So, what exactly should a Christian do if granted the opportunity to mentor and disciple a new believer? Here are a few suggestions that I've found helpful:
- Be prepared to be used in new ways. Just because he's used you in one particular way in the past doesn't mean it's going to be the same this time around. Different people require different approaches. Pray for God's direction, for boldness, and for vision.
- Equip yourself. Go back and reread all of those verses you clung to when you were a new Christian. Memorize as much of Romans as you can. Look for natural openings to share God's Word, and use an easy-to-understand Bible translation. New believers inevitably have serious concerns about theological issues and always seem to get around to the "Why do bad things happen to good people?" question. Study the Scriptures so that you are prepared to answer these questions when they are asked.
- Make sure you're "covered." Have a spouse, pastor, or a strong spiritual friend standing in the wings to help you when you need assistance. Get on as many prayer lists as you can.
- Think long-term. Be emotionally and spiritually prepared to stick with this person for the long haul, but don't take on more than you can handle. Try not to think of the person as just a "ministry project"; simply be a friend.
- Expect and encourage change. But be patient as it comes about. People don't drop all of their old habits in a day. Be willing to understand that your friend hasn't got it all together yet. I've had to walk with new converts who praised God one minute and cursed the next—not because they didn't love God but because they were still on a learning curve. Ironically, so was I.
- Open your house. You will often be required to "share your space." with people who need a shoulder, a conversation, or a cup of coffee. Make your home available. Make sure the others who live there are comfortable with that arrangement and try to strike a good balance.
- Pray. And remind the new convert that you are praying for them regularly. Also remind her that God has great things in store for her.
- Keep it real. Don't be afraid of making mistakes in front of those you are mentoring. They will probably find you a lot more likeable if you don't attempt to hide all of your flaws from them. Be genuine. Be honest. Be yourself.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Reader magazine.
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July/August 2003, Vol. 41, No. 4