Discipleship: Nurture, Don't Abandon, New Christians

women reading Bible together outdoors

While on a family outing in a park, a friend of mine heard a cry coming from a cardboard box. In the box was an abandoned newborn girl. My friend’s family took her home and eventually adopted her. We read this and think, “How sad! How could someone abandon a newborn?”

I know many people who were abandoned in much the same way after their spiritual birth. We celebrated their salvation and then left them with no way to feed themselves or grow. Evangelism is very important, as we share the good news of Christ’s grace and forgiveness. And even the angels celebrate a lost soul coming home. However, our task doesn’t end there. I don’t think you can separate evangelism from discipleship. The sharing of the message of salvation is the beginning of discipleship.

Early Discipleship

Do you know any non-Christians? The person who cuts your hair? Your vet? A neighbor? Think of people you see on a regular basis. Look for opportunities to talk with them about Christ. If someone mentions a family or personal problem, ask, “May I pray with you about that?” and stop right there and pray with her or him. You may be surprised at the doors that open.

Be sure you know how to explain the gospel in a way that is easily understood. Consider carrying tracts with you, not just to give away but also to read and explain to someone. All this is part of early discipleship. You are teaching people about God. When they make the decision to accept Christ as their Savior, the real discipleship begins.

Making Disciples Who Make Disciples

You do need to encourage the new believer to get involved in a local church, but that is not discipleship. Discipleship is personal. Newborn Christians need to know how to pray, how to read the Bible and have a personal devotion time, what to do when they sin, what baptism means, and other basic teachings. Check with your church or local Christian bookstore for materials for new believers. Make a weekly commitment to meet with your disciple. It could be over coffee or at one of your homes. Listen, pray together, and share what God has taught you. God will use you to nurture His new child into a mature Christian who can disciple others.

After you finish the basics, study a book of the Bible together or a study book. Look for ways to make sure it happens. I still disciple a woman in the town we left a year ago. We meet every morning in a Facebook chat and discuss a Scripture passage. We also share prayer requests. Face-to-face is best, but if you can’t meet 1 week, then be creative.

Discipleship cannot occur without evangelism. When the evangelistic message is accepted and a person is born again into God’s family, discipleship is essential. Whether it is someone you led to the Lord or a believer who has not been discipled, don’t leave spiritual children abandoned with no way to grow. Nurture them.

Donna Maust, an International Mission Board missionary, works with Afro-Ecuadorians on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.


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