Baptism is not a magic formula to solve all spiritual problems. It is not a panacea to deliver people from all of their difficulties. Baptism is not the end of a spiritual journey, but the beginning of a new life of fellowship with Christ in the context of His church.
Often, immediately after baptism, the devil zeroes in on new believers and subjects them to some serious challenges. It is very likely that some will become discouraged shortly after their baptism.
If there is little tolerance for their mistakes, no conscious effort to integrate them into the social network of the church, and no carefully planned process of aftercare to reinforce their new doctrinal understanding, apostasies will be needlessly high.
Roles. The work of the evangelist has been compared to that of an obstetrician, the work of the pastor to that of a pediatrician, the work of the church and the Sabbath School to that of the family. New members cannot be expected to survive if they are left alone. Baptism is a symbol of new birth, and any baby who does not receive adequate attention will die.
Baptism is certainly not an indication that the new convert is fully mature. It is the responsibility of the “the family” to take careful steps to help each new member develop a deep abiding relationship with Christ and a secure relationship with His family members.
New babies make messes. Expect them. Plan for them by getting to know each member: background, weaknesses, fears, etc. Get busy helping them to build muscle: spiritual, emotional, social, physical.
Newborns cannot walk. So don’t let new believers think that they must try to walk alone. There are numerous ways to integrate new members into the church family, but in this three-part series we will focus on three with these titles:
- Home Visitation
- The Pastor’s Class
- A Spiritual Mentor Program
It is possible for new converts to be doctrinally convinced but not socially integrated into the church. They may have been baptized but still feel like outsiders, uncomfortable with this new group of people who are their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Many new members have left behind old friends and social networks. Research has found that unless new members make six new friends within the first year, they will likely stop attending the church. So visitation is extremely critical if new members are to grow in Christ and feel at home in your Sabbath School. With a good social foundation in their new family, they have a support group for reaching out to people in their previous network.
I suggest that immediately following your evangelistic meetings the pastor and/or head elder organize visitation teams to visit new members every other week for the first six weeks. During this process, rotate the converts’ names so different people are visiting them. That way they can bond with different church members.
Tips to Remember
- Call ahead and set up an appointment. New members don’t like to be surprised any more than some longtime members.
- Keep your visit brief. Don’t wear out your welcome—from 15 to 20 minutes is generally long enough for an in-home visit.
- Become acquainted with their family. Know members by name and something significant about each person, e.g., Joey is the oldest, Marva is a newlywed, Zoe lives at home and has a new car, etc.
- Make the visit spiritual. Pray with them.
- Be positive. Don’t talk about discouragements, problems, and doubts.
- If you do discover that there is a problem, notify the person’s spiritual mentor.
- Listen more than you talk.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists