Assimilating New Believers

By R. Larry Moyer

How do you encourage those who are excited about Christ to be excited about church? Once they enter the front door how do you keep them from going out the back door? How do you assimilate new believers into the life and activity of the local church?

Too quickly we lay Scripture aside and attempt to come up with an answer on our own. The Scriptures don’t tell us everything that might be considered helpful in incorporating believers into the life and activity of the church, but they do give much needed guidance.

Here is what is of utmost importance. To miss this is to miss the most important element. That is, the New Testament does not tell us how to assimilate believers into the local fellowship. It tells us how to get close to new believers. Once we get close to new Christians, we will have the relationship needed to encourage their active involvement.

Examine the pointed language Paul uses regarding his relationship with new believers. He reminds them in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” In Paul’s mind, they were not just God’s children. They were his children. He tells the new believers of Thessalonica, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

I find no place in the New Testament where the primary emphasis toward a new believer is “Now come to church.” Instead, it’s that of the believer drawing close to the new convert. That relationship allows for much needed flexibility. That flexibility is reflected in Paul’s words, “As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:11).

Does such personal attention involve time and hard work? Most certainly. In the New Testament nearly forty people were associated with Paul in missions of follow-up. Should a significant number come to Christ, it is far more than one believer or a few believers can handle. Paul alludes to that hard work when he testifies in Colossians 1:29, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Labor typifies work that can sometimes be exhausting. One can lead a person to Christ in five minutes, but it may take close to five years to see him actively growing.

With that as a basis, what are some biblical and practical ideas for assimilating new believers into the life and activity of the local church?

Disciple them once a week for eight weeks. Remember that your first concern is not to get them close to the church but instead to get another believer close to them. A person came to Christ in one of our outreaches and is now a leader in his church once said, “To this day I don’t remember one thing that those who discipled me covered. I just remember they were at my door once a week for eight weeks.” Paul’s emphasis “as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” and “as a father does his own,” consistently demonstrated over several weeks makes the difference. Can you continue beyond eight weeks? Sure, but remember, he or she is a new convert, not used to close relationships with other believers. It’s less threatening to suggest getting with them once a week for eight weeks than to suggest once a week for eight months.

As you meet one-on-one, what do you talk about during that eight-week period? It is important to discuss five subjects: 1) Don’t assume his salvation. Go over the basic elements of the gospel to make sure he understands it. Assure him of his salvation through a study of John 5:24 and 1 John 5:11-13. 2) Approach communication with God through Bible Study and prayer. Bible Study is when God speaks to him. Prayer is when he talks to God. Recommend he start with the book of Philippians, the simplest book of the Bible and one that talks about daily Christian living. Suggest he read a chapter a day and stay in that book for a month. 3) Emphasize baptism using passages such as Acts 2:41. Explain that baptism has no saving value but is the first step of discipleship. It is a biblical way to tell others “I belong to Christ and intend to walk in obedience to Him.” 4) Stress fellowship with those in a local church. Using Hebrews 10:24-25, remind him that he needs other believers and they need him. His testimony and enthusiasm can have a dynamic impact upon others. Don’t merely suggest he go to church. Ask him to come with you. 5) Help him evangelize. The first thing Christ taught His disciples was, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Teach him a simple method of sharing the gospel. Pray with him about lost acquaintances he would like to see come to Christ and encourage him to share the gospel with them.

Pray for them. Paul’s concept of discipling new believers reveals that prayer was an essential part of his follow-up. His prayer for the new converts of Ephesus was that they would pursue the course they had begun and grow in their knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1: 15 -23). His prayer for the new converts of Colosse was that they would have wisdom and understanding, both spiritually given, that would allow them to comprehend God’s desire for their lives (Colossians 1:9-14). Pray for each convert by name and pray specifically - the same way you would have desired people to pray for you. Speak to God about their growth, adjustment to their new life, victory over temptation, and their witness to lost acquaintances.

Involve them in appropriate tasks in the local church. 1 Timothy 3:6 warns us not to make new converts leaders in the church. They need to grow before they lead. Use them in areas where they are capable, not areas where they will be capable a year from now. One church in Ohio asked a contractor who was a new believer to help build a pavilion in the church picnic area. That task was used of the Lord to encourage him to be a growing, active member of the church.

Does the above work? Most definitely and for one reason - it’s based on biblical teaching. One man with whom the above approach was used said to me, “It seems rather strange. Before I came to Christ, I wouldn’t have even entered a church. Now I can’t get enough of it.” Years later, the pastor referred to him as “one of our best leaders.”

Draw close to new believers and allow God to use you to draw them close to your church.

Larry Moyer is President of EvanTell and Evangelist Consultant for IFCA International.

Used by permission of EvanTell, Inc. an evangelistic association headquartered in Dallas, Texas.The website is http://www.evantell.org/.

3 comments, please add yours.

  1. Sharon Daniels says:

    Really like this! Some very practical to do’s for discipling new believers. Requires commitment on my part and discipline and having to get priorties in the right order. So many worldly distractions to take us away from serving Christ and the Great Commission.
    Thank you for printing this article.

  2. Taiwo says:

    To say the fact much has been committed into the Gospel in the past but almost nothing has been received. Why? There has not be a thorough follow up. Thank God for an atticle like this May we not just be readers but doers of what we read.God bless you.

  3. keni d taremobowei says:

    I have been quite touched,challenged and determined to make the much needed impact by implementing the various principles i had gather from your work.

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