September 16- 22
"CLOSE THE BACK DOOR!" Baptism opens the front door to membership in the church. Witnessing aims to "make disciples." If this goal is not met, many new members will sooner or later leave through the back door.
What happens after baptism is crucial to "making disciples" and usually is more relevant to retaining newly baptized persons than what happened before. It is important, therefore, to identify how we can close the back door.
1. Establish a concrete discipleship program. Proper follow-up will help new members to mature in the faith and become actively involved in church life.
2. Help new members establish and maintain personal relationships with mature members. The more new members develop a sense of belonging, the less likely they will leave.
Whether you are newly baptized or a mature member, ask yourself the following questions as you study this week's lesson: How can I help my church develop an effective follow-up program, and what can I do to help establish a sense of belonging for everyone in the church?
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Follow-up (Acts 14:21-23; 15:36; 18:23).
II. Establishing New Members (Acts 13:43; 18:8-11).
III. Discipleship (Acts 11:25, 26, 29, 30).
IV. Leadership Training (Acts 20:13-36: 14:23).
V. Nurturing Churches (Acts 15:40, 41; 16:4, 5).
MEMORY TEXT: "And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23).
In Paul's first missionary journey, he and Barnabas visited several urban centers: Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Antiochians "expelled them out of their coasts" (Acts 13:50). In Iconium, both Jews and Gentiles tried to "abuse and stone them," so they fled from there (14:5, 6, NKJV). Paul was actually stoned at Lystra, under the instigation of Jews from Antioch and Iconium (14:19). From there he went to Derbe (14:20).
Where did he and Barnabas go after preaching at Derbe? What did they emphasize during the rest of their missionary journey? Acts 14:21-23. What does Paul and Barnabas's willingness to return to areas that had so recently proven dangerous to their well-being teach us about the importance of their emphasis?
If Paul and Barnabas had pushed forward, instead of retracing their steps, in a week or so they could have arrived in Tarsus, Paul's hometown. Why, then, would they do such a thing as return to enemy territory? Returning so soon to these hotbeds of enemy opposition must have taken a great deal of courage.
In Antioch, almost the whole city had attended Sabbath services (Acts 13:44). In Iconium, "a great multitude both of Jews and also of the Greeks believed" (14:1). In Derbe they had "made many disciples" (14:21, NKJV). The apostle knew the importance of what we call "follow-up.
"After the first efforts have been made in a place by giving a course of lectures, there is really greater necessity for a second course than for the first."Evangelism, p. 334. This is exactly what Paul and Barnabas had in mind when they decided to risk retracing their steps.
What was one of the reasons for Paul's second missionary journey? Acts 15:36.
What was the purpose of the third missionary journey? Acts 18:23.
|What do you think your part might be in assisting new members? Based on Paul's experience, we must remember that doing so can be difficult at times. Jesus' life and death, however, teach us that we must always be ready to guide recent converts through what to them is still uncharted water. How might you help them "navigate" their way through the first year beyond baptism?|
According to the mission model of Romans 10:13-15, Paul was sent and then he preached. Then many heard, believed, and were baptized. But he did not stop there.
What did Paul do for the newly baptized according to Acts 13:43 and 18:8-11 (compare Matt. 28:19, 20).
The following are suggestions for establishing new members:
1. Friendship with other members is the first step toward a new member's assimilation into the church. Many newly baptized persons do not feel a sense of belonging to the congregation of which they are members. Remember that, according to experts, each new member should have a minimum of seven new friends in the church within the first six months; otherwise they will be on their way out the back door. (See Win Arn, The Church Ratio Book, p. 23.)
2. Assign them responsibilities. "Everyone who is added to the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of duty."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 30.
3. Invite new members to participate on the platform. They can easily announce an opening song, perform a musical selection, have Scripture reading and prayer, etc. "The elders and those who have leading places in the church . . . should arrange matters so that every member of the church shall have a part to act."Christian Service, p. 62.
4. Ask a new member to share the privilege with a mature member of giving Bible studies to a new interest. "The more he seeks to impart light, the more light he will receive. The more one tries to explain the word of God to others, with a love for souls, the plainer it becomes to himself. The more we use our knowledge and exercise our powers, the more knowledge and power we shall have."Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 354.
5. Invite new members to accompany experienced members during visitation. "Many would be willing to work if they were taught how to begin. They need to be instructed and encouraged. Every church should be a training school for Christian workers."The Ministry of Healing, p. 149.
6. Encourage them to bring others to church. "The spirit of Christ is a missionary spirit. The very first impulse of the renewed heart is to bring others also to the Saviour."The Great Controversy, p. 70.
According to the first recorded attempt to reach Gentiles, "a great number [of Greek-speaking residents of Antioch] believed and turned to the Lord" (Acts 11:19-21). Antioch was then known as one of the "eyes" of Asia in the Roman Empire, and a Roman prefect was garrisoned there to secure Roman power in the area. "The city was ranked third in prominence to Rome and Alexandria. . . . Ritual prostitution in the temple of Daphne characterized the sensual orientation of the morals of the city."Ogilvie, Acts: The Communicator's Commentary, p. 194.
What specific form of ministry did Paul and Barnabas develop for a whole year in Antioch? Acts 11:25, 26.
The NRSV reads, "So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people." When we consider the nature of Antioch, we realize even more the need for such training. As a result of these training sessions, the members of this newly established church became so actively identified with Christ that soon they were known as "Christians." "The name was given because Christ was the main theme of their preaching, their teaching, and their conversation."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 157.
The Antioch experience in developing a proper follow-up program for newly baptized members sets a pattern for a comprehensive approach to evangelism. "Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught how to give Bible readings [or Bible studies], how to conduct and teach Sabbath-school classes, how best to help the poor and to care for the sick, how to work for the unconverted. There should be schools of health, cooking classes, and classes in various lines of Christian help work."The Ministry of Healing, p. 149.
Who received the offerings sent by the members in Antioch? Acts 11:29, 30.
Apparently, the apostles had trained elders to take over the leadership of the local congregations in Judea. The apostles had previously requested assistance in order to have more time for other ministries (Acts 6:3, 4).
|Based on the nature of the area where you live, what types of discipleship training are most needed? How can you be a part of some of these programs?|
For what purpose did Paul call a meeting in Miletus? Whom did he invite? Acts 20:13-36. If you had been one of the elders in attendance, how might Paul's words have encouraged you?
Organization of church life in Ephesus appears to have been relatively simple. When Paul departed after the riot described in the previous chapter, he exhorted the "disciples" (Acts 20:1). From Miletus, he sent for the Ephesian elders (20:17). Probably each of them would have been in charge of a congregation meeting in someone's home. In Acts, there are many speeches directed to evangelize nonbelievers, but this is the only example in Acts of Paul teaching the church leaders. His charge to the elders identified them as "overseers" (v. 28) or "bishops" or "guardians."
In his speech, Paul reminded the elders of the following: "(i) He reminded them of their duty. They were overseers of the flock of God. That was not a duty they had chosen but a duty for which they had been chosen. The servants of the Good Shepherd must also be shepherds of the sheep. (ii) He reminded them of their danger. The infection of the world is never far away. Where truth is, falsehood ever attacks. There was a constant warfare ahead to keep the faith intact and the Church pure.
"Through all this scene runs the dominant feeling of an affection as deep as the heart itself. That feeling should be in every church; for when love dies in any church the work of Christ cannot do other than wither."Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 152.
With what action did Paul finish his ministry in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch? Acts 14:23.
The most concrete, lasting form of ministry in Acts is church planting. Planting churches is more than establishing a meeting place or baptizing a group of believers. Only when leaders are properly functioning can members take the time to participate actively in outreach. Then the church will grow, and as it grows, it will truly become planted. This requires leadership training.
|What can members do when no pastor is present in a worship service? What can pastors do to train members to administer proper church leadership in their absence? What are some advantages and disadvantages of pastors having a multichurch district?|
What did Paul do at the start of his second missionary tour? Acts 15:40, 41.
Paul started his second missionary tour in the area close to Antioch and then proceeded to the Galatian region, where he had established churches during his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). This short record suggests that Paul had no intention of making a career of nurturing those new churches, even though they would have liked him to stay. However, Paul and Silas kept their visits brief and moved on to the frontiers as quickly as possible.
There is no question that new churches need to be nurtured, but we should remember that "the greatest help that can be given our people is to teach them to work for God, and to depend on Him, not on the ministers."Christian Service, p. 58.
It is true that from time to time we all will need help and encouragement from a fellow Christian. Paul counsels us in Galatians 6:2 to "carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (NIV). At the same time, however, we also must remember that ultimately our strength depends solely on Jesus Christ and the connection we have with Him. Human strength by its very nature is subject to human frailties and will at times fail. The final conclusion then is this: While at times we will need encouragement from others, and while we all should learn how to be an encouragement to others, our greatest need is to learn how to depend on Christ alone and how to direct others to depend on Him.
What results did Paul and Silas receive for their efforts? Acts 16:4, 5.
The overall impression in reading the book of Acts is that the apostles stayed a relatively short time with most churches. After training leadership, they continued with their work of evangelization. "The ministers who are hovering over the churches, preaching to those who know the truth, would better go into places still in darkness. Unless they do this, they themselves and their congregations will become dwarfed."Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, February 9, 1905.
|Might I be demanding too much pastoral attention? How can I become stronger in the Lord so that I will require less pastoral attention? How can I balance worship, nurture, and outreach in my life?|
FURTHER STUDY: In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul writes, "Encourage one another and build each other up" (NIV). Then in verses 12-22, he lists 15 ways in which we should do so. What are these 15 ways? Think of specific ways you can fulfill each one.
Read any or all of the following: Evangelism, "Establishing and Holding New Converts" pp. 334-3 83; Gospel Workers, "Thoroughness" pp. 367-372; The Acts of the Apostles, "Exalting the Cross" pp.205-207.
"After individuals have been converted to the truth, they need to be looked after. The zeal of many ministers seems to fail as soon as a measure of success attends their efforts. They do not realize that these newly converted ones need nursing-watchful attention, help, and encouragement. . . . Preaching is a small part of the work to be done for the salvation of souls. God's Spirit convicts sinners of the truth, and He places them in the arms of the church. The ministers may do their part, but they can never perform the work that the church should do."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 68, 69.
"The elders and those who have leading places in the church should give more thought to their plans for conducting the work. They should arrange matters so that every member of the church shall have a part to act, that none may lead an aimless life, but that all may accomplish what they can according to their several ability."Christian Service, p. 62.
"Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver."Christian Service, p. 9.
SUMMARIZE what the work of Paul teaches us about nurturing new members. List ways we can establish new members in our churches. Explain why it is essential for ministers to train church members to be good leaders. How has this week's lesson helped you better to understand the concept of nurture and the need for it?
J. H. Zachary
Babu Rao was a faithful and devoted young Hindu. He performed the ceremonies of his religion and refused to have anything to do with Christianity. Often he made unkind remarks to Christians when they tried to speak to him of their faith.
Then Rao became ill with a mysterious affliction that paralyzed him from the waist down. Even specialists in a large hospital could not help the paralyzed man. His family took him to sacred Hindu sites hoping that Rao would regain his health, but nothing happened. Family members offered sacrifices of pigs, goats, and black chickens at another sacred temple, but still Rao felt no relief.
Unable to walk, Babu Rao had time to think about his future. A Christian friend stopped by to encourage him and to tell Rao that he and his family were praying for him. Touched, Rao asked him, "Can the Christian's God help me?"
"Jehovah God is able to do things that other gods and even doctors cannot do," his friend answered. Rao thanked his friend and invited him to come back to visit and pray for him again.
The Christian friend told his congregation about Rao and urged them to pray for him. For two months the believers held special services for Rao, during which the pastor and members fasted and prayed for this Hindu man.
Rao began to regain feeling in his right leg. Soon he could place his weight on that leg. As feeling returned to his left leg, Babu Rao began to walk with the aid of crutches. As soon as possible, he attended services at the Adventist church. During a prayer meeting Rao stood and told the members, "I regret the way I spoke to you in the past. Please forgive me. I have learned that Jesus is the true God."
Babu Rao, the man who stubbornly opposed Christians, accepted salvation through Christ and was baptized. He now walks with no need of canes or crutches, a testimony to God's mighty healing power. He has shared his testimony with family and friends, and many of them have begun attending church with him.
Babu Rao is not unique. As Hindus in India experience difficulties in their lives that their traditional deities cannot solve, they often are willing to listen to Christians. This opens the way for millions to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness
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