Studying With the Newly Baptized – Needing Your Input

We had marked the finish line in the wrong place. When someone was baptized we talked about that moment like their spiritual journey was complete. They had crossed a line but not the line. The reality was the finish line was still in the future. The ugly result of that was the newly baptized were often confused by the amount of difficulty they had living out their new found life in Christ because they had been given the idea that once they were baptized they had arrived. The transformation was complete. We made it sound like life was smooth sailing after your baptism. The reality was that Satan then came at them full blast and they weren’t ready for it.

After someone is baptized the teaching often stops because the intent of our teaching prior to baptism was to get them to Jesus through crossing their own Red Sea/Jordan of baptism. Once in the promised land we figured they had all the teaching they needed. A good look at both Old and New Testaments shows us that our presence in the promised land does not guarantee spiritual growth and faithfulness. It does not guarantee adversity comes to a stop. If anything, there is more teaching to do on the east side of the Red Sea than the west and the west side of the Jordan than on the east. The whole book of Judges, just a generation or so into the Promised Land experience reminds us that the whole generation had forsaken the Lord. We can’t let that happen to those who love.

Finding a More Intentional Path Toward Growing Mature Disciples
What often happens when someone is baptized is that they got tossed into a random hodge-podge of Sunday morning Bible classes that may or may not be what they need to mature in their faith. We need a more intentional path toward mature discipleship. The question is what does that path look like? It seems to me it would involve a couple of things:

  1. Mentoring – time spent with someone more mature in their faith to help them see how faith looks like lived out, to pray for them, help them through failures, etc. This means having a pool of people who are capable and willing to work with new Christians. Often this might be those who studied with them initially who keep on
  2. Study – As mentioned above, continued study should be a part of growing mature disciples. What does that look like? What should it cover? The typical approach might be to cover topics like pride, anger, prayer, worship, etc. I fear that approach easily becomes pretty shallow from the start. I have been asking ministers what they would include in a study with new Christians. The answer that keeps coming up is to keep them in tune with Jesus. One recommendation was to study the Sermon on the Mount. Another recommendation was to study various aspects of the life of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Ministry – Getting them involved in ministering to others. This has to be a part of the new life in Christ and it needs to start as soon as possible. Otherwise, we run the risk of developing self-centered disciples instead of disciples who mirror the two greatest commandments.

Needing Your Input
What else would you include? It seems to me how you frame all of this is extremely important. It is important that we get into identity issues over checklists of behavior. It is important that we continue to look to Jesus through the Gospels and Epistles. Somewhere in there, of course, Acts comes into play in their understanding of their mission as Christians. I am really a little at a loss as to how we have viewed Acts as such a pattern of the church over the mission of the church. I find lots of mission there and little to no pattern of what worship looked like, etc. Instead I find the Holy Spirit, evangelism, preaching the Good News, mission, boldness and total dependence on God. But that isn’t the focus of this post. The question is after someone is baptized “where do we go from here?” and “what exactly does that look like?”

Last, I am working on what this all this looks like from the congregational perspective. How do we implement it. How do we train? How is it lived out? How do we get people on board? etc. There are two results that I hope will spring out of this. Older Christians will get involved in ministering to others. New Christians will grow in their faith as a result of this process. I would really like to hear from you guys who are passionate about evangelism and mentoring. What ideas do you have here? I think we can go to two extremes if we aren’t careful…we can programize everything to death or we can do nothing. Neither one is healthy but it is important we are doing something whether formal or informal and that we communicate to the congregation what this looks like and how they can get involved.

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

4 Responses to Studying With the Newly Baptized – Needing Your Input

  1. I remember telling a young couple at the time of their baptism that about six weeks after Jesus’ baptism, the Devil came to tempt him. Then I observed that initial enthusiasm for a new project or enterprise – working out, a diet, a program of study, or whatever – can usually carry us about six week. Then I said, “In about six weeks, give or take a week or so, you will start wondering, ‘Now why did I do that? What have I gotten myself into?’ You need to be aware of this and be ready to recognize the temptation the Devil is sending your way.”

    That is now more than 25 years ago. Today, he is an elder and one of my very best friends. But he told me several years after he was baptized that it had happened to him just as I predicted it would – and that if I had not forewarned him, he doubted he would have been faithful for very long.

    Teaching is needed, but more than that is necessary. New converts need encouragement, attention, and connection. Flavil Yeakley said that if a convert connects with 7 new friends, very few will leave the fold. If they connect with no one, almost all will leave.

    Providing forewarning of temptation does not hurt any either!

    • mattdabbs says:

      Good stuff Jerry. We are trying to front load the relationships when they first start coming. We figure that today people won’t keep coming unless there are a few familiar faces. They also might not listen very well to an evangelistic Bible study if they don’t know people and don’t know they are loved. So hopefully they have made close to 7 connections even prior to the study itself. Good stuff.

    • I appreciate this reminder. It gives me new focus on intentional friendship! (Not just what’s in it for me…which I need reminding about).

  2. Hey Matt, I know you know this, but lack of discipleship is one of the big problems Dallas Willard talks about in several of his books, and I know it’s not just a problem in our CofC heritage. There is a new series out that I am hearing good things about by James Bryant Smith (The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and one other I think.) Supposedly the author has spent years being mentored by Willard, and Willard gave him the charge of writing a curriculum for discipleship and mentoring. We have ordered them but not yet read them, but we’re really looking forward to based on what we’ve heard.

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