Daniel Holland reflects on the need to encourage new believers to get ‘in’ to the Bible.
The main way a new believer will grow is through absorbing Scripture. As quickly as possible let’s encourage converts into their Bible both in shared times together and in their personal life (sometimes called their “quiet time”). Realistically the new convert will need help with this. Reading of the bible is spiritually opposed, so we need to be proactive. Every convert will differ in reading ability, intellect and learning style. It is important we take these differences prayerfully into account. Holy Spirit can increase a new convert’s ability and capacity; the surest signs of His work in the convert’s life will be an insatiable appetite for the Scriptures!
The Bible is a book that shouldn’t necessarily be read first from start to finish, especially the first time around! Generally, it is best to start off in the gospels; Mark is short and accessible. It may be the Holy Spirit will guide him elsewhere. The important thing is that the new believer engages with Scripture for themselves. Big chunks, small bites, grazing on Scripture through the day; focussed times of study. Everyone has their own rhythm; where there is a will there is a way. Anointed books of biography and teaching, while inspirational when in their place, should never supersede Scripture.
We live in an era of endless resources and translations of the Bible. Accordingly there is no excuse, we can find a version that suits everyone. Possibly, for example, the Manga Bible for teenagers and the Good News for adults, in the hope and expectation that they will branch out in other versions as they become enthralled with God’s Word. Don’t feel obliged to give the new believer a dumbed-down Bible, however! They may be perfectly happy with a good basic version such as the NIV. We just need to be sensitive to individual needs …..
Our new believer can also listen to Scripture through any number of streaming sites and apps. There are dramatized film versions of the Bible. There are audio scriptures set to all styles of music and any number of websites with tips to help you engage.
Let’s get the Bible at the heart of the believer’s life at the very beginning, establishing the good habit. They will pick up on our love of Scripture and their faith will take root and grow strong. Their discipleship will flow out from a childlike understanding of the Word of God. This must be our urgent prayer.
BIBLE STUDY TOGETHER
This must be bespoke, not a formula (it’s tempting to pick an epistle or resource that touched us profoundly!). Let’s be Spirit led. There are brilliant resources out there. What will help a convert most is practical teaching, speaking into his issues at the time; self-esteem, addictions, sexuality, handling rejection, anger and relationships. An intuitive and creative discipler will quickly discern what best helps and energizes the convert. If the convert is from a Muslim or Hindu background focus on Scriptures relating to the divinity of Christ. Or from the New Age; the spirituality of Christ – maybe the gospel of John?
WHAT WAS GOD DOING IN THE CONVERT’S LIFE BEFORE CONVERSION?
God will have been at work by His Spirit long ago, teaching them things that you can now show them in Scripture. They will be delighted by this.
FOR THEIR SAKE
As a discipler there may well be a cost in curbing your own enthusiasm; refusing to be self indulgent in your bible studies together. You have other forums to explore deeper truths of the faith, so be unselfish. We live in a visual age, the convert mustn’t ever be made to feel bad that he can’t read fast or takes time to grasp things.
As they say, Rome was not built in a day! Discipleship and progress to maturity will take time. Repetition is a big part of absorbing truth.
NOT TOO MUCH. NOT TOO LITTLE
Don’t force-feed the new convert, this is counterproductive. Rather, stimulate spiritual appetite and give them a real taste for Scripture. Too little interaction with the Bible, and he will wither up. Too much and he may get spiritual indigestion. A spiritual babe needs just the right amount. A skilful discipler will know when to exhort and encourage.
It will become obvious when it’s time to introduce more ‘meat’ into their spiritual diet. As the believer engages with Scripture over time, we should prayerfully expect to see and work towards these stages in their development:
Bible references illustrating the above are incorporated into Daniel Holland’s forthcoming book on discipling new Believers.
Daniel Holland is a UK missionary with Through Faith Missions. “Through The Tunnel – Free at Last” published by PUSH Publishing, is his personal testimony. His book “Prophetic Evangelism – Kingdom Exploits in the Risk Zone” was published earlier this year and is accompanied by a Zoom-based training course for those who want to develop into this area of ministry. “Prophetic Evangelism” is published by Christian Publications International: https://christian-publications-int.com/PropheticEvangelism.html