It has been well said that a Christianity that does not begin with the individual does not begin, but a Christianity that ends with the individual ends. This statement underscores the importance of every new believer being incorporated into the body of believers. As with witnessing and evangelism, it is also true that incorporation cannot be left to certain individuals in the fellowship. Incorporation is the responsibility of the entire church.
Read Colossians 1:28-29. What specific goal did Paul place before his new converts?
The Christian’s maturity, growing into the fullness of Christ (Eph. 3:19), is the proper goal of the local congregation. Working for the maturity of new converts is just as important as working to get them to accept Christ and to join His church. In fact, the church’s work of incorporation will help ensure that their evangelistic efforts will not become a waste of time. Usually, before any witnessing and evangelism project gets under way, there is a time of preparing the church. This is a time when we focus on transportation, child care, greeters, prayer teams, and visitation teams. The apostle Paul would have us focus on incorporation as another important part of church preparation. Consider the following question:
Which is more important to ask, and why: How can new believers get involved in church life and its programs? How can the church enter the lives of new believers and help them mature? Are both these concepts related and, if so, how so?
Often we see the work of follow-up and incorporation as the work of the one who has led the person to Jesus Christ. We only have to realize how impossible it would have been for the apostle Paul to nurture all who believed through his ministry in order to see that this is not the biblical way. Follow-up is not just the work of one or two designated leaders, it is the work of the whole church.
Too often we lament the fact that new people come in the front door and leave by the back door soon after. This is a tragedy of eternal consequence.
Think about new members in your local church. How can you—not the pastor, the elder, but you—get involved in helping them become solidly grounded in the church community and its teachings?