In reviewing the statistical reports of our work in North America, we are all distressed at the appalling losses among those baptized into the church. How can we hold new members in the church ? First of all, before they are taken in, make sure that a real change has taken place in their lives, that they are born of the Spirit, and not merely mentally or psychologically converted. Let them bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Then, and not until then, let them be born of water in baptism. However, a worker may have made certain of this, and still the new believer may lose out by the way, if proper follow-up work is not faithfully done.
New members are but newborn babes, and should be treated as such. Often there are stumblingblocks in the church. These should be removed, so far as is possible, by the pastor of the church before new members are taken into fellowship. The new member should be instructed that while the message is perfect, those in the church are not all perfect. For Jesus said of the wheat and the tares, "Let both grow together until the harvest."
When individuals are born again, we should not expect them to be fully grown. On the farm I learned that the new shoot of corn was a very tender plant which demanded careful attention. The more it grew, the less care and attention it took. So it is with a person born in Christ.
Jesus said to Peter, "Feed My lambs." In follow-up work, proper feeding is important. See to it that the new members are regular in attendance at the Sabbath school, the church service, and the celebration of the ordinances. Teach them to study the Bible daily and to be instant in prayer. If a new convert misses a Sabbath service, visit his home before the next Sabbath. Let him know that he was missed.
Note their spiritual experience and progress from week to week. Call in their homes when they have not planned on your visit—not as a spy, but with the purpose of finding their real needs. As you make these visits, encourage them to subscribe to the Review and Herald. Then, as their financial circumstances permit, place the Conflict Series in their homes. Later the other writings of the Spirit of prophecy should be added.
With all this care, we should make sure that the new members lean heavily upon the arm of God, and do not depend too much on the evangelist or pastor. Teach them to be strong in the Lord. From the very start, teach them to labor for the salvation of others. "Everyone who has received Christ is called to work for the salvation of his fellow men."—"Acts of the Apostles," p. 110. There is a definite place in the cause of God that all should fill. Help them to find this place. Help them engage actively in the first Ingathering campaign. Interest them in every department of the work.
Check their benevolent spirit by a periodic visit with the church treasurer. See if they return a tithe to the Lord. More is accomplished by kind dealing with these matters in the very beginning than by many a sermon later on. Learn, so far as possible, their health habits of eating and drinking. Help them to live in harmony with the message of health.
When the evangelist leaves the field, it would be well for one of his associate workers in the effort to remain as pastor of the new converts, for they are already acquainted with him. But where this is not possible, the newly called worker should be in the field a few weeks before the evangelist leaves, and the departing worker should highly commend this worker to his new converts. The work of the new pastor is highly important. He should have the same genuine burden for these souls as the evangelist had. He should take the same care and have the same personal interest in these new ones, as though they were the fruit of his own labor.
Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10. We have only one work, only one business, and that is to save. In every way possible we must save. Let us preach the Word in all our Sabbath services, always remembering that the message that made people Seventh-day Adventists will keep them Seventh-day Adventists.