I remember strapping our new-born son into his car seat, helping my very brave (very sore) wife with her seat belt, and driving our new little family home from the hospital. I don’t think I’ve ever driven so carefully in my life, including on the day of my driving test.
And then—and all the parents out there will understand this—we arrived home, unloaded the car and the child, made a drink, and looked at each other. So what are we supposed to do now? There’s no pdf or app that comes with a baby. How are you supposed to do this parenting thing?
And if you’re ever dealing with a brand new, shiny Christian, you may have felt something similar. What, a real new Christian? What’s the right food? Are we all on our best behaviour as if with a new stranger? How can I tell if he needs a new diaper?
Ok, maybe not the diaper.
But what do baby Christians need from you?
New Christians need the gospel
Well, to state the obvious, they need the gospel. That is, they need to be shown that the message which led them to Christ is the genuinely central message of the New Testament. So show them it again and again, from different books and different authors. If you’re meeting up regularly (and you should), take them on a tour of key verses. Perhaps take them through the sermons in Acts. Or read through 1 Thessalonians or Philippians. Anything that will show them that they didn’t believe an eccentric oddity, but the main road through.
And yes, in time, they’ll discover that the gospel is central to the Old Testament, too. But give them time. Zechariah will still be there next year.
New Christians need to know they will mess up but that they have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them
Secondly, they need to discover two key truths about Christian experience: the ongoing presence of sin, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. One of the most destructive ways the Evil One knocks a new believer sideways, is by sudden hard temptation and numbing guilt. They’ll feel enormously discouraged if they expected anything different.
So teach them about sin. Teach them what is no longer true: they are no longer under sin’s penalty and guilt. Teach them what is not yet true: they are not yet free of sin’s presence and temptation. And teach them what is now true: they are to be assured of forgiveness, and equipped by the Holy Spirit to resist and change. No longer, now, not yet.
Which means you are teaching them about maturity and discipleship, and lifelong repentance and faith. Somewhere, I picked up the picture of the Christian life as a yo-yo—up, down, up, down. But here’s the critical part—the yoyo is in the hands of someone walking upstairs. Up and down—but always upwards.
New Christians need the local church
Thirdly, teach them the gifts God has given us to grow. Teach them how to pray, by walking them through the Lord’s Prayer, breaking it into its parts, and encouraging them to use its framework. Use Paul’s prayers too, later, but start first with the one they might know. And model for them how to study the Bible, so that they can read it on their own.
Let me underline this. Don’t just tell them that they ought to do it, and induce guilt. Actually give them the tools in their hands to do it for themselves.
And help them to start being involved in church, which will be alien for them. Show them why we sing, pray, learn together. Teach them about confession and praise. Explain baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And teach them about fellowship and love, and why church is a family and not a club.
That sounds like a lot! But one reason I wrote From Now On was because I became convinced that baby Christians need that diet.
Let’s look after our baby Christians, and start them strong on a lifelong path.
This article originally appeared on thegoodbook.com. Used with permission.
Chris Green is the vicar of St James Church in Muswell Hill, London, UK. He was formerly Vice Principal of Oak Hill Theological College. Chris is married to Sharon and has two sons.
From now on is a short booklet written by Chris Green for new Christians to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
Photo Courtesy: Thinkstock