It is one thing to be used of God to win souls and another to help those who have been won, not only to maintain a good relationship with God but to help them grow spiritually. Much instruction has been given in this important phase of the work. From the book Evangelism, pages 351353, we have such statements as: "The church has a special responsibility laid upon her to attend to these souls who have followed the first rays of light they have received. . . . Preaching is a small part of the work to be done for the salvation of souls. . . . God requires His church to nurse those who are young in faith and experience." New converts "need to be looked after," they "need nursing,—watchful attention, help, and encouragement . . . , to be kindly dealt with, to be led along, to be visited and prayed with." This work, we are told, "is as helpful to those who do it as to those for whom it is done." Therefore there is still a great work to be done for the new converts after they have been taught the gospel and have been baptized.
The spiritual birth is to be compared with the physical. Jesus used this comparison (John 3). When a baby is born into our home we would never think of saying, "Now, son, we're glad you have come; we love you so much. Mother and dad are going to be very busy, but you help yourself to the Pablum and milk in the refrigerator." No. The work of mother and father just begins when the baby comes into the home. How tenderly he is looked after. Constant care is taken to feed and bathe, clothe and care for, this new baby. The food is changed to a more solid diet as the child grows. The instruction is that "there should be more fathers and mothers to take these babes in the truth to their hearts, and to encourage them and pray for them, that their faith be not confused."—Ibid., p. 352. The "spiritual guardianship" plan is a Heaven-approved plan.
No doubt many have used some kind of plan to guard the newly baptized and to nurture them in the pathway of further truth. Nothing, however, has been made available to the general ministry.
This plan is respectfully submitted for your consideration. I have written a service that may be of help. It incorporates the use of stable laymen to be spiritual mothers and fathers. Recognizing the fact that many who come into the church leave the body of be-. lievers later, not so often because of a disbelief in the message but because of a lack of companionship, this plan was thought essential. Those who come to unite with God's remnant family often leave their friends and relatives behind; they cut themselves off from the pastoral labor to which they have been accustomed; they are alone. Here then is where the church members can be of great help and accomplish much good.
During the last week of the baptismal class the pastor, with the evangelistic team, selects a suitable stable church member as a possible spiritual guardian, and writes his name opposite that of the prospective member. The names are selected with several things in mind: (a) geographic location in relation to the new member, (b) age compatibility, (c) interest in the new member, (d) the ability to deal with unusual problems of a new member, i.e., a woman from a divided home might be better able to encourage a new member with the same problem. Two men working on the same job or in the same kind of work can be an encouragement to each other provided one is a stable member. In each case a man should be assigned to a man, a woman to a woman, a young person to a youth. The one chosen to be a spiritual guardian is then asked if he would be willing to accept the responsibility, and urged to be at the dedication service on Friday night.
The baptismal class already has been completed the previous Wednesday night, leaving Friday night open to call the spiritual guardians together to rehearse what will be required of them. I have prepared a charge for both the spiritual guardian and for the newly baptized. This charge is gone over thoroughly with them that night. In brief, it brings before them the responsibility and trust the church is placing in them. There are ten points in the charge. (These are given at the end of this article.) When all questions have been answered, a prayer of dedication closes the service.
On Sabbath morning, after a short preaching service, the baptismal candidates are called forward. They stand facing the congregation. The spiritual guardian is asked to come forward at the same time. He stands facing the new member. This continues until every candidate has come forward accompanied by his spiritual guardian. Where whole families are being baptized, other whole families act as spiritual guardians. Then the charge is read by one of the ministers to the newly baptized. This charge incorporates eight suggestions that will help them grow spiritually. (These are given at the end of this article.) The scroll containing the charge, tied with a red ribbon, is handed to each candidate. Next the charge for the spiritual guardian is read. This material has been gone over thoroughly with each of the guardians the night before, and because some of the suggestions are better left out of the public reading, only a portion of the suggestions are read. To each of them is handed an attractive scroll that bears their name. On the inside of their scroll is written the name (s) of their new member. It is pointed out that this responsibility will last for one year. The candidates are then voted into the church by the regular procedure, and a prayer of dedication follows. They are then asked to shake one another's hand, which is the first official welcome into the church. The baptismal service follows in the usual way from here on.
This service has many benefits. First, it is Heaven ordained. God has told us that the members of the church should care for the new babes in the church. It is something the church member can do. He will have a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that he is being a part of the soul-winning company. This plan will help those who do it as much as those for whom it is done. Second, it allows the pastor to go about his work without the frustrated feeling that some of these new members may be slipping away without his notice. His members are his aides—uniting their efforts with those of the ministry and the officers.
This service, like that of the marriage service, takes on more meaning when conducted in public, as compared with accepting the responsibility in private. He knows that the church is aware of his responsibility. He will more nearly feel an obligation to carry it out well. Another advantage of this service is that if a new member does fall by the wayside, as some may, the church member feels that perhaps he has failed to do all he might have done, instead of all the blame falling on the minister. Many other advantages might be cited.
Perhaps Paul had something like this in mind when he wrote to the Hebrews and said, "Obey them that have the rule [margin, guide] over you . . . : for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (Heb. 13:17).
A Charge to the Spiritual Guardian for Name:----------------------------------------------------
You have been chosen to perform a most important work. Your brethren have placed great confidence in you, for to you is given the sacred responsibility to love, nurture, and encourage the one in your charge along the Christian pathway. To you who have been experiencing the joy of growth in the Christian life has been given the privilege of sharing this experience with those who are just beginning their walk in the path of increased light. The growing experience is fraught with many dangers of which discouragement and frustration are not the least. Heaven is eager to use you in making the way easier to travel.
As a minister of the gospel and a fellow soul winner, I charge you that for the next twelve months you--
- In kindness and love, be a friend to your charge.
- Spend time in prayer, in your private devotions, for your charge.
- Take time to visit often with him, inviting him to your home for a meal when possible.
- Watch for him (her) at the services of the church. Sit with him and make him feel welcome.
- Inquire immediately, when he is absent from a meeting, as to the reason, either by telephone or a visit, letting him know that he was missed.
- Always show genuine interest in him, being careful never to pry into personal matters.
- Ever be an example to him, and by precept encourage him to look to Jesus as the example in the Christian walk.
- Introduce him to other church members. Make sure that he is incorporated into the functions of our church life.
- Help him when you can with his problems, being careful to counsel with your pastor on matters of great importance.
- Contact the pastor, should you move within the next twelve months. He will then arrange for someone else to take your place.
A Charge to the Newly Baptized
You have now been baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church and have become a member of a "family" that circles the earth. You have identified yourself with a people who are looking for the imminent return of Jesus and are making preparation now to meet Him. You have taken upon yourself the name of a people who are striving to hold high the standard of their profession—a people who are pilgrims in this world, looking for a better home. As a "babe" in the church you will grow day by day as you learn more of the will of Heaven for your life. All heaven rejoices that you are now one with those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
As a minister of the gospel, and a representative of this organization, I charge you to:
- Cherish your church membership always, recognizing yourself a member of God's family.
- Spend time each day in Bible study, prayer, and personal devotion.
- Establish the family altar in your home and have morning and evening worship with your family.
- Determine now to keep your Christian growth constant by being present at the regular services of the church. Make Sabbath school, the preaching service, and prayer meeting a part of your weekly activity.
- Take part in the activities of the church. Using your time and talents, be a worker in the cause of God.
- Be careful to represent the church aright in all your activities, knowing and believing that you are representing God in all you do.
- When you need help, feel free to call your spiritual guardian and talk over your problems. If they demand further attention, call your pastor. He will always be happy to help you.
- Have faith in God, ever trusting in His power to help, confident that "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).