Introduction: All this quarter we have been discussing how to BRING
people into the church. This week we look at how we turn them from
believers into those who BELONG to the church. Rick Warren, in his
excellent book “The Purpose Driven Church,” devotes an entire section
to the issue of how we integrate new members into a functioning
church. He refers (page 309) to the transition from referring to
“that church” to “this church” to “our church.” Let’s see what the
Bible has to say about getting believers to the “our church”
- Strengthening the New Believers
- Read Acts 14:1-5. Assume you are a new member of the new
Iconium church. What are conditions like in your church?
- On whose side are the community leaders?
- If you were Paul and Barnabas, what would you do in
light of the threats of stoning?
- Would you leave your new members untended?
- Let’s read on: Acts 14:6-10. Paul and Barnabas decide it
is best to leave so they move on to Lystra and there heal
a man who never before had walked. Should that miracle
convert the city?
- Read Acts 14:11-13. What a triumph, they even converted
the priest of Zeus! Or did they?
- If you were Paul and Barnabas, how would you react to
this new development in witnessing? (Read Acts 14:14-15. The problem was these people were not converted,
they were incorporating Paul and Barnabas into their
existing belief system.)
- Read Acts 14:18-21. What a change of fortune! Who is
creating the trouble?
- The “punch line” that I want you to focus upon is
verse 21. What do you think about returning to these
cities? Aren’t these the very cities which either
stoned Paul or threatened to stone him?
- Would you go back?
- Is there any reason to think that it would be
safe to return? (No! Notice that the Jews from
Antioch and Iconium were the direct cause of
their problems in Lystra. Therefore you can
expect those people will be waiting for them.)
- Why did Paul and Barnabas return to these cities?
(Read Acts 14:21-22. They wanted to strengthen these
- Given this background, how important do you
think it was to Paul to strengthen new
believers? (It was important enough to risk
- How important a task is the strengthening
of new believers in your work? In the work
of your church?
- Does your church have any special plan for
strengthening new converts? If not, should
- The lesson points out (Monday) Win Arn’s book,
“The Church Ratio Book” that notes that if a new
believer does not have a minimum of seven new
friends in the first six months, they are likely
to leave the church. Does your church have a
plan to address this potential problem?
- If your church does not have a plan, do
you have a plan?
- Integrating the New Believers
- Let’s read on in Acts 14. Read 14:23. In each church Paul
and Barnabas appointed elders. What do you think was the
purpose for that?
- Read Romans 12:4-8. How important is giving the new
believer a “job” in the church? What if the new believer
fails in his or her job? (In her book, “Testimonies for
the Church,” Ellen White says, “Everyone who is added to
the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of
- How would you guard against failure and
discouragement by the new believer?
- When it comes time to select the leaders and officers
of your church, do you start out with a list of
“positions” and attempt to fill them? Or do you start
out with a list of members and match a position to
each? Which would be better?
- Specific Advice on Building Believers
- Paul gives us specific advice on encouraging and building
up believers (not just new ones) in 1 Thessalonians 5.
Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13. Is it our goal to
“encourage” and “build” believers?
- How is that consistent with verse 12, which suggests
that we should “admonish” some believers?
- Would a call or a note to someone who has missed
church recently be considered an admonishment?
- Is this kind of admonition important? (People
want to know you have missed them. I once read a
study that said if a member misses three weeks
in a row, the odds of the member permanently
leaving is very good.)
- Whenever I read newspapers published by labor unions
they are always talking about (v.12) “respect.” How
important is it to respect fellow believers? What,
exactly, does that mean?
- If you look carefully at verse 12, it seems to
request respect for those who “work hard” and “who
are over you.” Do you respect the leaders in your
- Does Paul’s advice here seem “upside down” – do
we normally find that the pastor admonishes the
members or the members admonish the pastor? (I
rarely hear, except in a sermon or in the case
of adultery, any pastor admonishing members.
However, I hear members admonishing the pastor
all the time!)
- Is following Paul’s advice on respecting leaders
and hard workers relevant to building up new
members? (It is not good for new members to see
conflict in the church.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18. When Paul speaks of idlers,
is he referring to church work, regular work or both?
- If this also refers to regular work, is this another
“upside down” area? Don’t we hear more warnings that
WE must help the homeless and chronically unemployed,
then we hear warnings directed to the homeless and
chronically unemployed? Should we hand out warnings
instead of sandwiches?
- Does Paul’s statement to “help the weak” fit in
- If this refers to idlers in church work, how
would you suggest warning them in a way that
will build them up?
- Do you know timid people in your church? How about
in your Bible class? How would you encourage them?
How would you match them to a job in the church?
- Are we instructed to be patient with idlers, the
timid and the weak? How about being patient with our
- How will being patient with other members help
build up the church? Or will being patient just
prolong the problem?
- We are told to “make sure” that no one retaliates.
How are we supposed to do that? (The way this is
written suggests that we should not be a part of
retaliation. We can lead by example.)
- Do you know people in your church who are always (v.
16) joyful? Does this include you?
- How do you react to joyful people?
- What difference do you think you could make if
you were always joyful when dealing with new
- I once read an article in a magazine blasting
the idea that we should celebrate in church. The
article, sadly lacking in Biblical support,
argued that we should be very sober in church in
light of our sinfulness. What does Paul say
about the attitude that we should reflect in
church and otherwise? (Paul not only tells us to
be joyful always (v.16), but he also tells us
(v.18) to “give thanks” in all circumstances.
Can you imagine a worship service in which the
congregation is full of joyfulness and
thankfulness? What a place for new members!)
- Paul says that we should “pray continually.” How is
that possible? (I think this is that frame of mind
when you are in contact with God. )
- Friend, we have the important task of strengthening new
members so that they will feel they belong to the church.
We need to encourage our church to be as vigorous in
strengthening new members as we are in witnessing.
- Next Week: The Results of Witnessing.