Have you ever had a moment with your children when you realized that they had no clue how to do something that you had assumed they knew. Or maybe it was a co-worker and you saw them struggling to do something that you figured everyone knew how to do. Have you asked your child to hand you the pliers and they stare at you with a look that says “what you talking ’bout Willis?” Sometimes we just assume that someone knows something just because we do – but obviously that’s not always the case.
Recently I took my son to open a bank account. We sat down with the new account person and got everything set up. She explained that Ryan would need to make a deposit of at least $5.00 to finish the process so she escorted us over to the teller and informed her that he would be depositing a check to open his new account. Ryan had a paycheck that would serve as his first deposit. Although Ryan had another bank account, all the deposits made to it had been direct deposit. This was the first time he had actually made a deposit in person. As we all stood there waiting for him to complete the deposit slip, sign the check and hand it to the teller, he just looked at me and said “I don’t know what’s going on. What am I supposed to do?”
In that moment I realized that the teller, the account manager and myself had expected him to know how to do the deposit simply because it was a common thing that we had all done so many times. What I failed to consider was that making a deposit is not something automatic that everyone knows how to do without some instruction first. Ryan felt confused, unsure and embarassed. This was something completely new to him and he needed someone to guide him through the process and explain each step before he could be expected to do it on his own.
Ryan’s experience at the bank made me think about how I had felt as a new Christian. I remember how it felt being in a bible study and being asked to look up and read a particular scripture and everyone expected me to instinctively know exactly where to turn to in my bible. I remember feeling completely panicked as I looked for the verse for what seemed like forever. I remember hearing religious terms and phrases and having no idea what they meant and how afraid I was to ask because everyone else seemed to already know their meaning. I remember thinking that because I was born again I had to be perfect. If I made one mistake I felt so ashamed that I didn’t even want to be around anyone from church because I thought they were all perfect and never made mistakes. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just knew I wanted my life to be different and I wanted to do things right in the eyes of God but I didn’t know how to do it or even where to begin.
Years later I am now by definition the “mature” Christian, although most days I still feel like I have so much to learn and so much further to go in my faith walk. But there are many things about the Christian faith that are now second nature to me. At least now I know exactly where to turn to in the bible when asked to read a scripture. But it has taken a very long time to get to that place and I didn’t get there on my own. There were other Christians along the way who understood that they could not expect me to know everything there is to know about how to be a follower of Christ just because I had been saved. Some things needed to be taught. And with grace, compassion and patience they discipled me in the foundations of our faith.
As believers it is our responsibility to teach new believers how to follow Christ beyond just Sunday mornings. We are to teach them foundational truths like lordship, repentance and forgiveness. We must guide them through spiritual disciplines like reading and studying their bible, serving their local church and spending time in worship. We must show patience and understanding as we help them learn to pray and we must be compassionate when they fail in their walk so they never feel condemnation. We must model for them how to be obedient to God’s commands. But as the church are we truly busy making disciples or are we just too busy and they are left to make it on their own? When new believers perceive that we think they should know how to do everything without being taught then they are made to feel inferior, ashamed and embarassed.
Many new believers simply stop attending church and disconnect from other believers because they don’t understand how to follow Christ and the first time they make a mistake or make a wrong choice they feel like they’ve failed and that they don’t fit in. They feel that way because they’ve never been taught grace, mercy and forgiveness. It’s not intentional on our part but we must remember how it was for us as new believers. What we do have to be intentional about is making disciples. If we consider ourselves Christ followers then we must follow in His ways and teach those who are new disciples. Jesus never expected that His disciples would just know what to do after they made the decision to follow Him. He knew they were like toddlers just learning to walk so He helped them by lifting them up when they fell and walking with them as he showed them what it meant to be His disciple. Jesus had high expectations for His followers but He never expected them to meet those expectations on their own. He walked alongside of them every step of the way. Is there a new believer you know who needs you to walk alongside of them? Ask God to help you fulfill His great commission: “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20). Let Him guide you as you help guide others in obedience.