Wanting to help new Christians to grow in spiritual maturity? Here are some simple forms of support.
Godsend is about a 21st century way of following Jesus
Ask God to help you:
- Find a friend in your passion, network, neighborhood, workplace or where you spend lots of time
- Discover a simple way to love people round you so that you can all live a fuller life
- Deepen friendships with them
- Share your faith, as part of helping each other toward a richer life
- Start a new Christian community where you are.
- ‘Basics’ is a summary. ‘Overview’ expands this. The rest of godsend offers detail.
Once you have found one or more people to journey with you, you need four items for the journey:
- A compass to point you in the right direction
- A map to plan your route
- The address of your destination.
Item 1. A compass
This will steer you in the right direction. It comprises four values:
Engage with people outside the church. Be missional.
Love them in a way that fits the context and share Jesus in a manner they can understand. Be contextual.
Encourage people to be open to Christ and allow him to form them in his likeness. Be formational.
As people come to faith, help them – where they are – to become a Christian community connected to the wider church. You could become a new congregation, community or group within a local church, or sometimes a new church in your own right. Be ecclesial.
Sorted emerged among teenagers in Bradford, England. It was:
Missional. The teenagers didn’t go to church
Contextual. Activities, worship etc. were shaped by what the teenagers were in to
Formational. Teenagers were formed in the Christian faith
Ecclesial. They didn’t start going to an existing church. They became a new Christian community, with links to the wider church.
These four values will keep you heading in the right direction.
Item 2. A map
This loving-first cycle is like a map. It helps you plan your journey, recognise how far you’ve travelled, and decide where to go next.
As with any map, you can choose a wide variety of routes, but they have these features in common:
- You listen lovingly to God and to people round you
- Through listening, you prayerfully discover a simple way to love these people
- You build community with them in the process
- As trust deepens, you find natural opportunities to share Jesus together
- A new Christian community with the character of church takes shape among those coming to faith, where they are
- New believers repeat the cycle in their own way.
All this is underpinned by prayer and connection to the wider church.
Of course, life is more messy than a diagram! So the circles may overlap, pile on top of each other, or sometimes happen in a different order. Each circle continues as the next is added – hence the overlaps.
The first three circles help people experience a fuller life. As part of that, those who want can get to know Jesus through the second three circles.
Don’t feel you have to get to the end of the cycle! The main thing is that listen and love come first and motivate everything else.
Joe Pinnear in Luton, England is an example:
- He listened to men who were into football. He hung out with them on Sunday nights, when they were at a loose end
- He loved them by bringing everyone together
- This deepened their sense of community
- They share Jesus as they sit round in their football gear before the match. They talk about Scripture and God’s role in their lives.
- This is laying the foundation for church – for a new worshipping community, connected to the Christian family.
Thirst was a new Christian community among parents taking children to school. They met during the day when their children and partners couldn’t come, so they repeated the cycle. They started an all-age community on Saturday afternoons, open to everyone.
Item 3. Food
Without nourishment, you’ll fall by the wayside. Discovery Bible Study can be food for both you and those who join you.
A group of Christians advertised free canoeing on Sunday mornings. They paid for the canoe hire, and families enjoyed canoeing together. Sometimes over a picnic, the sessions finished with an all-age activity based on a Bible story or theme.
Tim then invited anyone interested to ‘food and Bible story’ on Tuesday evenings. ‘Bible story’ included asking these four questions:
- If this story happened today, what would it look like?
- What is the story showing or telling me?
- Could it make a difference to my life? How?
- Did it make a difference? How?
Try using these questions in your core team as you discuss stories about Jesus and ones he told. Immerse yourselves in each story over several sessions.
Trying these questions, perhaps one per meeting, will give you the experience to help inquirers. Discovery Bible Study is your packed lunch to be shared with others.
(For other approaches, see 12. Explore faith/Guide).
Item 4. The address of your destination
You need to know where you are going! The address is:
These overlapping relationships are:
- With God directly in prayer, worship, and study;
- With the outside world;
- With the wider church; and
- Within the new community itself.
Deepening these relationships will make your community an authentic part of the Christian family.
You’ll be part of a ‘mixed economy’ church, or ‘blended church’. New and existing forms of church will exist alongside each other in relationships of mutual respect and support.
Anyone can do this!
You don’t need:
- A degree in theology
- Special training
- An evangelism course
- Lots of Christian experience. In fact, you can do this if you have just become a Christian – or even if you are not yet a Christian and want to give Jesus a try!
- But you do need the Spirit’s help! So keep praying!
Remember: not everyone is called to this. And if you are, it may be for only a season.
Once called, here’s your kit for the journey
The compass shows you the direction, the map helps you plan your route, food nourishes you and those who join you, and the address helps you to know when you have reached your destination.
Don’t use the kit slavishly. Improvise, and you’ll follow Jesus in a 21st century way.
Nicola illustrates the disciple-making potential of relationships within the new Christian community.
Andy describes how mentoring encouraged conversations about the difference Jesus makes to everyday life.
Discuss Hebrews 5.11–14.
Ask someone to read in advance this extract from “The danger of perpetual infancy”, and then share any points that struck them.
Ask someone else to read in advance, “By This Time You Ought To Be Teachers” and share thoughts that struck them.
What practical steps might help your community – or the community you envisage – grow beyond infancy?
Choose one or more of the following:
- Discuss what your community’s key values might be.
Then for each value, figure out one practice that would express that value.
For example, if one value was hospitality, a practice might be to find a “buy one and get one free” offer, and give the free item to someone else. Or the practice could be sitting next to or spending time with someone you find difficult in the community.
Try these practices in the team/core group, and then spread them out to others in the community.
- Reflect on what you have seen, read and heard in this unit about helping new Christians to grow in their faith.
- What are the good things your community is doing about this and where is it falling short?
- What might you do differently that would help new Christians mature in their faith?
- How does the prospect of doing these things differently make you feel?
- What does it mean to live a distinctive Christian life in your context? i.e. what specific practices would express a Christian way of life in your setting? For example:
- If your community is based on a common interest or sport like soccer, what would it mean to be a Christian soccer player?
- If your community is drawn from a particular locality, such as an apartment block, what would it mean to be a Christian in this apartment block?
- If your community is drawn from a particular demographic, such as teenagers, what would it mean to be a Christian teenager in the school(s) the young people attend?
How might you encourage those who’ve recently come to faith or are journeying toward faith to explore these practices?
- Think about what you have seen, heard and read in this unit. What one new thing to nurture Christian faith do you think you should introduce?
- If this new focus became a reality, what would members of your community see, hear and feel?
- What would make you most pleased about their response?