FOLLOW UP

Introduction:

The opening article in the first issue of CROSSFIRE considered the subject of personal evangelism - the leading of someone to faith in Jesus Christ. This article is designed to cover the complementary but equally important subject of building up a young Christian to mature and fruitful Christian living. Spurgeon said, "He who converts a soul draws water from a fountain, but he who trains a soul-winner digs a well from which thousands may drink to eternal life." The effectiveness of OCU members, as Christ's witnesses within the Services, would multiply several times over if we took seriously the task of nurturing and encouraging young Christians through to maturity.

Our Responsibility

We first need to recognise our responsibility to become involved in follow-up. In 1 Peter 2:2, the young Christian is likened to a new born baby. It follows that as such he requires care, encouragement and feeding if he is to grow up, or if he is to grow at all. This can only come from other Christians. Within a Service context, therefore, we should be aware of any young Christian arriving at our unit/ship/station and be actively seeking to meet his needs. We can expect to be answerable to God for how we exercise this responsibility. We need to remember that it is God's will that each should be sanctified not just justified (1 Thess.4:3). Paul's view of his task was that of presenting every man perfect (i.e. mature) in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28).

Our action

Where we have been involved in leading someone to faith in Christ, it is easy to recognise our responsibility to follow him up. We may well, however, encounter young Christians who have been led to Christ elsewhere and who are in need of someone to help them along. It should berecognised that positive action is required on our part - checking each new edition of the Members' Address List for new arrivals, maintaining contact with the OCU office and other more local Christian centres of news and information (local RSR Missioners, Scripture Readers, Chaplains, etc.). There is also the highly positive aspect of prayer - asking the Lord to lead us to those that He can help through us. This may take time to work through as many of us Christians are all too competent at putting on a mask of 'maturity'. Regular contact through friendship and fellowship will eventually disclose where some kind of follow-up is overdue. We should also be alert to opportunities that may occur in the most unlikely circumstances. Often the Lord will lead us, perhaps in the apparently foreign atmosphere of a cocktail party, to a backslidden believer who is secretly yearning for tactful help and encouragement that would restore him to faith and fellowship.

Having identified new Christians who will benefit from follow-up, the best means of helping them must then be selected. Often the most effective way is to make a regular time to meet with them for Bible study and prayer; if there is a fellowship meeting locally, whose programme will meet the need, it may be enough to ensure that the new found friend gets along to it. Whichever tack is followed, it is important to monitor progress to ensure that the individual is finding it worthwhile. The Lord meets us at our point of need; we should try to meet other Christians at their point of need rather than to treat them as robots who have to be put through an identical programme.

Our Method - General Principles

What follows can only be a guideline, as each situation merits a different approach:

Assurance

When someone is converted to Christ, the first thing he needs is Assurance. Ideally we should spend some time with him reviewing the steps he has taken and the consequences of these steps. It will be helpful to review the verses that cover the Way of Salvation and that his salvation rests on the promises of God (eg John 6:37) rather than on human opinion. The article on page 8 covers the whole field of Assurance and will represent rewarding reading for the new convert. If we are unable to spend time with him, because of Servicec commitments, there are some excellent booklets which will prove helpful, such as John Stott's "Becoming a Christian" or Michael Griffiths' booklet on Assurance.

Growth

We should now be seeking ways of fostering growth. Three basic lessons need to be learnt by the new Christian at this stage:

Witness and service

At some time during the early days, the young Christian should be shown the importance of sharing his faith (Romans 10:9,10). There are traps to be avoided. It is all too easy for this to become a matter of bondage; it is equally possible for it to become a source of pride. The best approach is to get him to accompany you when you are engaged in Christian service. This has the advantage of him seeing your prayerful approach and of providing opportunities for witness and service where you can encourage, counsel and support him directly. In this way he will discover for himself the joy and satisfaction of seeing the Lord work 'even' through him.

Teaching

We shall be concerned for the long-term spiritual welfare of the young Christian and this, to some extent, depends on his having access to good teaching. Our task will be to ensure that this is so whether it is achieved by taking him to a good local centre of Christian teaching, or by giving, or encouraging him to buy, a small library of reference books (eg. The New Bible Dictionary [IVP]), if he is the reading type. The value of tapes is inestimable in the mobile life of the Service officer. It will be important for him to know where tapes and books can be obtained and this will provide a good opening to acquaint him with the benefits of OCU membership. The advantage of being linked to an OCU Associate prayer group should be particularly underlined.

Conclusion

Our aim for ourselves and the youngest Christian should be to press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). To be involved in Follow Up will be costly, but in the end enormously fulfilling. We cannot expect the Church of Christ to grow unless we are ourselves willing to be committed to this task.

Suggested books to lend:
"Basic Christianity" by John Stott
"Consistent Christianity" by Michael Griffiths
"Live a New Life" by David Watson
"Prayer" by O. Hallesby


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