God has called us to be fishers of men. And like a lot of fishermen, far too many of us prefer sitting on the shore with a line dangling in the water to actively trying to catch something. When we do manage to haul someone out of the water, the task of teaching them what it means to be a Christian seems so daunting, it can be tempting to cut the line and let them go. But that is no way to treat our brand new brothers and sisters. It’s time we start taking responsibility. You catch it, you clean it.
Paul knows more than most people about introducing baby Christians to their new way of life. If you’re worried about how much time and effort this is going to take, it’s good that you recognize the substantial commitment this is. But it’s not actually that bad. If we follow Paul’s example, we really only need to do two things.
Connect Them to a Church
Christians need to be part of a local church. Jesus never intended His disciples to be lone rangers. We are called into the community of believers just as much as we are called under the Lordship of Christ. Yes, the church has flaws and has made mistakes and has inadvertently hurt people. It’s still the best thing we have on this earth to encourage us in our relationship with God.
The easiest and most natural way to connect a new believer to a church is to invite them to go with you to yours. If nothing else, it’s a good starting point to get them in the habit of going to church. But they don’t have to join your church just because you’ve taken them under your wing. If they don’t live nearby, it may not be feasible. Or, geography aside, your church just might not be the best fit for them. Don’t shun them just because they’ve chosen to be part of a different congregation.
Offer to attend different services with them until they find a church they feel comfortable in. And then do your research, because comfort should not be the determining factor in church membership. As the mentor in this relationship, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the church they have picked is Biblically solid and under trustworthy leadership. If you have concerns, present them to your friend as honestly and unbiased as you can. If they won’t listen, they won’t listen, but you still have to try.
Paul went to the extreme of planting new churches so that the people he introduced to Christ would have somewhere to gather for worship and discipleship. This is generally unnecessary, but go for it if you feel so called or are an extreme over-achiever.
Stay In Touch
The second thing you have to do with new Christians is stay in touch with them. Between email, social media, snail mail (yup, that’s still a thing), phones, smoke signals, and carrier pigeons, you can find something that works no matter where they live in relation to you. Even if they join another church, don’t assume that your responsibility is over. Just a friendly, “Hey, thinking of you, how’s it going?” can make a world of difference to someone struggling in their new faith.
Just like many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be lost, many of us have also forgotten what it is like to be the new kid on the block in church. It can be intimidating to break into a new circle of people. It can feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t know what to do next, or the only one who doesn’t understand some of those words the preacher keeps using over and over, like sanctification. It can feel like nobody has noticed that you started coming and no one would care if you quit.
So stay in touch with people who are still figuring out how to be a Christian. (Never mind, that’s all of us.) Reach out just to let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them. Let them know it’s okay to be confused. Let them know it’s okay to have doubts and questions. Let them know it’s okay to not be okay with everything they’ve read or heard or experienced since becoming a Christian. Let them know that you are there for them. It’s the best way to help them believe that God is always there for them too.
Paul managed to send letters all over the Mediterranean when there was no postal service. He kept in touch with new Christians even when he was in the middle of planting other churches. He was concerned with their problems when he was in prison. We have no excuse to not stay in touch.
It’s time we start considering ourselves a real family. It’s time we take our responsibilities to our little brothers and sisters seriously. It’s time we step up and reach out, instead of always expecting someone to reach out to us. No more sitting on the shore pretending we’re more engaged than we really are. Fish or cut bait.