, emphasis mine). The church needs people of the character of Barnabas who will practice encouragement on a regular basis. Physically speaking, children – especially infants – are assisted in their growth and development. It’s no wonder Paul talks of this in a spiritual sense (1 Co. 3:1). He uses this same analogy in describing their approach to new converts in Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7). The writer of Hebrews speaks of his readers’ child-like state in spiritual growth (He. 5:12-13). Peter also uses similar language to describe this growth process (1 Pe. 2:2). There are none who would neglect to make sure infants are physically growing. It shouldn’t be any different with a new brother or sister in their spiritual growth. This is accomplished by continual teaching and encouragement as they grow.

Encourage by being present. Encouragement can be as simple as being physically present and assisting the brethren with a task. The descendants of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan River rather than accompany Israel to fight for the rest of the Promised Land, but Moses told them, “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them?” (Num. 32:7). We later read that they did what they were supposed to do and went into battle, thus encouraging rather than discouraging (v. 18).

People can be encouraged by our presence. It was for this reason that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus and Colossae (Ep. 6:21-22; Co. 4:7-9). Remember the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1). By being present when the church gathers Christians encourage and are encouraged by each other.

These are a few practical ways and examples of how individual Christians can encourage each other. We all need encouragement, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Encouraging someone doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as sending a note to someone who’s struggling with something in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one, finances, job security, or whatever other problem of life which comes their way. Encourage those who are laboring in a worthy manner to continue on in that good work.

It would be good to remember that there may be a time when you may be the one in need of encouragement. Therefore, help those who need it so you can first practice it in your own life. Remember the words of Paul when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac. 20:35, emphasis mine).

adamcarlson130@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Water Settles! – Terry Gunnells

Several years ago a resident at one of the apartment complexes in Montgomery, Alabama went to the dumpster to empty her morning coffee grounds and when she did, she thought she heard a baby whimper.  She strained to look over the side of the dumpster and much to her horror, she saw that she had dumped her coffee grounds in the face of a newborn baby.  The mother had given birth somewhere else, brought the baby to the complex, and thrown it in the dumpster.  Before you panic, the baby is now a healthy young girl in the home of a loving adoptive mother and father, loved and nourished and probably not even aware of her horrific birth story.

Are we stirring the baptismal waters and then throwing the new babes to the mercy of the world?  As the parable of the soil and seed teaches (Luke 8), we can’t control the hearts (soil) of converts but we must love and nourish them (the little plants) and give them the best chance of survival.  Even with the best of everything, only about one out of four will become mature Christians and effective leaders in the Lord’s church.

When Jesus gave the Apostles the Great Commission, He made the after baptism education equally as important as the before baptism teaching.  While wondering why those converted on the Day of Pentecost remained in Jerusalem, could it be partly because they were being nursed on the milk until such time as they could be weaned?  When they were persecuted and forced to scatter they could survive on their own.  A wonderful serendipity seemed to be that they went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4; Heb. 5:12).

I do not believe there is one exact way to teach new converts, but they must immediately learn the fundamentals of the faith in order to survive.  These basic doctrines must be repeated over and over again.  The three rules of learning are (don’t miss this):  Repetition!  Repetition!  Repetition!  They should hear it at home if they are from a Christian home.  They must hear it in the Bible classes.  They must hear it from the pulpit.  They must hear it in conversations with their Christian friends.  But let’s face it – none of this will take the place of a loving elder or mature Christian man or woman, sitting down with them in their home and teaching them to read the Scriptures for themselves and learning how to find answers as to how to live the Christian life.  How long this spoon fed nourishment lasts depends on the needs of the convert.

I love David Pharr’s book, The Beginning of Our Confidence.  It’s never too far from my sight.  But to give it to a babe who can’t hold his or her Bible yet is not nearly as effective as a loving Christian brother or sister discussing David’s book with them face to face once or twice a week.

Brother Stewart Schnur uses Christian Development, published by Sunset International Bible Institute, which is a 52-lesson fundamentals of the faith based material.  That, too, is most effective under a Christian tutor.  I am sure there are many other good faith development programs available.

Warning!  This one-on-one relationship of which I am writing has one objective: to make the new convert strong and independent.  If you as a mentor make them dependent on you and you control them, you have the wrong motive.  Control freaks have no place teaching new converts.  Paul did not encourage Timothy to teach men so he could control them, but so they could teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

Church leaders need to spot this kind of unhealthy relationship and break the pattern as soon as possible.  No “prayer partners,” please!

There are some things that happen to young Christians that are tragic and could be fatal if they are not guided through them with gentle hands: the ugly dismissal of the preacher, withdrawal from an errant member, a church fuss or split.  They will even encounter those who have been in the church for years and who are still juveniles in Christ.  These weak brethren should not be allowed to harm new Christians with their frivolous behavior such as childish public complaints and argumentative spirits.

Church leaders should curtail silly arguments over Christmas trees, bearing arms, voting, etc., and of course, matters of opinion.  When the new convert is exposed to such distasteful, immature antics before they are ready to digest them, they can be led through them with little or no damage by good elders or mature mentors.

There is definitely a biblical and common sense rule that dictates what each new convert needs.  Some have come from mature Christian homes and are way ahead of the game.  Others have been converted from denominationalism and must “unlearn” many bad habits and especially the language of their past religion.  This requires patience.

Unfortunately, our brethren are not always patient with the ones who use the “language of Ashdod” such as “pastor,” “reverend,” and call denominational people “brothers,” etc.  We treat them like a piñata and take a blind swing at them without taking into consideration their spiritual age.  This is where a good, caring tutor can rescue them from well-meaning but insensitive brethren.  One brother said to my wife when her father died, “Well, we know where our daddies are.  They both split Hell wide open.”

New Christians need an abbreviated introduction to the Restoration Plea.  When the first century doctrines are compared to the dogmas of the Catholic and Reformed faith groups, the new convert’s faith formation is well on its way.  If they internalize such slogans as “No Creed But Christ” and “No Book But The Bible,” they will be hard to lead astray.  New converts need to learn who the apostles were and what it means to follow such examples of the early church in Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7.  Add the slogans “Speak Where The Bible Speaks, Be Silent Where The Bible Is Silent,” and “Call Bible Things By Bible Names.”

Have the new convert learn how the Bible teaches:

  1. By statement of fact (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-2)
  2. By command (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 1 Cor. 14:37; Matt. 26:26-29)
  3. By approved example (Acts 20:7)
  4. By necessary inference (Acts 8:35-36 – it is inferred that preaching Jesus included preaching baptism.)

Have them learn the rules of specific and generic commands.  When a command is specific, it cannot be changed or substituted for in any way, shape, or form.  If it is generic, one can accomplish the command by whatever means are available to him or her, such as Noah selecting the tools to build the ark even though the dimensions could not be altered.

The new convert must have a healthy abiding love for Christ and an equally abiding love for His word.  The initial teaching emphasizes the belief in Christ that leads to baptism.  The same care must be given to the teaching that matures the convert into a full-grown Christian (Eph. 4:11-14).  Please, brethren.  Let’s not “duck ’em and turn ’em loose.”

teg8891@aol.com

Out On The Fringes – Roy Knight

(Brother Knight submitted the following in two parts.  We have combined them into one article so that readers can follow all his points.)

The room was painted.  The crib was put into place close enough to the window where there would be enough light but not enough to be directly on the new born.  The rocker was placed in the corner with a small stand to the right that would hold the mother’s drink and any other needed supplies during the long nights.  The changing table was decked out with enough diapers to last the first six months.  No detail had been overlooked.  The “nest” had been prepared to perfection.  Excitement could be felt throughout the house during the final week.  Then came the big day!  The baby, the pictures, the visits, what a wonderful experience!  After three days in the hospital, proud dad, glowing mom and precious baby come home.

After a week and a half of recovery, she returns to church, sits down on her pew and gets ready for worship.  People look at her puzzled and one finally asks, “Where is the baby?”  “Oh, I put him in the room we prepared for him a week and a half ago, closed the door and we haven’t heard from him since.”

Understandably, this story makes no sense.  Yet, this may be what we do in the church sometimes with our new converts.  We prepare programs, arrange door knocking campaigns and send out flyers.  We spend lots of money and time spreading the word and then one day there is one who says, “I too want to be a Christian.  What hinders me from being baptized?”  We are all excited.  The preacher rushed to put on his waders.  The congregation begins to sing “Oh, Happy Day.”  The confession is made and before long the baptism is finished.  There are smiles and some tears.  There are hugs and handshakes.  There are words of encouragement and promised support.  Then we all get in our cars and go home.

The next service there is an announcement or PowerPoint slide that says that Mr. or Mrs. Blank has been added to the body of Christ and some words of how glad we are to have them.  Then after six months, folks begin to look around and ask one another, “I wonder where they are?”  “You know I haven’t seen them for several months.”  “If they don’t come back soon we’ll have to withdraw fellowship from them.”

This doesn’t make any more sense than the first story, but in many ways they are the same.  We need to realize that whether physical or spiritual babies, we need to take care of them.  Too often we allow them to sit out on the fringes, that mysterious space that exists between being a non-member and a member in full standing.  There they feel like a bug under a glass, stared at to see what they will do.  Some lend a few kind but uncommitted words while others speculate how long it will be before they fall away.  How sad!

In order to keep a new convert the whole congregation must do its utmost to reach out to that new babe in Christ, not just the preacher or the one who studied with them but the whole congregation.  Studies have shown that unless the new convert makes three to four good friendships in the first year there is almost a one hundred percent chance they will leave the fold.  Who wants to stay where they are not wanted or loved?  Then we have the audacity to say, “I just knew they were not going to stay long.”  “I had doubts about them from the beginning.”  Yet, did we do anything to help them stay?

If we are going to pull those fringe Christians into the “inner circle,” we must give a little of our precious time to get to know them, to understand who they are, their stories, their aspiration and their needs.  We must befriend them, not look at them and smile as if they were a sack of potatoes.  We need to take them out for lunch and let them know that they are special and of a great value to us and to the Lord.  We need to spend time on their couch and they on ours talking and getting to know one another.  Not just one person but many strong Christians must work together as a safety net trying to keep the new convert from falling back out into the world.

How many of our “Oh, Happy Days” will fall flat because they did not finish the race?  How many of them could have made it through the Pearly Gate had we stuck with them, befriended them, encouraged them and bore their burdens?  I would speculate that there are several new babes sitting on the fringe right now crying for attention in our congregations.  What are we going to do about it?

Roy’s Happy Story

I was never a “fringe member.”

A fringe member is one who sits in the space between being lost and truly being incorporated into the Body of Christ.  O, yes, they have made the good confession; they have been baptized; they have had their sins washed away and there they sit asking themselves, “What next?”  They look at people passing them by, some nodding, and some stopping to make small talk about weather.

They come into the congregation and see things working like a well oiled machine: The preacher getting ready for his class, Bible teachers getting things ready for their classes and children and adults going to their classes.  Everyone seems to have a part to play and a place to be, except for them.  They sit down by themselves and smile at others around them and they smile back but very few words are spoken.

When the class is over, the machine begins to work again and people move with purpose:  Elders to their tasks; the preacher to his; the song leader to his and Christians to their spots to sin and to listen to God’s word.  Yet this person sits, looks around, participates but never feels like he or she is truly a part of the congregation.  Over time they mysteriously vanish, yet the machine keeps running as it always had except for an occasional question, “I wonder what ever happened to Brother or Sister ___________.”

I was never this person and I tell you why.  I had people walking me and some times dragging me every step of the way.  As a student at the College of Charleston, my roommate Ivan Adams invited and invited me to go to worship.  He patiently studied the Bible with me.  He put me in contact with Frank Shepard at the student ministry building.  We studied for months.  Every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night the van was there to pick us up for worship and Bible study at the North Charleston congregation.  There folks (strangers) came up to me, talked with me, gave me hugs (I thought that was strange since I did not know them and they didn’t really know me but I got used to it).  They invited me to stay for fellowship meals and many times I went with them to their homes.  To make a long story short, after a period of months and hard fought spiritual battles I became a Christian.

It did not stop there.  The van kept coming, my roommate kept encouraging me and the congregation kept spoiling me.  I’d go over to Ivan’s house on the weekends.  Other weekends, I’d be invited to Richard and Karen McWilliams’ for lunch.  The young adults would often get together at Frank and Jane’s house.  One time, the whole youth group went up to Palmetto bible Camp for a weekend.  Other times we practiced together for the Bible Bowl.  The list goes on and on.  That eventually led me to Freed-Hardeman University and to the East Tennessee School of Preaching.  Today, I am a full-time preacher and have been at it for 16 years.  During that time I have shared the gospel with many folks and a few of them I have baptized and still see their faces every Sunday morning.

I share this story with you to let you know that we cannot afford to have fringe people walking about in our midst.  We must reach out to them and pull them in.  We must give them every opportunity to see what the family of Christ is all about and to help them find their place in the church where they can feel a part and be a blessing to others.

rknight@homesc.com

Keeping New Life In Christ Alive And Growing – Burl Curtis

It is firmly established that there is new life in Christ.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).  But whether it is plant or animal just beginning a new life is not the goal.  A farmer may plant a field of wheat; he will be glad when it comes up a good stand; but he will be very disappointed if it stands there and doesn’t grow and instead withers and dies.  He will have no grain to make bread.  The same is true of a dairy calf.  If it doesn’t stay alive and grow he will have no cow to produce milk.

The one who has new life in Christ must keep it alive and growing.  In fact Peter said, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pet. 2:20-21).

Need to have a good start.  Are you truly sorry for the sins you have committed?  Do you strongly determine to never sin again and stay true to the new life you have received?  Whether you stay alive and grow will depend largely on how much you want to.  When people do not remain faithful, “they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6b).  If you have a great love for Jesus you certainly would not want to crucify Him again and put Him to open shame.

To keep the new life alive and growing we must keep the lines of communication open and in use.  We might have the latest communication device but if we don’t use it, we can’t stay in touch with our friends.  God keeps in touch with us through the Bible and we stay in touch with Him through prayer.  To keep the new life in Christ alive and growing we need to read the Bible and pray.  Paul told Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13).  He also told the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Choose a congregation that teaches the truth and become a member of it.  Attend faithfully and get involved in the work.  We need the encouragement of our brethren.  Barnabas was a great example of this.  When “Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), stayed in Jerusalem longer than they had intended to, Joses (Barnabas) sold land and laid the money at the apostles’ feet to take care of them and the widows (Acts 4:36-37; 6:1).  After his shipwreck on his way to Rome, Paul received encouragement when he saw the brethren coming out to meet him and his companions “as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns.  When Paul saw them he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15).  This is a strong reason we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” for it is in the assembly that we “stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24-25).

Pick companions who will help you stay alive and grow.  Paul said, “Do not be deceived, ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” (1 Cor. 15:33).  If you start running with a crowd who spends all their time playing video games, watching TV, talking on and watching smart phones, you will find you have no time to remember God or keep your new life in Christ alive.

Choose a husband or wife who will help you remain a faithful worker for the Lord.  Sometimes family members will not support your new life; this makes it much harder but you must love the Lord more.  Jesus commanded “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).

Know your gifts.  God has given everyone gifts that may be used in service to Him.  Knowing your gifts is not enough.  You must use those gifts and become more skilled in using them (Matt. 25:14-30).

Keep good reading materials, DVDs, and tapes in your home.  These items are good if they teach the truth.  To keep the new life in Christ alive and growing you must have your “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).  All sermons, Bible teaching materials, religious articles and TV programs must be checked by the Scriptures.  Gospel publications try to teach the truth, but the articles are written by men and are subject to error.  So check everything by the Holy Scriptures.

Keep your heart humble.  Over and over God’s people in the O.T. forgot God and were lifted up with pride.  They sinned and aroused God’s anger and suffered defeat.  Like Jesus, we must remain “meek (gentle) and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).

burlcurtis@yahoo.com