This time of the year provides some of the greatest opportunities for the presentation of the Gospel. Vacation Bible School, children’s camps and Falls Creek are just a few of the places where we must make absolutely sure we give a clear declaration of the Gospel of Christ. When the truth is presented, the Spirit of God moves upon the hearts of children, youth and their parents to respond in faith to the grace of Christ.
But a very important question must be asked regarding the church in relation to those who embrace the truth. What will we do to conserve the fruit of the Gospel? The word conserve means to protect, save, keep, preserve or safeguard. What will your church do to conserve the new believers who make decisions at VBS, Falls Creek and other Christian camps?
One thing is certain: we cannot-we must not-ignore our responsibility as a local church to place a high priority on helping new believers get a solid start in the faith. What are some things the church should do to safeguard the babes in Christ?
First, make sure all new believers understand the decisions they have made. Most of them were counseled at the time of their decisions, but it is vital for every decision to be reinforced through a personal, clear and biblical rehearsing of the truth that was embraced. This helps to anchor the individual and ensure that a commitment, not just a decision, is made. We do not want any person to be “stillborn” and thus miss the Kingdom.
Second, I encourage pastors to take a personal interest in each individual and decision. This is a perfect time to connect with children and teenagers. It is incredibly encouraging for children and, yes, even teens to spend time with the pastor. Pastors often do not realize how important they are to these young people. In many cases a pastor is bigger than life to little ones. A few minutes with the pastor when children and teens can share their testimonies is invaluable.
Third, lead the person to make his or her decision public to the church through a profession of faith and baptism. Too often children and particularly teens make decisions that are never anchored in the church and baptism. Far too little emphasis is placed on the need for attachment to the church. Baptism is often relegated to a secondary matter, leaving the impression that it has little importance. Baptism is of primary importance! Our Lord declared it so.
Fourth, make much of baptism. Have the new believer invite friends and family. Why not plan a fellowship to follow the baptismal service so that the pastor, staff and perhaps the church family can interact with the new believer’s guests? I am convinced we must do more to emphasize the significance of baptism both doctrinally and practically.
Fifth, disciple, disciple, disciple! New believers should be linked one-on-one with mature believers who can help them get started on the Christian journey. Celebrating decisions made at camp and VBS or even being sure they follow through with baptism should not be the end to our involvement with new believers. They need to be given solid footing. Too often we rejoice in their decisions and then expect them to attach and grow simply by coming to church, Sunday School or youth group. While each of these has its place, there is no substitute for personal, one-on-one discipleship.
I pray that this will be a time of great harvest. Just as significantly, I also pray that six months from now, we will have done our part as the church to conserve the results, and the fruit will remain.