Churches have two major problems when it comes to new Christians. First is spiritual infanticide. We often leave new believers on their own after their baptism, expecting them to figure out the Christian life on their own somehow. We fail to mentor them and disciple them, neglecting to teach them how to obey the teachings of Christ. Doing so is like taking a newborn baby home from the hospital, lying it down on the couch, and saying, “The fridge is in the kitchen; help yourself if you get hungry. And the bathroom is down the hallway, on the right.”
Moreover, many churches have become spiritual nurseries, full of immature, baby Christians who have never grown up. Members of some churches have been Christians for decades but have never matured. They were grumpy complainers when they were baptized, and thirty years later, they still are—they have not grown in joy. Some who were greedy when they got baptized have not grown in generosity fifty years later.
What is shocking is that no one seems to be surprised when believers don’t mature. My granddaughter Gwen, who is now 8 years old, walks, runs, skips, and dances everywhere. She draws, paints, reads, writes, and tells her Grandpa Mike imaginative stories. I still remember holding her on the day she was born, when she weighed six pounds, thirteen ounces. Now she weighs over sixty pounds and is four feet tall—no baby any longer. But what would her parents have done had she failed to grow taller and heavier? What if she had not learned to crawl—or walk—or talk? They would have known something to be wrong. Growth is evidence of life! It is true with babies, and it is true with Christians.
To counter these problems, I made a simple vow when I was ministering at a small church in rural central Illinois: I would find a spiritual mentor for anyone I baptized. I would find a mature believer who was willing to mentor the new believer at least through his or her first year of being a Christian. The mentor would be someone who could teach the baby Christian how to pray, how to read the Bible, how to share his or her faith, and how to begin making needed character changes. Similarly, when I do premarital counseling, I have couples sign a covenant with me that requires them to find a mentoring married couple to help them during their first year of marriage. The older mentoring couple will have been married for several years and can help the new couple through some of the bumps and adjustments that come during the first year of marriage. Whether starting out in life, in our spiritual life, or in our married life, we need others to help us grow and mature.
REFLECTIONS: Does your church have an intentional plan to help new, baby Christians grow? If not, can you think of a way to initiate such a plan? Does your church have an intentional plan to help newly married couples? If not, can you think of a way to initiate such a plan?
So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ