I get asked often on advice for new Believers in beginning their journey of faith. In this post I may interchange the word “new” for “young” but I’m not referring to numerical age, but rather simply referring to someone’s lack of experience in their Christian walk. I actually think Americans have some unique challenges when it comes to being a new Christian.
First of all, there are so many competing voices. How does a young believer know whether he should listen to Joel Osteen or John Piper? Creflo Dollar or Matt Chandler? Benny Hinn or Ravi Zacharias? (Should I bring up Andy or Charles Stanley?) There is certainly an advantage that we have with so much Christian radio, TV stations, and websites; but there’s a disadvantage too. Because there’s so many, it’s tough for a newbie to figure-out where to turn. Likewise, there are just some crappy churches out there. Is that ok to say? How is a new Christian supposed to vet whether or not they’re in a good, bible-believing church or not? How can they tell if they are properly handling the Word or not? Our lack of persecution in America has given rise to all sorts of issues that churches in restrictive countries don’t have to deal with.
Another problem is the number of professing Christians who just might not be true believers. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might go to church. This is not true in a country like China for instance. I think the percentage is low there on the people going to church who are just pretending to be a Christian. The problem with this is that how do you know if a person sitting next to you in church or bible study is really committed to Christ? How do you know if the co-worker that wears a cross around their neck or has a “Jesus fish” pin is truly a serious Christian? It’s tough for a young believer to understand that concept. Unfortunately, what most new American Christians actually see with their eyes is that trusting Jesus to be your Lord and Savior doesn’t really change a person’s life all that much.
Finally, young believers here in America have a unique challenge that other believers around the world don’t have to face. In most instances Americans have a pretty low cultural threshold to come to Christ. What I mean is that most American parents won’t disown their child that becomes or Christian. No one is going to lose their job or get evicted from their apartment for changing religious affiliation. So coming to Christ is actually pretty easy (in regards to cultural barriers that is.). This is obviously good, but has a negative by-product. Young Christians do not know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s clear to see that Americans need some direction when it comes to their next step after coming to Christ. So, let me speak directly to my digital disciples, the young Christians that might come across this blog. Here are your assignments to begin growing in Christ.
1) Start Reading the Bible Yourself
There really isn’t a bad place to start, but my vote is the book of John. There’s some reason for this. A) It’s easy to understand. B) It’s a great overview of Jesus’ life. C) It explains how Jesus is the One True God (which is the struggle most Americans have.) I would encourage you to start maybe just reading a chapter a day if that sounds like a struggle, but I don’t want to slow you down either, so feel free to read it all tonight. The reading of God’s Word is going to bring in God’s truth into a young believers life. Just so you don’t ask me later, after John I lead people to Ephesians and 1 John, and then I would encourage you to get a good devotional. A good devotional is defined as one that has you read more than just 1 verse of God’s Word at a time (this is harder to find than one might think.) Find something that actual gets you reading the Bible for yourself.
2) Begin Confessing the Obvious Sins
I always struggle with how forward I am supposed to be on sin with a brand new believer. Do I unload on all the things they are obviously doing wrong or do I wait for the Holy Spirit to slowly bring that revelation in their life? Well, I have to trust the Holy Spirit in my life to determine how forward I am going to be, but for this general purpose I’ll speak in general to all of you. I just want to ask if there are any sins that are in your life, that you already know is definitely a sin. You’ve got to deal with the obvious elephant in the room before dealing with more nuanced sins such as pride and idolatry. I have seen most young believers very quickly recognize the outward sinful actions in their life. So let’s start there. If something is clearly a sin. Ask God for forgiveness. Pray to Him to help give you the strength to quit it. Then never do it again! So what if you do it again? Ask God for forgiveness. Pray to Him to help give you the strength to quit it. Then never do it again! (I literally just hit copy and paste.) What you can’t do is wean yourself off sin. So stop it. Through the power of Christ you can do it. It might not be easy. It might turn your life upside down, but the new life you will begin with Christ will be WAY more awesome.
3) Get Involved with a Small Group of Believers
I can’t actually digitally disciple you. I can only lead you to truth. More often than not, a small group of believers will be a stronger force of discipleship than a large group setting (whether that’s 100 or 1,000.) A small group Bible study will help teach you how to study God’s Word for yourself, provide at least a basic level of accountability, and offer a few people to answer questions that all new Christians have. So how can a young believer like yourself identify whether a small group is right for your spiritual growth? Look for 3 things. They actually read the Bible and not just about the Bible. They actually pray and not just take prayer requests. And they actually ask each other some tough questions about how they need to change their life to be more like Christ. If they do those 3 things, they’ll be a pretty good start for you.
Final Word Written to Mature Believers
Everything I just wrote is a moot point if a young believer can be physically discipled by a more mature believer. Discipleship is how God intended a new Christian to grow in their faith. The American church has tried to systematize the process, but now we have a watered down Christian culture and it has created absolute Jell-o out of the Christian community. Remember, it’s hard for a brand-new believer to figure-out who is a genuine, mature Christian; it will be a lot easier for a real-deal, Christ follower to identify a young believer and just start discipling them. So go. Go do it now!