Baptism is frequently referred to as the gateway to the church. Jesus said, "I am the door." Breaking allegiance with the world and joining Christ's spiritual body on earth are most significant steps to the new believers. The Bible compares baptism to a marriage ceremony. Obeying the injunction, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," makes possible this union with Christ.
The new believer is now following a new master. A whole new code of habits must re place the old habits of sin. We would not limit the power of God to do a quick work of grace in the life of the one who has made the decision to walk in the full light of truth, but good judgment tells us that these changes re quire more than merely good intentions. Al though we certainly do not wish to suggest that the new believer should go through a period of probation, it is necessary, however, for him to have begun walking in the path of his new- found faith before he is baptized. There is need for real instruction in habits of diet, dress, and amusement.
Present-day plans for evangelism often re quire that the evangelist and his associate workers move on to another place before their new converts are really anchored in the church. A church has enough problems without taxing it with new members who are but half instructed in the faith they have accepted. Proper caution and thorough evangelism will save our churches great disappointment. It is unwise to leave these new believers without a worker or two who can continue to help them at this critical stage in their experience. Too many new believers fail in their Christian life, not because they are in sincere in accepting new truth, but because they do not receive proper help when they are still weak.
The Master Himself taught that the gospel net would gather both the good and the bad. After being brought into the fold some will not remain true. With every precaution in evangelism there will still be the weaker elements of human nature to deal with. To wait until every test is made before accepting a person into church membership is not the way of the Master Evangelist. But in these last days too many have a background of careless living, and altogether too few have developed enough spiritual backbone to stand firm when trial and test are brought to bear. It is all the more important, therefore, that strong fortifications be set up against the enemy. Every worker is responsible for developing new believers into strong Seventh-day Adventists. Unless the pastor who establishes these new people in the church is a genuine co-worker with the evangelist and Bible instructors who have preceded him, lack of cooperation and sympathy may add to the problem of membership losses.
The talents of all new converts should be discovered and utilized. Perhaps the Bible instructor is as well fitted as any other worker to give counsel on this point. Her special encouragement will help them to take an interest in the Sabbath school. This department of the church offers them a wonderful field for development. Also the Missionary Volunteer Society may enlist the gifts of youth, and the missionary and Dorcas societies will suggest opportunities for adults.
Christian education is a doctrine of the church. Without a thorough indoctrination on this point of our faith new converts will not be able to save their families for God today. The Bible instructor must not overwhelm them by urging too sudden school changes and too heavy financial obligations, but her failure now to en list their interest in the church school, academy, or college may close the doors of opportunity to save the youth of these homes for the message. We are not saving individuals alone; we must save families. "Come out from among them" must include all the children of these new converts.
The privilege and need of prayer are most important for the new believer to learn. He now faces unusual tests, although in this first- love period he may be rejoicing in his tribulations. Drastic changes have come into his life, and these often separate him from his loved ones and former friends. He now greatly needs the communion of the saints and their united prayers. He should be early introduced to the prayer meeting, and perhaps even before his baptism, be invited to take an active part. It may be that he lives a distance from the church and may find it impossible to attend. Arrangements should then be made for believers in his community to form a band for prayer and Bible study. These established Christians can become a tower of strength to him. I know of no other effort that yields such fruitage in establishing the new believer. Too often there is failure to arrange for such prayer groups when these babes in the message need their inspiration.
New believers also need to be introduced to Seventh-day Adventist literature, especially the official organ of the denomination the Review and Herald. Where there are young people in the family, The Youth's Instructor will be a great help in building new youth ideals. Our Little Friend, which is now generally supplied to the little folks by the Sabbath school, should also find its way into these homes. One should advise the selection of a few of these periodicals in the early experience of new Adventists. Whereas economy might first suggest the wisdom of this course, it is also well not to over whelm the new believer with too much reading. It is better to guide the reading program until the proper reading habit is established. Here Bible instructors can be a great help to their readers.
(Continued next month)