I want to talk about Barnabas. A large number of people turn to the Lord, and he gets sent out to encourage and minister to them.
“When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.”
What a good example of how to treat new believers and help them grow in their faith. God calls us to this several times in the Bible. Paul tells us in 1 Peter to care for the flock God has entrusted to you. There is tons of emphasis in the Bible on being a responsible leader, shepherding new believers and watching out for them.
I’m always a little suspicious of rapidly growing ministries that pump out new Christians without enough emphasis on discipleship afterwards. That’s why I love the example we see here: the church sends out someone who is gifted in encouragement to disciple new Christians.
Here are a few ways to encourage new believers:
Be a safe person for them share doubts. There are so many unknowns about Christianity, the Bible, God, humanity, etc etc. You don’t have to have all the answers, because, well, no one does. Being a safe, humble person that acts as a sounding board to someone full of questions is a ministry all in it’s own. I (try to) remember that it’s okay to not know the answer, or graciously share my thoughts and opinions while holding them loosely, and really, I always end up learning something from them.
Just encourage. It’s an uphill battle turning your life towards God. Whether you’ve been doing it for two weeks or two decades, it’s a daily sacrifice. I recently received a card from a friend, their beautiful swirling handwriting encouraging me and complimenting me, and dang, it did wonders for my heart and head space. Everyone wants to be thought of, prayed for, reached out to and simply loved. In this day and age, the technology and resources of 2016 makes it pretty easy.
Pray for them. But actually pray for them. And tell them! I try to avoid the generic “I’m praying for you” and prefer to stop and pray for someone so that I can respond with “I just took time to pray for you” instead. Or even better, call them and pray with them, your petition to God on their behalf washing over them. “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18
Is there someone in your life you could take time to encourage today, in the church or out?