During 2013 and beyond there will be an unusual increase of new members into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is as result of the NY13 evangelistic initiative in the New York Metropolitan area. We rejoice for the approximately 2,000 souls already baptized since the beginning of the year and the many more who will join soon. The campaigns continue and souls are being born for the heavenly kingdom.
As these new believers join the Advent Movement, we must nurture them and care for them. To put it another way, don’t dip them and then neglect them. Instead, having taught them, we immerse them and then continue to instruct them. The pen of inspiration declares: “When men and women accept the truth, we are not to go away and leave them and have no further burden for them. They are to be looked after”—Evangelism, p. 345.
Our love for Jesus and passion for the lost will lead us to have a deep concern for the spiritual growth of the newly baptized. As these precious individuals (whether new to Christianity or not) develop their own personal devotional life through Bible study and prayer, and become actively involved in the life of the local church and in witnessing, they will grow spiritually. In fact, one of the best ways of helping new believers grow in Christ is to teach them how to share their faith by writing out and sharing their own personal testimony.
We’re told in the book Evangelism by Ellen G. White: “these newly converted ones need nursing, watchful attention, help and encouragement. These should not be left alone, a prey to Satan’s most powerful temptation; they need to be educated in regard to their duties, to be kindly dealt with to be led along, and to be visited and prayed with . . .”—Evangelism, p. 351 and Gospel Workers, p. 322.
As we develop and design an effective follow-up nurturing plan, it is important that the local church understand that this work is largely the responsibility of each individual member. It is not just the work of the visiting evangelist and the pastor.
Think of it this way. The evangelist and the pastor are like “obstetricians.” They help to “deliver” the newborn babies. The church members are like “pediatricians,” whereas the local church serves as the “nursery,” where the new babes receive watchful attention and tender loving care! As part of the NY13 initiative, the Atlantic Union Conference Women’s Ministries Department, in coordination with the General Conference, North American Division, Columbia Union Conference, and the five conferences involved in NY13, have chosen to contribute to the nurturing “nursing” process by offering training seminars that teach how to follow up with the newly baptized.
Nurturing and discipling new believers is a rewarding first step to launching them on their lifelong process of becoming spiritually mature.
So what does God want you to do with this information that you’ve just read? Do you know how you would like to use this in your sphere of influence and interest? If you do, my prayer is that God will enable you to fulfill your plan of action.
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College, Inc., Board of Trustees.