6 Mistakes the Church Often Makes with New Believers, by Facts & Trends

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re aware by now that rapper Kanye West has openly professed faith in Christ, hosting Sunday services featuring gospel preachers, and has released an album, Jesus is King, full of Bible references.

West’s apparent conversion has provoked all kinds of reaction from Christians from jubilation to skepticism. Some have compared his conversion to that of the Apostle Paul. Others have compared it Johnny Cash’s or Bob Dylan’s.

Most of us won’t ever meet Kanye West, but hopefully, we’re constantly engaging with people who have professed newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Too often we meet such professions of faith—especially when they come from the mouths of people we least expect—with deep skepticism.

But what we owe new believers is not a clenched fist, but an open hand. So instead of eye rolls, let’s offer biblical responses. Here are six things the church often gets wrong when a new believer comes into the fold.

1. Responding to a new believer with a lack of joy.

Just as parents greet the entrance of a new baby into the world with joy, so should fellow believers greet the entrance of a new Christian—a new birth—into the body of Christ.

Luke 15:10 says that all of Heaven rejoices when a sinner comes home. Think about this. What lights up Heaven is that one more image-bearer has been rescued from the clutches of darkness. One more prodigal has come home. If we are truly living for Heaven, we should rejoice at what makes glad the heart of God.

2. Missing awe over the miracle of salvation.

Skepticism is one thing. But surprise is another.

My friend Bryan Loritts recently wrote, “Like any miracle, conversions shock us.” That’s exactly right. A conversion is always a surprising work of God, whether it takes place at 5 or 50, in a pew or a prison.

It’s a miracle that I’m a believer. It’s a miracle that you’re a believer. We who were dead have been made alive. God by his Spirit woos the hearts of sinners and gives them new birth in Christ.

3. Losing patience as a new believer stumbles.

A new believer articulates enough understanding that he or she is a sinner desperately in need of grace, abandoning idols and self-righteousness at the cross.

But that may be all they know.

Those of us who’ve spent years studying and teaching the Bible shouldn’t expect new converts to be as knowledgeable as we are. Paul says of his work among the people of Thessalonica, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

This kind of gentle care of a new convert requires spiritual maturity. In a social media age, where we stand ready to mock wrong answers in order to get clicks, we need to resist this and patiently work with those who are new to the family of God.

4. Now allowing them to grow in wisdom before they assume a leadership role.

Paul urges Timothy to not put a “novice” in leadership. Too often we’re tempted to give a new believer leadership roles before they are ready, particularly if they are a celebrity.

It’s tempting to see someone’s natural gifts and talents and automatically thrust them into leadership roles for which they aren’t spiritually prepared. This not only hurts the church; it hurts the person pushed into prominence prematurely. We should go slow and let some sanctification and discipleship take root.

Ironically, Paul’s words to Timothy were born out of his own experience. Before he was commissioned by the early church, he spent three years in obscurity in Arabia, learning and growing (Galatians 1:17).

5. Failure to adequately encourage a new Christian.

We’re wise to watch a new convert over a long period of time to see if they’re truly regenerated. But at the same time, our first response shouldn’t be cynicism or wish they were “our kind of Christian.”

We’re not saved into parochial tribes; we’re baptized into the body of Christ. So a new believer doesn’t need our Phariseeism, but our encouragement. They need a new family, not a new group of accusers.

6. Not welcoming them with a posture of humility.

There’s a tendency to disbelieve conversions happened, especially when they come out of a hedonistic or antagonistic life.

Some in the early church doubted Paul’s conversion, because he was the least likely person to be saved. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re the kind of people God wants to save.

But the grace that God applied to us is just as scandalous as the grace He applies to others. My salvation cost God as much as much as anyone else’s because the “wretch” in Newton’s Amazing Grace refers to me, not just those “other” people.

God is in the business of saving people, from celebrities like Kanye West to ordinary folks in your part of the world.

Let’s rejoice, like Heaven, every time a sinner crosses the threshold of mercy. And let’s not miss an opportunity to welcome a new brother or sister into the family of God.

Today’s guest post comes to us from Daniel Darling for Facts & Trends.

Share This Post

About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyMinistry