Out of Necessity Came Nurture
Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England
Over the years the Lord had consistently blessed the gospel testimony of the assembly at St. Austell to the point that there were a number of middle-aged adults who had professed faith in Christ and had gone on to be baptized. Encouraged then to take their place in the local assembly, it was such a joy to find them willing to accept the responsibilities that this important step imposes. Most assemblies would be as delighted as we were to see the hand of the Lord upon these new believers, who were largely total strangers to a New Testament pattern of church order, coming along to the meetings and finding their spiritual life amongst the saints.
Then it all seemed to fall apart. Slowly, but surely, all this hard won blessing began to turn into difficulty after difficulty. There began, what we see now to have been, a long down turn in events. There was a decline in the attendance and commitment of those we had had such joy and rejoicing over previously. There was no particular pattern of that which caused this and no lack of visitation or offers of help and support. All was seemingly of little avail. Doing all that we possibly could do, we found ourselves observers of young believers going through a variety of personal and family problems that took an immense toll on their spiritual lives. While still maintaining a spiritual vigil on this situation, we began to see that the Lord was yet again moving in salvation and another group of new converts was coming to faith in the Lord Jesus. This time there was a mixture of younger and older people. At the same time several families with teenage children moved into the assembly. Already unsure in the one situation, we now found that the Lord was placing on us even greater responsibilities in the need to establish good foundations in the lives of the newer believers.
As elders we were much cast upon God and spent a great deal of time discussing and praying through the whole matter. Ultimately we were convinced that where we had failed the initial group of believers was on account of not presenting them, consistently, and at the early stages of their life in Christ, with the right kind of teaching. What was needed was that which would aid them to adjust to their new life whilst dealing with those areas of their old lives that needed to be put in order. We needed to help them face the immediate consequences of conversion and to establish the initial habits that would feed their new spiritual lives. There would have to be opportunities to discuss issues with established Christians and to show them the way to avoid snares and pitfalls in their first steps along the road to an established Christian life. What we needed above all, was a programme of teaching that could be delivered in such a way that they would be able to understand it and absorb it at a pace suited to themselves.
The ultimate result of the prayerful labours of many is what we call our nurture course for new believers, entitled 'Footprints'. It is a printed course set out as ten separate units dealing with first steps in Christian living. It handles most of the initial problems that might occur after conversion and clearly directs the new believer to the need for baptism and fellowship in a local assembly. It requires a mature Christian to be willing to see a new believer through the sections, spending time to open all the various questions or individual aspects that may arise on the way through the material. We are now seeing the first eight believers completing the ten units and have found that there is advantage in doing this on an individual basis rather than in a group. Several other assemblies are now using the materials and speak highly of the help provided by it. Precious Seed is publishing it as a set of ten photocopiable master-copies so that it can be used more widely by others who feel it has a place in their service for the Lord - see page 125, and the order form on page 127.
Has it resolved the problems it was designed to meet? Certainly those that have worked through it testify to the great help it has been to them. We have seen one man converted as a result of looking up the references while going through it, several have also been baptized and are now concerned about fellowship. So we have been encouraged to feel that it meets some of the needs and is a help in fulfilling our responsibilities in 'teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you', Matt 28. 20.