"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV 1984)
A few years ago, one of my son's friends, Lindsey, began asking some big questions. He had the chance to talk with her about Jesus, and at a church youth retreat Lindsey gave her life to the Lord.
It was a thrill to watch her fall in love with Jesus and begin a brand new life. She had lots of questions and thankfully many people lived out 1 Thessalonians 2:8 for her: "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." (NIV 1984)
Friends put aside the time they'd normally spend watching TV to come alongside Lindsey. She was surrounded with support at school. Others got up early to pick her up for church and welcomed her in their youth group. Adult friends visited Lindsey's home and built relationships with her family. And I led a small group to help teach some of the basic foundations of the faith and practices that lead to spiritual growth.
I haven't always walked alongside new believers though. Sometimes I've abandoned them, without sharing my life or what I've learned. Sadly, when I look around me, often newborn Christians are sent out into their fresh spiritual life with little more than a "God bless you" and pat on the back.
These excited new followers of Jesus set off on an unfamiliar path brimming with zeal and hope. But they stumble quickly without mature Christians to answer their questions, clear up confusion, and encourage them through the inevitable rough spots. Although no one can snatch them from their Father's hand, many new Christians fall prey to discouragement and walk along paths that Scripture warns against.
There are many reasons that new Christians are abandoned and left to walk alone without nourishment or protection. One key reason is the busyness of our culture. Our time is stretched between families, jobs, friendships, computer, TV, etc.
Nurturing a baby Christian means sharing our lives, like 1 Thessalonians 2:8 says. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes commitment. But most of all it takes love. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism, says, "There is a lot of talk in the church about evangelism and Christian nurture, but little concern for personal association when it becomes evident that such work involves the sacrifice of personal indulgence."
Ouch! I really wish he would move along and get out of my personal space! He continues, "Unless new Christians have parents or friends who will fill the gap in a real way, they are left entirely on their own to find the solutions to innumerable practical problems confronting their lives, any one of which could mean disaster to their new faith."
Lindsey doesn't have a lot of pain in her background. But what about baby Christians who have baggage? Financial crisis, promiscuity, addiction, and bitterness are just a few of the very real issues with which new Christians grapple ... and mature Christians can help them walk through based on what the Bible says.
Will we commit to feeding, nurturing, and loving these new followers of Jesus? It may seem easier to gently pat them on the back and walk away, but the toll is too high not to invite them into our lives. Trusting in the transforming power of Christ and asking Him to make us an instrument of His grace, let's care for these precious new believers.
Dear Lord, You are a kind, loving, and nurturing Father. Help me to follow in Your footsteps as I nurture Your new children. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: Feed—Ask a young Christian to attend a Bible study with you. Go out to coffee to discuss it afterward.
Nurture—Call a new Christian to share something that helps you to grow. Ask for requests and pray with her.
Protect—Do you see a new Christian struggling with a sin with which you've found victory? Be transparent and share your story!
Power Verses: 1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (NIV)
© 2013 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org