In the book of Acts, we are told that Paul preached in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths. That must have been some preaching! In such a short time, Paul converted so many Thessalonians to Christianity that the Jews became enraged and sought Paul’s arrest. However, Paul’s friends were able to smuggle him to Athens before the Jews were able to lay a hand on him. In less than a month, Paul was able to plant the seed of Christianity so pervasively among the people of Thessalonica that the Jews felt threatened by this burgeoning tide of believers. However, because he had to leave Thessalonica so suddenly, Paul became concerned about the spiritual well being of his flock. So concerned about them was he that he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to assess the state of the new movement: thus began a conscious and determined effort to preserve the relationship with the new believers – an effort that, for all intents and purposes, has become an evangelistic template for the retention and well being of new believers everywhere.
Paul sought to preserve relationships with the new converts by exhorting them in their faith, by encouraging them, and by demonstrating genuine interest in their soul salvation. In addition, he demonstrated great concern for their spiritual well-being and likened the deep anguish he felt about their plight to “that of a parent bereft of a child.”
Paul’s concern for the new converts may very well be an education for today’s evangelists and witnesses. Too frequently we find that the bountiful harvest of new converts from an evangelistic campaign disappears after only a few months. The reason for this is the church’s lack of demonstrable interest in the spiritual well-being of the new converts. After the euphoria of the so-called successful campaign, the Church quickly resorts to business as usual, leaving the new converts to walk alone, to fend for themselves. Strangers in the midst of friends, the converts seek the perceived inclusiveness of another more welcoming group of believers, or they return to the comfort and familiarity of their former faith (or non-faith) communities.
The church needs to encourage the formation of a pro-active system of backdoor guards: members who are trained to spot the lonely, the disappointed, the shy, the seemingly disinterested, the reticent, etc. These trained members must be able to politely engage these new converts, deftly discuss with them the various ministries and programs of the church and allow them the opportunity to determine the ones that may be of interest to them.
What is really needed to combat the spiritual warfare that is waged every time one gives or thinks to give one’s heart to Jesus is for one to take a page out of Paul’s book. Paul, the greatest evangelist that ever lived, placed no little emphasis on the need for the church to preserve relationships with new converts, especially following an evangelistic campaign. One example of the importance Paul placed on preserving relationships can be found in 1Thessalonians 3: 1-10.
While he was in Thessalonica, even though he was there for less than a month, Paul formed great relationships with the new converts to Christianity. So concerned was he about the welfare of the new converts that he sent Timothy, “our brother and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” (1 Thess. 3:2) Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that he could not stand being away from them; therefore, he sent Timothy to know their faith, “lest by some means the tempter (has) tempted you, and our labor be in vain.” Paul says in verse 6 that Timothy has given “good tidings of your faith and . . . now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord” (verse 8).
Paul’s guiding principle is that “the Second Coming will bring a glorious reunion of family and friends, whose relationships will last forever because of what Jesus has done. Christian relationships don’t have an expiration date. They are designed to be eternal.”
How has your church sought to encourage new converts after an evangelistic campaign?
What have you done to help preserve relationships with new converts?