28 October, 2003 4:43 PM
Recently I've found myself in a number of conversations with new Christians.
Its so exciting to spend time with people who have just made a decision to journey with Jesus and who are discovering God in new ways. They have so much energy, so much passion and the biggest and most fantastic ideas about sharing Jesus with those around them. It is inspiring to hang with them.
Having had these conversations I'm left asking the question 'What do we do with new Christians?'
In some senses they are 'babies' in their faith, they don't know much, sometimes they come with 'rough edges' and behavior that disturbs those of us who have lived our lives almost exclusively in church circles.
One of the typical responses that I've seen from churches is to extract the new Christian out of their current life and place them in a new and improved one. This is done for their protection and to build them up in faith. They are told to 'clean up their act' behaviorally, to stop hanging around with their current friends (who have a bad influence on them) and to spend copious amounts of time at church services, in bible study groups, in new believers classes, baptism classes and socializing...sorry 'in fellowship'... with their new family.
Whilst I agree there are times when extraction might be good (ie in cases of addiction or abuse) I wonder if it is really a wise - or biblical - approach.
Neil Cole recently said 'What you do with a new Christian in the first 24 hours is crucial - the first 24 hours is like an imprint upon their lives that will greatly impact how they live for years to come.' He went on to say that if you treat them like 'babies', they will usually continue to live as babies.
His approach was very different. It included immediate baptism (no classes or preparation period), immediate immersion in Scripture (they get them into small groups that read 30 chapters a week) and immediate evangelism and praying for friends. They are not babied but rather their energy and passion is harnessed and the momentum is allowed to continue. New Christians are not extracted from their network, rather the aim is to start a new church within it. The new Christian instantly becomes a missionary in the world they live. As a result they often see whole families, groups of friends and networks won for Christ very quickly.
This approach makes a lot of sense to me. What do you think?