Nurturing new believers
While planting a church in Morong, Rizal, Jay de Leon established eight OBSes (Outreach Bible Studies). Most of the contacts received Christ in the OBSes, but their spiritual growth was slow. Jay thought that bringing all the OBSes together to form a weekly joint fellowship might help. He asked his contacts if they would like that. Their response was positive so Jay proceeded.
Twenty-four attended the first joint fellowship. Fifteen attended the next week. Jay asked me to be their speaker on the third week. Only four attended!
Jay realized that he had not done all that he should have done to nurture these new believers. They had not developed a strong enough faith to maintain their involvement in the new church.
Many contacts will quickly develop enough faith to participate in an OBS in their home. It takes another level of faith to join with those from other OBSes and become involved in a fellowship. This is something we must accomplish at this stage of the church plant.
Nurturing new believers is one of the biggest tasks of a church planter. Those who are effective in this are well on their way to planting a healthy church.
Some church planters are good at evangelism but are weak when it comes to nurturing new converts. If so, it's vitally important that they team up with others who are gifted in nurturing new believers. We cannot plant a healthy church which will impact the community through evangelism alone.
Now back to Jay. He stopped his weekly joint fellowship and concentrated on Nurture Bible Studies muna. After focusing on this for two months he tried again at forming the joint fellowship. This time the new believers were more solid. They really became involved. He has a strong church now.
After holding OBSes for two months, you should have plenty of new converts. Now, what can we do to strengthen their faith? Let's look at some crucial components.
Select good Nurture Bible Study materials
Outreach Bible Studies can now become Nurture Bible Studies. There are plenty of materials available that cover all the basic topics needed by a new believer. In addition to covering these topics try also to choose materials that include the qualities listed below. This is an important decision to develop a healthy church.
1. Focus on obedience and character development
&Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
&Teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Col. 1:28)
&All Scripture is … useful for … training in righteousness.
(2 Tim. 3:16)
These Scriptures make it clear that as we teach the Bible our main goal is character development. Healthy churches are composed of believers developing a Christ-like character. Good materials facilitate this. Avoid materials that merely teach doctrine or Bible knowledge, and overlook or assume obedience and character development!
&Knowledge puffs up.
(1 Cor. 8:1)
&Do not merely listen to
the word, and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it
says. (Jas. 1:22)
In Naga City, Pastor Winnie Saniel led an albularya to Christ. She stopped being an albularya, in spite of severe persecutions.
Pastor Rafael Salonga led a bakla to the Lord. This young man repented of his former lifestyle and began to aggressively share the Gospel, especially sa mga bakla. Ngayon, siya ang pinakamainit sa Panginoon sa church planting team ni Pastor Raffy. This is the kind of obedience we want to see in new churches!
2. Easy to use
We chose OBS materials that are easy to use and mobilize many OBS leaders. Now we need to continue to keep things simple as we nurture our new believers. Once again, choose materials that are easy to use. If you do, you will be able to mobilize many leaders who can nurture many new believers. If you choose materials that only a few are able to use your progress will be hindered. Fewer will be effectively nurtured because fewer will be able to lead Nurture Bible Studies.
3. Discovery learning
Discovery learning is not only best for OBSes. It's also the most effective way to help nurture new believers. It's exciting to see new believers discover truths from the Word of God that relate to their lives! Your job is to facilitate this! There are methods and materials available that will help. Choose these. Avoid mere lecture guides or outlines.
By choosing inexpensive materials the number of new believers we can nurture won't be limited by our budget.
Some possible materials
Excellent materials to help new believers grow. Available in English and Tagalog nationwide at The Bible League distribution outlets.
2. Bible Study Guides, Vol. 1 and 2,by Bertram Lim
3. Train and Multiply
These training booklets for church planters also include very practical and simple lessons for new believers. Available through Philippine Challenge in English, Cebuano and Tagalog.
4. SOW(School of Workers), Vol. 2
5. Discipleship series
Available through Victory Publishers.
As with OBS materials, many have written their own materials for Nurture Bible Studies.
7. Inductive Bible study
You can use just the Bible as your material to nurture new believers. You can do this in a way which will fulfill all four qualities of good Nurture Bible Study materials mentioned in the previous section. For help on how to do this, see Anyone Can Lead: Guidelines for Leading Outreach Bible Studies from OMF Lit.
8. Christian bookstores and denominational publishers
You can find many other materials for nurturing new believers by browsing through your local Christian bookstore or asking denominational publishers. Many of these are written especially for Filipinos. Other Philippine languages (Cebuano, Ilocano, etc.) are often available.
Here are some other materials that were written in a Western context, but are being used internationally. You can easily adapt these to our Filipino context:
9. Ten Basic Steps to Christian Maturity
Available through Philippines Campus Crusade for Christ.
You might want to try their Design for Discipleship or Studies in Christian Living series.
Some of the materials mentioned meet more of the qualities of good Nurture Bible Study materials than others.
Inductive Bible study
Personally, I almost always use inductive Bible study in my Nurture Bible Studies. Because it's so easy, we have mobilized hundreds of leaders who use this method. The leaders just facilitate. The Holy Spirit speaks to the new believers straight from the Bible. Hindi ako nagsasawa sa ganito.
One option is to study Ephesians 1-3 in your OBSes. Then cover Ephesians 4-6 in your Nurture Bible Studies. You can also use this method to study other parts of the Bible. Hundreds of churches have been planted using this method.
You can use the same format in the Nurture Bible Studies that we used in the OBSes (see pp. 206-207). The only difference is in the Word portion. The topic is now Christian growth rather than salvation.
Provide a personal touch
Everything done to help develop new believers should be done with a personal touch. Take sincere interest in every new believer. Make sure they know they are important. Model genuine love. Mobilize team members to do this also and to give pastoral care. Establish an environment of love and acceptance in the Nurture Bible Studies. Teach the new believers to also minister to one another. This will give the ideal environment for Christian growth.
Pastor Winnie Saniel led 17-year-old Ricky Victoria to Christ and brought him into the pastoral house. Through this personal touch, Ricky grew solid in his faith. He then went on to plant a church in Dagupan City, developed into a strong pastor and became president of the Ministerial Fellowship. The personal touch of Pastor Winnie played a big part!
Teach new believers a simple way to share their faith
Many new believers go through Nurture Bible Studies with the best materials. Even so, they still do not grow strong in their faith! Bakit kaya? For new believers to grow strong it's essential that they share their faith. This is made clear in Philemon 6. You may never have noticed this before.
&I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Phm. 6)
Mabigat, 'di ba?This has serious implications for nurturing new believers and planting churches which will impact their communities. We need to share our faith so that we might fully understand our position in Christ. This means that believers who do not share the Gospel will never grow strong in their faith! Kaya pala! Malaking bagay ito, ano?
We can enable more new believers to share their faith if we use simple methods. Here it is again—simple methods. If we make sharing the Gospel difficult many will never become capable. How can we make sharing the Gospel so simple that even new believers can do it? Here are some possible methods:
1. The Bridge
I always try to get Bibles with The Bridge Illustration in the back. Many Bibles have this, especially those from The Bible League. You can teach new believers to simply read this and show the pictures to their friends as they read. Kumpleto na ito. This is convenient because it's right there in their Bible.
Get some good tracts. Ganoon din, teach your new believers to simply read this to their contacts. Mas mabuti kung may pictures pa na puwedeng ipakita.
3. One verse evangelism
Teach your new believers to share the Gospel by explaining just one verse in the Bible. You might try this with John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9 or other favorites.
4. Gayahin angOBS
If your OBS methods are simple enough, new believers can take what they have learned and repeat it with their friends.
Abner was very serious and deep in thought in our first OBS. In the third OBS he became "enlightened" and received Christ. Eight days later he was leading his first OBS! He simply imitated the way I had lead the OBS with his family.
If you know of other methods you would like to try, go for it! Just make sure that whatever method you choose meets the following tests:
• It's easy to pass on to others
There are other methods of evangelizing that are mas malalim. Magaling din ang mga 'yon. We also need these. We can also use these deeper teachings about evangelizing at future upgrading trainings. This will probably click with some of our members who will greatly benefit from more advanced training.
We just need to make sure that more advanced forms of evangelizing are not the only ones we make available to our members. If we only offer advanced methods some of our members will be left out. They will never learn to share their faith. Along with this, they will never really grow in their spiritual lives. We also need simple methods that any new believer can use.
Mobilize new believers to actually share their faith
Teaching our new believers a method to share their faith is a good start. Now they need to actually do it! We can't assume this will happen just because we've taught them a method. Don't leave this to chance. Sadyain!
Those who are most likely to respond to the Gospel are those with whom our new believers already have a relationship. To facilitate this you can guide your new believers through the following steps:
1. Brainstorm names
Help your new believers list people with whom they could possibly share the Gospel.
Of all the names listed, who might be the most receptive. Whom should they share with first?
• The new believers pray
Teach them to pray personally for the salvation of those with whom they will be sharing.
• Pray together
The two of you could pray for these contacts when you are together.
• The Nurture Bible Study prays
Pray together each week for the contacts whom your new believers will be sharing with.
Teach your new believers to enlist others to join them in prayer for their unsaved friends.
Now it's time to do it. It will probably be best if you model this first in a real life situation. Then, your new believer can imitate you and share the Gospel too! You can use the steps of on-the-job training that we learned in Step 2.
Anyone from the church planting team could help mobilize the new believers to evangelize in this way.
5. Bring contacts to the Nurture Bible Study
Help your new believers to bring their friends to the Nurture Bible Study. This will be a great place for them to meet new Christians with whom they could feel comfortable. The fact that you are studying a topic that is for nurturing those who are already believers shouldn't be a big problem. In whatever passages you are studying there will probably be truths about salvation. You can emphasize these for the benefit of your visitors.
Rather than explain these verses yourself, ask the new believers to do it. This will probably have a greater impact coming from them rather than coming from you. Your visitors will probably relate more easily to these new believers than to you. So it will be more powerful to hear these things coming from them.
Actually, this accomplishes a double purpose, because it also gives your new believers more practice in sharing the Gospel. According to Philemon 6, doing this will help them gain a full understanding of every good thing they have in Christ.
At the Bible Study, you could also ask some of the new believers to share their testimony of how they received Christ.
Another option is to open a new OBS for these new contacts. This will multiply your contacts by giving you an opportunity to reach their whole family. If you do this, it would be great to use your new believer as the apprentice OBS leader!!
Maybe you are already starting to have some fun outings, activities or social gatherings at this stage of your church plant. If so, this is another opportunity for your new believers to invite their contacts. This is a great way for their contacts to meet other new believers!
To help mobilize your new believers in sharing their faith make enlarged copies of the Good News Sharing Guide on p. 227. Give one to every new believer. Help them fill this up. Review it with them regularly. This will help mobilize them in sharing their faith.
Good News Sharing Guide
You might ask, "Kuya Dave, why wait until Step 7 to mobilize new believers to evangelize? Why not do it during the OBS stage?"
Most people need to hear the Gospel several times before they understand and truly trust Christ. This will usually take most of the OBS stage (two months). The start of the Nurture Bible Study stage is usually about the right time to start mobilizing the new believers to share their faith.
"But what if someone is ready during the OBS stage?" some ask.
If someone has solid faith in the OBS stage, go ahead. Mobilize them then. Huwag pigilin.
Benefits of mobilizing new believers to evangelize
1. Gives joy
This gives our new believers incomparable joy as they lead their friends to Christ.
2. Mobilizes more laborers
&The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Lk. 10:2).
We need more workers who will share the Gospel. New believers are a great source of workers!
3. Seizes the opportunity
Most new believers have many contacts with unbelievers. But this will quickly pass. Most Christians have mainly Christian friends after they have been believers for a couple years. Mobilizing new believers to share their faith takes maximum advantage of this time when they are still in good contact with their non-Christian friends. Agapan, bago mawala ang pagkakataong ito.
4. Produces growth through multiplication
Members of our church planting team can keep making contacts and continue leading people to Christ. This is good. But this is growth by addition. Growth by multiplication comes by mobilizing our new believers. This produces far more fruit.
Let's pretend I'm going to give you some money. You have two options. In option one, I'll give you 1,000 pesos. Then I'll give you an additional 1,000 pesos every week for the next 52 weeks. In option two, I'll give you just isang sentimo. Then, I'll MULTIPLY that amount by two every week for the next 52 weeks. On the second week you will receive dalawang sentimos, on the third week apat na sentimos, and so on. Which option would you choose?
If you chose option one, you will have P53,000 at the end of the year. Ayos, ano?
But if you chose option two—congratulations! Billonaryo ka na! Option one adds money. Option two multiplies. Multiplication may be slower at first. However, it doesn't take long for it to be far more productive than addition.1
Mobilizing new believers to share their faith produces growth by multiplication.
5. Produces spiritual growth in the new believer
&I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Phm. 6)
Once you have a group of maturing believers you are ready to bring them together to form a joint fellowship. Nakakatuwa! Nakakakaba rin! In the next chapter we'll see what needs to be done to proceed with this important step.
Action planning and discussion
1. Here are some characteristics to look for in materials for your Nurture Bible Studies:
• Focuses on obedience and character development
• Easy to use
• Emphasizes discovery learning
Which of these might be easy to neglect? If neglected, what might be the result?
2. What specific material will you use for your Nurture Bible Studies? What do you like about this material?
3. What are your thoughts after reading Philemon 6?
"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."
4. Which method of sharing the Gospel will you teach to your new believers to enable them to evangelize?
5. What excites you about mobilizing new believers to evangelize? What challenges do you anticipate?
The main thing to do now
qSelect your Nurture Bible Study material.
qForm Nurture Bible Studies from all responsive Outreach Bible Studies.
qHelp your new believers share their faith.
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