If anyone had a valid excuse to drop the ball on “follow up” after an evangelistic event, it was the Apostle Paul.
Between an itinerant lifestyle and the ongoing pain he must have lived with, Paul had every reason to simply focus on the city he was in, preach the gospel, and move on to the next, leaving the “decision cards” behind him.
But Paul didn’t do that. He couldn’t do that. For Paul had a passion to see people saved and growing in the Lord.
And so, hours after he was stoned at Lystra, he got up and, with broken body, went on to Derbe to preach the gospel. From Derbe, he couldn’t forget those who had just been saved in Lystra. So he returned to the very city where he had just been persecuted to follow up on these new converts—to confirm them in the faith. From Lystra, he backtracked again to Iconium, and from Iconium to Antioch.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.—Acts 14:21–22
Everybody needs to be confirmed. They need someone to care enough to give them spiritual encouragement, support, instruction, and grounding.
Sometimes in our zeal for soulwinning or for evangelistic Sundays (such as, perhaps, Easter Sunday), we neglect this level of spiritual support for new converts or prospects.
I love “big Sundays.” This past Sunday, in fact, was tremendously blessed by God as thousands of guests attended our services and hundreds were saved. It is a historic day for our church family, and we’re still rejoicing in this fruit.
But the real work has just begun. If we do not “confirm” these new Christians in the faith, they hardly stand a chance against the wiles of Satan.
I believe that God brought these guests to our services on Sunday—that they are a trust from Him. If we simply rejoice in the victory of Sunday but neglect the people that were that victory, we’re not stewarding the gospel as we should.
So just how do we confirm people? What does biblical confirmation look like? What do new Christians need to be confirmed in their faith?
- They need to be saved. This should go without saying, but to be confirmed in the faith, people must first be saved. Just because someone came on Easter Sunday and heard a gospel message does not mean they are saved. As you make follow up visits, ask specifically of their salvation. Countless times over the years, I’ve had the privilege to lead a church guest to Christ in their home after they attended.
- They need to have assurance of salvation. Take time to explain to a new convert that the gift of eternal life really is eternal, that Satan is likely to plant doubts in his mind, and that God’s Word gives specific promises. Write out 1 John 5:13 and John 10:28–29.
- They need to be baptized. Take time to explain baptism—what it symbolizes and why it is an important step of obedience. (Striving Together Publications has a helpful brochure that we use at our church.)
- They need a church home. If a new Christian is going to grow in the Lord, he needs a church home. Explain to him his need for growth through the preaching of God’s Word and in a spiritual family…and continue to encourage him as he develops new habits of coming to church.
- They need to be offered hospitality. If you want to encourage a new Christian, invite them into your home. Ask them to come back to church on Sunday and then have dinner with your family after the service. Hospitality is all throughout the New Testament, and I believe it was extremely helpful in establishing the first-century Christians in the faith. From Acts 2:42 where the new converts “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” to the qualifications of a pastor including that he be “given to hospitality” (1 Timothy 3:2) to the direct instructions to all Christians to also be “given to hospitality” (Romans 13:12) and to “Use hospitality one to another” (1 Peter 4:9)—hospitality is both encouraged and commanded.
- They need a friend. They don’t need you to just be friendly; they need you to be a friend. More than a pat on the back and a glad-you’re-here handshake, they need someone to come alongside them in Christian friendship. In addition to personally befriending someone, look for others who might have something in common with them, and help them develop relationships with their new church family.
- They need to be remembered. A brand new Christian is likely to miss church one Sunday—maybe even the first Sunday. He needs to be remembered. He needs someone sending a note, visiting his home, making a call. Some new Christians don’t immediately become faithful. Don’t forget them. Use a prospect list to track your efforts, and make that list your prayer list as well.
- They need prayer. You can’t read Paul’s epistles without recognizing the depth of his prayer life for those he led to Christ and confirmed in the Lord. Confirming new Christians in the faith isn’t a list of salesmen techniques. It is the work of God—and it requires God at work. Pray earnestly, fervently, and faithfully for new Christians. Satan is sure to attack their faith, they are too spiritually immature to even recognize it, and they need your prayers.
- They need discipleship. New Christians need to be grounded in God’s Word and mentored in Christian growth. This can be done formally through a weekly discipleship program (which has been so helpful to new Christians in our church), but even that is only part of the picture. Discipleship is more than a weekly meeting; it is a process of spiritual maturity that is produced through hearing preaching, developing a devotional life, being in a Sunday school class, and growing relationships in the local church.
Every person God brings to your church is a spiritual stewardship. Don’t be guilty of not caring and letting people slip away without fervent prayer and earnest effort.
Determine instead—regardless of what it might cost you personally in terms of time, hospitality, and energy—that after a “big day” you will go back to “Lystra” to confirm the souls of new disciples.