Monday, March 31, 2008

Neo-Natal ICU for New Believers

I taught my first Sunday morning Bible study 36 years ago. I've been leading small groups for more than 20 years. Yesterday I started a new small group and something happened that I've not experienced in all of those 20+ years. No one showed up. Now that was a strange feeling. This morning I realize that I've learned things from yesterday's experience that would rank right up there with some of the best things I've learned over the years.

It has solidified in my brain that new believers are a different kind of breed. They need special handling. An invitation will not necessarily get them to attend. A face to face invitation may not get them to commit, but it is moving in the right direction. It seems to me that maybe they need a large group experience of explaining what one is trying to do and then a follow-up, more personal approach. I will have to chew on that for a while. Share anything you can with me.

Then I learned that maybe I can't do everything by myself. I think I knew that, but was trying to do it anyway. To build the kind of structure that I'm trying to put into place is not a solo event. It is probably going to require a steering group and volunteers at every major level. When you consider that I'm trying to put it into place working part-time, I must be out of my mind, or just plain need help.

What I've described was an eye-opener to me. I'm not sure I ever wanted to do it all by myself anyway, but yesterday solidified that for me. It was a defeat and yet a giant win if I can revamp my organizational structure and fill slots to make it all happen. I don't think there is any other choice for it to ultimately be a success. Thank you Lord for removing the cataracts from my eyes.

Last week my granddaughter was born. They put her in the nursery, under constant care and observation for the first four hours. They say that this four-hour period is the most critical for newborns. Then they brought her to her mother and she began feeding right away. The bonding experience began, or should I say, continued to a new level. Now that baby will need a mother's constant care for weeks to come.

The physical birth of a baby is a beautiful picture of the birth of a new believer. They need constant care and observation. I'm beginning to believe that it may be four weeks, rather than the first four hours. Mike, you mean that a new believer needs more care than a newborn baby? No, but you take a newborn baby home with you. A believer returns to their previous environment. This idea has solidified in my brain, heart, and spirit.

One last thing for today. A human baby is in trouble if a mother and daddy do not bond with that baby from the beginning. There is a time period when that bonding has to take place. The same thing happens with a new believer. They profess their faith in Christ. They follow Jesus in baptism and join the community of believers. What happens if bonding does not take place? The new believer begins to pull away, looks for it elsewhere, and often disappears in a matter of weeks.

With what I have learned over the past week and in particular over the weekend, I am determined to set in motion whatever it takes to care for the newborn child of God.


Jared said...

If you teach it ... they will come!

Heather Z said...

Hey Mike- no one came to my first small group. For like two months! It was crazy! While I hated it at the time, it's given me a great story to share with new, struggling leaders. Every NCC leader feels successful compared to their discipleship pastor when they hear my story!

Wow-- it's a tough one, though. I think it just takes constant commitment to them-- even when they aren't committed in return.