Helping People to Grow in Christ
November 1, 2000
by Art Bailey
One of the lasting effects of Crusades sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has been the training that local Christians have received through the Christian Life and Witness Classes. Through these classes, thousands of Christians have found a revitalized faith and have learned how to tell others about Jesus. Following is the last in a series of four articles based on the Christian Life and Witness Classes.
I became a Christian when I was an adult, but at first I did not understand what had happened. My conversion was influenced greatly by the prayers of my family and friends and by my relationships with them. By their lifestyle and example my family and friends not only helped to lead me to Christ, they also discipled me—that is, they helped me to grow spiritually.
Our ability to disciple new Christians so that their lives reflect Christ is key to the future of the Church because, as George Barna has pointed out, millions of Christians "would desire to live such a lifestyle if they could see what it looked like and thus realize what is missing in their own spiritual development."(1)
Follow Up Requires a Beginning
As Christians, we have the opportunity and obligation to search our spheres of influence for people who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our lifestyle should reflect Christ to those around us.
Andrew met Jesus and immediately went to find his brother Simon Peter and brought him to Jesus.(2) We need to look around us for people who need to hear the Gospel; we need to pray for them and show concern for them and build relationships so that we can bring them to Christ; and then we need to stay with them as they grow spiritually. This is a simple principle that helps us to focus on winning others to Christ and seeing them mature.
Follow Up Requires Planning
Giving continued care to a "spiritual child" requires planning. We can contribute many ways to a new Christian's growth and well-being.
In my first experience with parenting, I did not understand how difficult it was to be responsible for the growth and welfare of a child. Thank God that my wife did. She began right away to gather the essential items needed to care for our new infant. It took time to get everything ready.
Are we prepared to care for people who will depend on us? It can be a daunting task to develop a strategy to help a person mature in Christ. The Apostle Paul gave several good suggestions in his Letters to the Early Church:
• In 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8, Paul wrote about the motivation for helping new Christians to grow in their faith. Paul used the example of a mother caring for her children. We should be ready not only to present the Gospel to others but also to give to them our lives as well.
• Paul prayed for new Christians. One of the most important practices in follow up is praying for those who are growing.(3)
• When Paul could not visit people personally, he sent others whom he had prepared.(4)
• Paul was a prolific writer and wrote many Letters to the churches and to individuals. He had a significant ministry through letter-writing.
• Accountability was another strategy that Paul used. He, in many cases, returned personally to check on those whom he had helped to get started in the faith.(5)
Paul's goal, while lofty, is one we might take for our own—to present believers perfect in Christ.(6)
Follow Up Requires Action
New Christians need care. When I came to Christ, God placed in my path a succession of godly men. They had different gifts and abilities but the same goal: To help me mature in Christ.
Pat helped me to learn the love of God. Tom taught me how to study the Word and to tell others about Christ. Larry, who was only a step ahead of me in his growth, was willing to reach back and take my hand to lead me, so that we could learn together. We were accountability partners. And Charlie, transparent and loving, taught me by example.
None of these men, by their own admission, ever felt capable. This attitude is seen in the Apostle Paul's words when he spoke of his own weakness and lack of eloquence and wisdom.(7) Paul's words remind us that it is through the Holy Spirit's power that we can accomplish the task of helping believers to grow in Christ.(7) These men were willing and available and with God's help became part of the process that God promised would ultimately end in my being like Christ.(8)
Follow up is a process. It is the process of helping people grow to maturity in Christ, so that they will be able to serve Christ and take their place in the life of the Church.
Follow Up Requires Commitment
I received unconditional love from the people who followed up on me in my decision for Christ. That love came in the form of acceptance. God accepts each one just as we are, and so those men accepted me as I was. They understood the commitment necessary to helping someone grow in Jesus Christ, and they did what they could to help me grow in my commitment to Christ.
Commitment to discipleship begins with
The people who helped me grow understood
Jesus explained it this way: "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."(10) God is asking us to be willing to give Him our lives so that through us He can raise up many others.
Follow up is vital to the continued growth of the Church. The Great Commission is to "go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them."(11)
Are we ready to carry out this great command?