Pastor: From Mountaintop to Valley Grounding the New Believer Nurturing Young Converts

Jesus had taken His most intimate disciples, I Peter, James, and John, with Him up into the mountain.

President, Southern New England Conference

"Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." Matt. 17:4.

Jesus had taken His most intimate disciples, I Peter, James, and John, with Him up into *^ the mountain. Little did they realize the dramatic scene they were soon to behold. For a while they prayed with Christ during the hours of the night, but, succumbing to the weakness of the flesh, they fell asleep as the Master prayed on alone. Suddenly they were aroused from their slumber by voices in the distance, and, opening their eyes, they beheld a most glorious and phenomenal sight, the like of which they had never before witnessed. It was hard for them to believe their eyes and ears, for it seemed as if they were in a dream. Yet they could not doubt their senses, for they had ample evidence to believe that they were fully conscious of what was taking place around them.

There Christ was transfigured before them on the top of the mountain. On either side of Him were Moses and Elijah. They were communing with one another, but what they said has not been revealed. The thrill of just being permitted to see the celestial visitors was some thing the three disciples were never to forget. It seemed as if they were surrounded by a heavenly atmosphere. They had been given a preview of the kingdom of glory and a foretaste of the exquisite joys and bliss that await those who will be privileged to see their Saviour face to face. What a marvelous sight to behold! How exhilarating and blissful to be present at this unique occurrence! For a time the disciples found it difficult to give expression to their thoughts and feelings. But at last Peter, the self-appointed speaker, blurted out, "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." But their wishes were not granted, nor were they to re main long on the mountain. In a short while they were wending their way down the mountainside. There was much to do in the valley and plains below, but if they remained on the mountaintop, it could not be done. It was, therefore, necessary for them to descend from the heights of the mountain and finish the task before them.

Mountaintop Experience of Camp Meeting

For a number of days now we have been attending camp meeting. It has been a mountaintop experience. We have heard many wonderful things. We have been in a heavenly atmosphere and have felt the presence of the Master. We have experienced a heavenly bliss and have received many blessings. Truly it was good for us to be here. It was proper and good for us to come apart and rest awhile. But we must now descend to the valley and plains to join battle with the enemy.

Christians cannot remain aloof from the realities of life. It is not God's plan that we should isolate ourselves from society and live alone and enjoy our spiritual blessing. In His prayer in the garden Christ prayed, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil."

Some Christians of the early church yielded to the false philosophy that, in order to be come holy, one must separate himself completely from the world. As a consequence many lived in deserts and caves away from civilization. It was their belief that in doing this they became holy. They were venerated and sought out as saints. One deluded soul by the name of Simeon Stylites built a platform where he made his abode off the ground. Then he raised it to fifteen feet, twenty feet, and finally thirty feet. Here he lived for years on a small plat form suspended above the earth. Thousands flocked to this isolated place to commune with the man, for he was supposed to be most holy and noble. This, of course, was asceticism, a religion of works, the precursor of monasticism, but it is not the religion of Jesus Christ. Christ did not pray that His followers would be taken out of the world or that they might be separated from society, but instead He prayed that they would be kept from the evil of the world.

The Christian is going to have his share of trials and tribulations. He will be confronted on every hand with temptations. We must realize that we cannot tarry indefinitely on the mountain to enjoy its bliss. We must know what it is to be on the mountain with Christ in sweet communion, yet we must have a practical and realistic religion that will enable us to meet the challenge of life as found in the lowlands.

A boy won a telescope in a contest. He was seen looking through it backward at a group of youngsters playing nearby. Finally his uncle asked him why he was looking through the wrong end of the telescope. "Well," he said sheepishly, "I like to look at Chuck Wilson this way 'cause it makes him look smaller. He's always pushing me around, and because he's bigger than I, I've never had the nerve to stand up to him. If I keep looking at him like this, seeing him so small, pretty soon I'll get up enough nerve to lick the tar out of him." Fear, doubt, and anxiety have a way of magnifying obstacles to a far greater size than they really are. Courage and confidence reduce them to a minimum. It is all a matter of which end of the telescope we look through the large end of courage or the small end of fear.

Christ With Us in the Valley

 As we descend from the mountaintop experience of camp meeting, we will find the same problems and temptations confronting us as before. The devil will be more active than ever to cause us trouble, and will try, if possible, to discourage us. But, thank God, help has been promised us. Just as Christ descended from the mount of transfiguration to be with His disciples, so He will descend to the valleys to be with us. Let us not attempt to join battle with the enemy alone. With courage, confidence, and faith let us be conscious of the presence of our Saviour and claim His promise, "Lo, I am with you alway." Let there be no fear, doubt, or anxiety as to the victory that waits us. The Lord expects us to be in the world, but He has prayed that we will be kept from its evil. Provision has been made for every need. Let us, then, claim the promise of God and look through the telescope from the large end of courage rather than the small end of fear. The servant of the Lord has said:

"For every trial, God has provided help. . . . Those who surrender their lives to His guidance and to His service will never be placed in a position for which He has not made provision." Ministry of Healing, p. 248.

There are three grave dangers that we must be prepared to meet as we go down into the plains and valleys of life. One is overconfidence. The Christian life demands alertness and watch fulness. Paul has warned, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:12. It matters not who we are, how long we have been in the church, or how much we have accomplished, we are subject to falling. We do not of our own strength gain perfection. We must recognize the limitations of the flesh and realize that an all-sufficiency is found in Christ. We are counseled by the Lord to "hold fast till I come." Let us, then, not take eternal life for granted. Let us not think that the mountain of our first love is sufficient to carry us along to the kingdom. It is imperative that we daily walk humbly before our Lord and trust in Him as our deliverer.

The second great danger is neglect. Paul has asked the pertinent question, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Heb. 2:3. Each must have a vibrant, growing experience. There will be many who will lose out in the kingdom because of default. They believed the message, they professed to live it, they had good intentions of living it, but because they neglected their salvation they, like the five foolish virgins, will be found wanting. The doctor will testify that many patients have died be cause they were neglectful of their health and did very little to help themselves in the early stages of illness. Just so with many Christians. There are many spiritual deaths because there has been a daily neglect of the soul. Private devotions, the family altar, and the study of God's Word are absolute essentials to the spiritual life. To neglect them is to invite sure death. It is necessary that we consecrate the life daily to God. Only then can we hope to grapple successfully with our enemy.

The third danger that we must avoid is in difference. Every Christian has a responsibility toward his fellow men. Those who are saved are to serve. Paul said he felt himself a debtor to his fellow men. It is God's plan that those who are saved by His grace are in turn to help save others. Christ has said that we are to be as a light in the world. Again He said we are to be His witnesses. It is the plan of Heaven for man to help save a lost world. Each of us has been given a work to perform. "This world is a sinking vessel," Moody exclaimed in a sermon on the Second Advent of Christ, "and God has given me a lifeboat saying, 'Moody, save all you can!' " The great evangelist's life was offered on the altar labeled "Others," and it is little wonder that when he died his last words were, "Earth is receding, heaven is drawing near." His chief pleasure in life was presenting precious, blood-bought souls to the Lord of the harvest as trophies of his labor. And so it must be with every Christian. Each member should have some part in the missionary activities of the church if he is to avoid spiritual atrophy and eventual death.

If we are to evade the danger of indifference, we must be possessed of a passion for the souls of men. We must not remain in our "cieled houses," surrounded by the creature comforts of this age, indifferent and oblivious to the needs of a dying world. God is depending upon us to bear to the world the good news of salvation. Each of us is to form a link in the great chain of salvation let down from heaven to save a lost world. May God help us in this crucial hour to be conscious of our responsibility to cooperate with Heaven in saving others. Our religion must be militant, not passive; our experience radiant, not dull; and our labors fruitful, not sterile. Church work will be a joy and missionary work a delight if we are possessed of a passion like Christ's to rescue the helpless who are floundering in the mire of sin.

Yes, we have been on the mountaintop. Here at camp meeting we have been shut in with God, away from the world. We have heard His voice. We have been filled with His Spirit. But life is a battle and a march. There are personal victories to be won. There is a work for us to do. The devil will attempt to combat us and, if possible, frustrate our efforts. But we dare not evade the challenge. Now that we have been shut in with Christ these few days on the mountain and have been made conscious of His presence and power, let us not ask to tarry in order to make a tabernacle to memorialize the experience. Rather, let us descend to the valley, determined to meet the realities of life and accomplish the work that the Master has delegated to us, pressing the battle to the very gates, knowing that soon victory will come to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grounding the New Believer

LOUISE C. KLEUSER Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association

With great satisfaction we detect in our denominational ranks a growing consciousness of the need to do a most thorough work in establishing the new believer. It is not enough to help him to know his daily devotional needs so as to be progressing as a new born Christian; he must also be happy in our fellowship and be growing into a useful believer. From a recent valuable book we read:

"The situation today, most emphatically, is serious. We have received many converts. But in ten years, will our churches be any stronger? Will these converts be men and women of Christian stature? Will they be enlisted in Kingdom tasks? Or will they, like so many of their predecessors, have left us and gone back to 'the weak and beggarly elements' of this world (Gal. 4:9)? Can we establish our converts in Christian character? Can we conserve them for our church organizations? For Christian service? For Kingdom action? Can we close the hole in the bot tom of the sack? That is a matter of immediate and transcendent importance." ARTHUR C. ARCHIBALD, Establishing the Converts (Judson Press), p. 18. "'He that winneth souls is wise' (Prov. 11:30); but we are more than heralds of good tidings. As ministers we are pastors, teachers with responsibilities of oversight, development, and training. The question is not simply, 'Did you get your man?' Equally important is, 'Did you keep your man?'" Ibid., pp. 17, 18. In the same book, but with reference to the church at large, we are brought face to face with a challenge we have not always met in the remnant church:

"Thousands of our recruits have left us in recent years because the conception of the Christian life we offered them was too small, too narrow and constricted, to hold their interest. Only a great task can hold great men to a great discipleship. Men will not remain loyal to an institution or a life unless they see in it some meaning or purpose of sufficient greatness to challenge their souls." Page 32- The same author then provides food for reflection as he states on page 37: "

It would be a wholesome thing if every pastor and every church would pause to ask: 'If God should give us one hundred converts this coming year, what would we do with them and what could we do for them?' It is feared that our first thought has been concentrated too largely on merely getting them en rolled. We need more than evangelism, for these folk who come to us as a fruit of our evangelistic efforts make certain justifiable demands upon us."

Responsibility of All

One might spend hours analyzing the weaknesses of this phase of our evangelism, but we had better use our time doing something more constructive. The responsibility of our new converts belongs to every Seventh-day Adventist, not to the evangelist alone. Nor is this the pastor's work entirely, nor that of the Bible instructor. It is not the responsibility of any department in our organization, for by the very nature of the situation this work should not be detailed as a church promotion project. Leaders must train our entire membership to do their part.

The salvaging of our losses must weigh heavily on the shoulders of those workers who made the first contact with these newly converted souls. Paul well states it: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have be gotten you through the gospel." 1 Cor. 4:15. These are the evangelistic workers' spiritual children. They need careful nurturing. To feel the responsibility of this spiritual parenthood, some workers may need a new vision of the love and devotion of their Master. Shifting their duty upon other workers, who could not possibly help them as can the spiritual parent, will never do. We may try to solve the problem by organizing guardianship groups and we must do this because of the multiplicity of tasks in our ever-increasing evangelism but the evangelist, the pastor, and the Bible instructor must still carry that parent responsibility. No new work elsewhere, no matter how attractive or pressing, should cause us to leave these souls in the hands of others. God must hold us primarily responsible for these lambs of His flock.

Need of Educational Program

The author of the afore-quoted book a volume that can well be recommended to every gospel worker emphasizes the great need of an educational program under the auspices of the church after the hand of fellowship has been given to the new believer. He must become a soul winner, but he must first learn the way of the Christian life before he can impart the message to his family and neighbors. But activity alone will not hold him to his new-found faith; he needs to be well grounded in his devotional life, not in doctrinal truth alone. There is no better opportunity for this than our well-organized Sabbath school program. These new believers need to be nourished by the Word, and they are entitled to spiritual, soul-winning teachers. This would apply to children and youth as well. Therefore we should trim down the many features that have been encroaching on the time for teaching the lesson.

The prayer meeting should be one of the high points of the pastor's educational plans for the new convert. A brief but well-organized series of Bible studies should fascinate the new convert. He will not want to miss any of the series. Again, early during this stage of his experience he might well be introduced to the Sabbath school training course. But before he himself assumes teaching responsibility he should learn how to teach. One at a time various other courses on such subjects as the giving of Bible studies, doing colporteur work, et cetera, should round out his preparation for usefulness.

Perhaps as important as any other development in the new convert's experience is his place in the social life of the church. Some may think that his social need should precede his educational need, but though it may hold a very important place in his growth, it follows naturally. A truly converted person is more interested in Bible instruction to help save his family and friends than in being swept into a social atmosphere. But although his social needs are not first in his thinking, they must have consideration. Here we should also mention that in some of our churches the social programs are too often handled as cliques. It would be difficult to convince these well-meaning folks of this situation, but the problem certainly needs guidance. We should, however, watch out for those who may not be so socially adaptable. Our social committees should carry responsibility for the development of those who need to be brought out of themselves the shy type perhaps.

Too often the new convert has been cut off from his former associates. He may now need an outlet for his newborn zeal. From the be ginning he should be associated with a wise soul winner, one who has had longer experience in working for the Master. Types should be blended so that there may be a kindred spirit as well as a mutual cause. It takes a person of good judgment to make a helpful leader. One would want to bear in mind that the program of weekly missionary work should have a true pattern, and that the time spent in service be gradually increased. It is best to stop while the interest is still keen and the new worker is not too exhausted. The activities must not all be soliciting. This is the proper time to introduce some variety in missionary endeavor.

Support of a Praying Friend

The new convert will be a babe in the truth for some time to come. He will be sure to face a few depressing experiences when he will need a kindly, steadying hand to guide him onward. His tried and tested guardian will know how to counsel and pray with him. He will grow best when he is loved along and when he feels the security of Christian confidence. If in an unguarded moment he slips from the path of consecration, his guardian should pray him through this depressing experience. Too many of our new believers lose their footing because they are unaccustomed to the wiles and pressure of the world, or to the taunting of their non-Adventist relatives. How many might have been saved from wandering away from us entirely, had we had at their side more of our sympathetic and understanding helpers! The training of these comforters must be the business of every pastor and evangelistic worker.

When some buffeted soul is overcome by Satan, let those who are spiritual apply the lesson of the Master: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." Matt. 12:20. The quickest way may be to cut off the transgressor from church member ship, but the kindest way is to win him back truly to the Lord. At the beginning he may occasionally revert to his former evil habits, but until every help has been exhausted we should continue in the spirit of Christ to help him gain complete victory. Such experiences will bring the church new spiritual power.

The dropping of church members is always depressing to the faithful. We must all find ways to stop these apparent apostasies, which too vividly reflect on our hurried or unfinished evangelism. It might be well for our workers to consider prayerfully the experiences of the apostles during the early days of the Christian church. Here we find the true pattern for methods to hold our present-day converts to the faith.

Let us accept Christ's challenge that individually we are called to productive soul winning. As we follow God's Word and the pointed lessons in the Spirit of prophecy, we will realize that the church will "bear much fruit." Our evangelistic fruitage will be of more enduring quality, for the promise includes, "your fruit should remain." John 15:8, 16.

Evangelism has always required a thorough follow-up work. Workers today may learn valuable lessons from the experiences of the apostles. Paul's Burden for New Believers in the Early Christian Church 1. Paul preached, taught, confirmed, exhorted, ordained elders, and commended believers to the Lord. Acts 14:21, 22; Titus 1:5. 2. "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city . . . , and see how they do." Acts 15:36. 3. "Perfect that which is lacking in your faith." 1 Thess. 3:10.4. "Establish your hearts unblameable in holiness." Verse 13. 5. "To comfort you concerning your faith." Verse 2. 6. "To know your faith, lest . . . the tempter have tempted you." Verse 5. 7. "Lest . . . our labour be in vain." Verse 5. 8. "Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom." Col. 1:28. 9. Paul's goal: perfection in Christ tor every man. Verse 28; Gal. 4:19. 10. Being rooted and grounded in love, sign of Christian maturity. Eph. 3:14-19. 11. Reason for apostle's personal visit: to impart some spiritual gift. Rom. 1:11; I Cor. 12. 12. Training believers for "the defence and confirmation of the gospel." Phil. 1:1-11. 13. New believers grow by desiring "sincere milk of the word." 1 Peter 2:1, 2. 14. Re-establishing convert in present truth. 2 Peter 1:12. 15. Paul cleared up church difficulties tending to discourage converts. 2 Cor. 13:6, 9, 10. 16. Recognized fatherly responsibility for newly organized churches. 1 Thess. 2:1-18; 1 Cor. 4:15. 17. Constant prayer and care for young in the faith. 1 Thessalonians 1; Rom. 1:1-13. 18. Ready to die for the flock. 2 Cor. 7:3, 12.

Nurturing Young Converts


The nurture of young Christians is of equal or perhaps of greater importance than the matter of leading them to Christ. Some ministers think that the decision is only 5% of the job while the other 95% is the nurture or follow-up and it is by far the most difficult process. If the work of Christian nurture could be done more successfully it would make a great difference in the size of our churches and also in the spiritual condition of them. Pastors and churches are given admonition and some guidance in our books of disciplines but by and large it is left to the individual pastor to plan for and carry out such a program. Here are some ideas which may be of use. All of them will not be workable in every situation, but it is hoped they will be suggestive and have some real worth for this vital task.

First, Within 24 to 48 hours the new convert should be contacted by the pastor or a member of the church chosen for such work, to lend encouragement and a steadying influence. The convert should not only be given counsel but Scripture to read and to memorize that he "may not sin" against God. The idea that "a good dose of religion settles everything" is erroneous. This type of pastoral care is better than the close surveillance of the new convert by a few church members who suspect he may not walk in all the light of a mature Christian.

Second, The pastor should make plans to take the new convert into the fellowship gatherings of the church. Unless new social contacts are established many will be lost before they are established. It is unwise to let the world make all the invitations to fill up his time. Our good people frequently live too much to themselves.

Third, The pastor should choose someone of the church to be the convert's big brother or sister. This should be done after a few days when knowledge of the convert will enable that pastor to choose the right person. Let this big brother or sister invite the convert to their home and to attend church together. Let them share hours of recreation and. have times of serious talk and whatever else is a part of happy Christian living.

Fourth, If there are enough new converts to form a class, the pastor should meet them once a week for a time to study the Bible together. This study should especially relate to their new problems and questions. In doing this they will develop a brotherly feeling and get into the Bible much faster than they could alone. This may open the way also to talk about the church and its standards and privileges. If this class work cannot be done then the pastor will of necessity have this work to do individually. This means meeting them in their homes, at the parsonage, or church office and teaching them personally.

Fifth, New converts should be made to feel that they are wanted in the church member ship. This should be made known to them soon after they are converted. It may take some time for them to learn enough about the church to respond to such an invitation and much patience is required. The pastor should not throw all the "don'ts" at them first. Let them see the wonderful fellowship there is and the joy and privilege it will be to belong. The pastor should answer honestly their questions and show Bible grounds for his answers. He should prepare them for the questions they will be asked upon joining the church so there will be no embarrassment. He should make membership in the church more desirable than any other consideration they may have.

Sixth, By careful attention the pastor should determine the talents and abilities of the new convert and as soon as possible find a place of service for him. If there isn't a job make one. More Christians have died through inactivity than through waywardness.

Seventh, The pastor should preach often on subjects intended to guide and instruct new converts. It is surprising how much good the elder members will get also. The preaching should be positive and explicit as to how God leads us and how He strengthens us to meet temptation. The pastor should show the success of the gospel in the lives of others as well as possibilities of all-out commitment and complete sanctification of life to God.

Eighth, As soon as possible the new converts should be enlisted to help in winning someone else to Christ and the church. This usually is not hard to do at first, but if neglected it may become almost impossible. Many of our people do not know how to do this most vital work, and some of them do not see it as their duty and privilege. We should help the new convert to make it a constant activity of his life. We should assist him by following up all his suggestions as to friends and family. These often are the best leads we have. And such interest will more fully tie the new convert to his Lord and his brothers in Christ.

This follow-up work from the time of con version takes from six months to two years. It becomes a never-ending work for pastor and people. It requires great wisdom and a true shepherd's heart. Only if the pastor loves people can this work be done with success. Others, like ourselves, are quick to discover warm friendship and love or mere -professionalism.

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President, Southern New England Conference

June 1953

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