When the apostle Paul left Thessalonica, he did not abandon the new believers but sent Timothy to establish and encourage them in the faith (1 Thess. 3:2). Once people trust Christ, don’t leave them alone! New believers who begin the Christian life are at a critical point. Leaving the old life behind isn’t easy. Though the Holy Spirit provides the power to live victoriously, old patterns, old habits, and old temptations are still there. They need mature believers to walk alongside them while they take their first steps on the road to maturity.
Here are four principles for assisting new believers in their initial growth. They take a very real commitment, but the results are eternal.
1. A commitment to grace—Approach new believers with a gracious attitude born out of understanding where they are and what they need.
- New believers need parental attention. Paul considered the new believers as his own, not just God's children. That attitude helped him to extend abundant grace.
- New believers need a relationship more than materials. Excellent resources exist for new believers, but the most effective resource continues to be a friend. They need someone to help them with many of the simple, basic first steps.
- New believers need flexibility. All children grow at different rates. Paul conveyed in 1 Thessalonians 2:11 that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged” them In the process of spiritual growth. Different personalities, circumstances and needs require us to be flexible in our approach to discipleship.
2. A commitment to time and hard work—Walking alongside new believers in their first steps of spiritual growth takes time and hard work. As a bare minimum, new believers need discipleship a minimum of once a week for eight weeks. The first eight weeks are sometimes when new converts face their greatest adjustments, strongest temptations, and biggest doubts. To have a brother or sister in Christ meeting with them makes a marked difference.
3. A commitment to maturity—The goal should not be merely to get them to church but for new believers to become like Jesus Christ, mature in their attitudes and actions; to serve Christ; and to help others know Him and grow in Him (see Col. 1:28–29).
4. A commitment to care—The care and concern Paul had for new believers revealed itself in how he shared his very life with them. When you follow-up with new believers, they are less concerned with how much you know and more concerned with how much you care.