ONE question often discussed in church nominating committee meetings is whether or not to elect a new member to office, or how soon he should be involved in definite responsibilities in the church. Some feel that as a matter of encouragement a new member should be given some office as soon as possible after baptism; others feel that he should be in the church at least a full year before holding office.
This is an important question, for the attitude of the church toward the new member, as well as the measure of his immediate involvement in church activities, may mean much toward his spiritual growth.
This whole matter will, of course, depend upon the spiritual background of the individual and the thoroughness of his knowledge of the church and its teachings. It may also depend upon the need existing in the church.
The latter factor, however, may militate toward premature action that may not be in the best interest of the new member. For instance, Mrs. Jones maybe desperately needed in one of the departments of the Sabbath school, but it is quite important that she be permitted to sit in a regular Sabbath school class or the pastor's Bible class for the first year or so.
Also, it may not be best for the new member, with a limited knowledge of church organization, discipline, et cetera, to fill a position that would place him on the church board during his early experience in the church.
There are, however, positions in the church where new converts may and should serve. Men may serve as ushers in the Sabbath school, thus gaining experience that will help qualify them later as deacons. Women can assist in the Dorcas Welfare program, on the social committee, or as pianists or some other specialized service. They can be given specific assignments in the Sabbath school program or MV meeting. Just be sure that what they do doesn't isolate them from the general church program, with which they should become increasingly familiar.
Teach to Win Souls
There is yet another way that every new member is to be put to work. Here there are no exceptions. Ellen G. White speaks of it in this way:
Personal responsibility, personal activity in seeking the salvation of others, must be the education given to all newly come to the faith. --Evangelism, p. 354.
When souls are converted, set them to work at once. . . . Teach the newly converted that they are to enter into fellowship with Christ, to be His witnesses, and to make Him known unto the world. --Ibid., pp. 355, 356.
Here is something that every new member is to do. He must be put to work, witnessing to his faith, winning others to the precious truths he has found so dear. As the above statements indicate, a new member needs to be taught how to work for Christ. He is usually full of enthusiasm. If his experience is genuine he will have not only something to share but also a great burden to do it. However, by not being encouraged in this given direction, the living flame may soon be come a dying ember. The enthusiastic convert can soon become a backslider.
The period following baptism is exceedingly important to the new member's development, and he will show the great est growth as he is guided into becoming a soul winner.
Sometimes his new zeal is not balanced with essential knowledge or judgment. Although it may have taken Mr. Smith five years to come to a decision himself, he will wonder why others of his family, friends, or relatives don't accept the new faith at once. We must guard against crushing the zeal, and at the same time give sound guidance that will enable the zealous soul to break through barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding. The new member must be taught the importance of example and influence. On the other hand, he must not be discouraged from active, aggressive soul-winning action. This takes wise direction.
How often a new member has sought for advice and guidance in these matters only to be put off. How much better to make a few calls with him or share a literature distribution territory or work together on the Gift Bible Plan.
The neglect of this important follow-up work has resulted in many a dear soul becoming disillusioned and discouraged. The new member soon settles down into the same lackadaisical, Laodicean condition characteristic of too many of our church members, when he, properly dealt with, could have become the spark to set the whole church into a more healthy witnessing experience.
Feed That Flame
God bless these new members. How happy we should be for them. How inspiring is their zeal in all its freshness. But how sad that this zeal so often turns warm, then cool, and finally cold. Is it not largely because we as leaders, officers, and others of the church have failed them? We can hear the older members whispering, "Just watch, it will soon die out. She will soon learn that it isn't as easy to win others as she thinks.". And sure enough. It does die out. And* she does become disappointed that those she approaches with the good news do not respond as quickly as she had expected. But need it be that way?
As local elders of the church, one of your greatest concerns is that the church you serve fulfill its mission---that mission is to win souls. When a new soul is baptized into the church, the first thought should be, how can this experience be multiplied? What can we do to help this new member to reach his friends and neighbors? How can we work with him and train him so that he will become a real soul winner?
Why not develop a definite plan to put into operation as soon as the next soul is won to the church? Help that one to become the best soul winner in the church. Gain the cooperation of the entire church in helping to make this so. And then something else will happen. The entire church will gain a new experience in soul winning. The church will arise to its principal task---sharing its faith.
The best way to help oneself is to help another, and this surely applies to soul winning. So find a way to help. Team up with another, preferably a new member. Teach each other how to give Bible studies. Visit together. Distribute literature together. There are so many ways in which work can be done. Arouse the older members to have a part and see how the next baptism can be an occasion for a new spiritual transfusion and a springboard for greater witnessing.
MY PRAYER: Dear Father, help us to be especially mindful of the needs and opportunities presented in the person of every new convert added to the church. Help us to be inspired by their zeal. Give us tact and wisdom to know how we can help guide that new member into a rich soul-winning experience, which also results in a richer experience of our own. In Jesus' name. Amen.