Our home has always been a place of endless activity. We have raised four children, welcomed their friends, and now we have seven grandchildren from age 4 on down. When we all get together, we have sixteen people in our home! It is a blessing even if it gets a little chaotic at times.
In every situation, I always find some humor. Our main dog 11 year old Roscoe P. Coltrain is being joined by Beau. I instantly thought of "The Dukes of Hazzard". Remember "Bo" Duke and "Luke"? While my husband's car is red, it doesn't sound like the "General Lee" when the horn sounds, and I certainly am not Daisy; however, little Beau is from Kentucky! :)
Our main job the next nine months will be to teach Beau how to behave and socialize with guests who come to our home. He needs to learn to alert us when to take him outside (at present, we are trained to take him out) and he needs to learn to quietly go to his cage at night to sleep. He is a bright dog who seems eager to please. I am taking advantage of all the positive reinforcement I can. As I considered the job of teaching a puppy how to behave and thought about all our grandchildren and the lessons they need to learn, it crossed my mind that as the Body of Christ we have an important job to do as well.
Into our fellowships, many new believers come. They have made a commitment to Jesus Christ but many of them do not really understand the rudiments of the faith. In fact, they are babies in the faith who need to be loved, nurtured, taught and cared for by more mature believers. It is not just the pastor's job to instruct them. Without serious discipleship, these new believers will remain on milk never developing a hunger for the real meat of God's Word. The book of Hebrews addresses this in chapter 5:12: "In fact, by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food." The consequences of stunted Christian growth include: 1) still living with one foot in the world and the other in Christ 2) inability to deal with the crises of life from the standpoint of a deep rooted faith 3) easily blown about by every wind of doctrine and 4) difficulty in resisting temptation. So how can we help new believers or even long time believers who have never grown in their faith move on into maturity?
Many years ago, a wonderful pastor Dr. Russell Jones, taught us about discipling those who are babes in Christ. We had a special ministry set up which paired a more mature believer with someone who was a babe in Christ. Following a basic Christian handbook along with the Bible, we went through the fundamentals of the faith. This not only created fellowship but allowed time to ask questions without being embarrassed or intimidated. This discipleship training produced good fruit in the body.
Other churches offer new member classes where the basics of the faith are taught along with a history of the church. Still others offer catechism classes to ensure that new believers understand the tenets of Christianity. Underpinning all of this, though, is the preaching of the Word each Lord's Day. As members of a fellowship, we can encourage new believers to attend church each week. Perhaps we can offer them a ride or plan to make a lunch date after the service. It is the responsibility of the entire Body to help a babe in Christ grow. Of course, we cannot make anyone do so if they are unwilling, but our responsibility is to attempt ways to assist them as the Lord leads.
Sunday school, small group Bible studies as well as one on one time are all means by which we can help individuals reach their full potential with God's help. We would never think of abandoning a baby to care for itself nor would we leave a puppy untrained if we value our property and care for the animal. It takes time, effort and patience, but we are called to help one another grow in the knowledge of Christ.
In the next nine months, I am hoping to teach Beau how to walk by my side without dragging me, obediently go to his kennel at night time without barking, and avoid having accidents in the house. He is a puppy and will require lots of love and patience. We, as the Body of Christ, likewise have a responsibility to assist in discipling babes in the Lord. This will not only bring glory to God but it will cause us to grow as well. May God help us all to be faithful in this task! Selah!
What does your church do to help new believers grow? I welcome your thoughts.