Lesson 5 - Discipling New Christians




In the previous lesson, we discussed a very specific method of discipleship that can be used generally in your churches.   When it comes to new believers, however, there are more specific needs that need to be addressed.   Although new believers should be integrated into a discipleship group as quickly as possible, these special needs of the new believer are such that it probably justifies either one-on-one care or the establishment of a new believer’s class that covers these specifics.  The purpose of this lesson is to lay out some of the details of those specifics that are so important to the discipleship of new believers. 

Think of this information as baby’s milk for the new believer.  For this reason, the sooner you can get them engaged in this material, the sooner it will ignite their spiritual growth.  The information shared here is probably not detailed enough to teach directly from this material.  However, from the information shared here, you should be able to either develop the necessary teaching materials to disciple the new convert.

Think of these things as the “Four x Fours of New Christians” – Four Essential New Christian Habits, Four Essential New Christian Doctrines, Four Struggles of the New Christian, and Four Changes in Perspective for the New Christian.



Four Essential New Christian Habits


From the onset, new believers need to be taught four essential habits that they will need to develop in their lives.  They need to develop these sooner rather than later.   Ideally, we should teach them about all of the spiritual disciplines, but to begin with, there are four key disciplines that the new believer needs to make a habit of in their lives.  They are critical to his early Christian growth.


The first essential habit is the Spiritual Discipline of daily Bible intake.  There is no reason to go into detail regarding the general importance of Bible intake as this has be reiterated numerous times in this course.  However, the importance of Bible intake – especially for the new believer – cannot be over stated.   Simply put, a new believer must immerse himself in the word.  More than likely, there will be much that he will read that he does not understand, and that is to be expected.  The new believer should not be discouraged by this fact.   Even though he may not understand everything he reads, he still needs to be receiving the word.  Understanding will come with spiritual growth.

If the new believer is also plugged into an existing discipleship group, he will get a regular exposure to God’s word.  However, the new believer ought to be encouraged to go beyond the simple one chapter per day outlined in the plan of the previous chapter.


The second essential habit is daily prayer.  Like Bible intake, this has been greatly emphasized as a critical Spiritual Discipline numerous times in this course and you can use any or all of that material to help explain to the new believer why regular prayer is so important.  However, it is critical that the new believer develop a habit of daily communication with the Heavenly Father in order to solidify his personal relationship with him.  It doesn’t matter if he does not know how to pray, he just needs to talk to God as if he were talking to a friend.


The third essential habit is not specifically one of the Spiritual Disciplines that we discussed in Lessons 2 and 3, but it is no less important. This third habit is active participation in a local church.   Through regular church attendance, the new believer will learn how to worship and so can begin to develop the skills necessary for the Spiritual Discipline of worship.  However,  the habit of church attendance and participation has benefits that go well beyond just worship.

The New Christian needs to be with other believers so that they can help him on his spiritual journey.  He needs to be actively engaged with other Christians who can show him what it means to be a Christian.  The new believer needs to see the example of their lives, receive regular encouragement from them, and to be strengthened in his new faith by seeing how God is working in their lives.


The fourth essential habit the new believer needs to develop is that of being a witness to the world.  The new Christian has experienced a life-changing event, and it is still fresh on his mind and in his heart.  As such, the new Christian is uniquely qualified to testify to the life-changing power of the gospel.  In fact, it is expected of him.  Consider Jesus’ own words in Matthew 10:32-33.


32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.


33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.


Assuming his experience was genuine, other people – non-believers included - will notice the change in his life.   They may even be curious about it.  He needs to be open and willing to share with others what has happened in his life.



Four Essential New Christian Doctrines


In addition to the four essential habits a new Christian needs to develop, there are also four Christian doctrines that a new believer needs to learn as soon as possible.  Certainly there are numerous important Christian doctrines that all Christians should learn, and the new believer will have a lifetime to learn about these doctrines.  However, these four doctrines will be critical to the new believer’s spiritual growth and so should be taught to him early in his new life as a Christian.


The first essential doctrine is the doctrine of salvation.  The new believer has just experienced the reality of the doctrine of salvation, but it is not necessarily true that the new believer fully understands what has happened.  He may know of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, but the new believer desperately needs to have a solid understanding of the decision he made to follow Christ and to confirm that decision.  It is important, therefore, to review the doctrine of salvation with him.

By explaining the doctrine of salvation, the new believer is reminded of the gospel in which he placed his faith.  This step is critically important in order to ensure that the believer truly is saved.  It is naïve to think that everyone who professes the name of Jesus is truly saved.  In fact, Jesus himself says in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Some people may respond to Jesus out of an emotional response resulting from some experience they may have had, but an emotional experience is not salvation. They might not have truly given their heart to Jesus.  When the emotions go away, they are likely to fall away because their “faith” was never real.  Similarly, other people may have an intellectual belief but not true faith. Like the seeds that fall on the rocky or thorny ground, they too are at risk of eventually falling away.  By re-explaining the gospel to them in a more controlled, even classroom-like environment, the new believer has the opportunity to truly contemplate the decision that was made.  In truth, it may be that “real faith” is birthed at this time rather than when the new believer’s “decision” was made.  This process, therefore, may be critical in keeping some new “believers” from falling away from the faith.

This is more than just going over the plan of salvation, though.  It is explaining the reality of what it means to be saved.  That reality consists of 4 key aspects that the new believer needs to learn.  First, he needs to understand that he has been born again. John 3 tells us of this concept as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.  As a result of being born again, therefore, he is a new creature in Christ, whose old self is now dead (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Second, he needs to understand what it means to be redeemed.  In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says he came to “ransom” (that is, redeem) mankind.  As such, we have been bought and paid for by Jesus and so the new believer needs to understand that he now belongs to Jesus (Titus 2:14).  Third, he needs to understand the concept of what it means to be a child of God.  We may have been bought and paid for through the blood of Christ, but as a result, we have also been adopted into the family of God.  Now we are heirs with Christ in the blessings of God (Romans 8:16-17).  Finally, he needs to understand that because he is a child of God, he is no longer a citizen of this earth, but rather is now a citizen of heaven (Ephesians 2:12-13).  As such, our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not to earthly pursuits.


The second essential doctrine the new believer needs to learn is the Doctrine of Baptism.  The new believer needs to understand how baptism is a testimony of his decision to follow Christ – and a commitment to life-long discipleship.   While there may be slight differences in our understanding and characterization of the Doctrine of Baptism depending upon our denominational or organizational affiliation, we should all agree on the importance of baptism – and thus the Doctrine of Baptism - in the life of the new believer.  If the new believer has not already done so, he needs to be encouraged to be baptized as soon as possible.


The third essential doctrine for the new believer is that of Consecration – or Holy Living – or Sanctification.  A new believer needs to understand that he is not perfect; and that no matter how hard he tries, he never will be perfect before receiving his glorified body in the resurrection.  However, a new believer does need to learn that it is his responsibility to be growing in his holiness before God.   While he may never be perfect – nor is his salvation dependent upon it – he still needs to work towards living a holy life.  As Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Paul is speaking here of the believer’s participation in the sanctification process.

This, however, does not mean being self-righteous or pious.  We do not want the new believer to become a hypocrite.  Knowing we cannot be righteous no matter how hard we work at it keeps us humble before the Lord.  We try and fail, leaning in faith on God’s grace and forgiveness.  However, the new believer should be taught that it is in his power to intentionally put away his old life and be holy.  Paul speaks to this in Colossians 3:5-10.


5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:


6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:


7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.


8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.


9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;


10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:


This will be difficult for the new believer, but he must learn to think of his old way of life as a set of dirty clothes that he must take off every day – putting on the robe of holiness instead.


The fourth essential doctrine for the new believer is that of Loving God and by extension, loving others.  The new believer needs to understand this doctrine so that he will always put God as his highest priority in life.  The greatest commandment that Jesus taught was to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – with the second greatest commandment being to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).  It is one thing to say that we love God.  It is something completely different to actually dedicate our heart, soul, mind, and strength to the prospect of loving God.  This doctrine literally means that we give all of our strength and every ounce of our energy to loving God.  If we fully understand this doctrine, we have no other conclusion than to know that it is absolutely impossible.  Just as it is impossible to keep the Mosaic Law, it is impossible – in our flesh – to love God the way this doctrine demands.  The new believer needs to understand both the importance of the command and the reality of its impossibility.  Only then can he understand the importance of our faith and that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Likewise, because of God’s love for us, we must have love towards others.  This, too, can be impossible, but we strive to be neighbors to all men just as the Samaritan was a neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Striving to love God and to love others – working out our salvation with fear and trembling - is how we grow in holiness and keep the requirements of the law.



Four Struggles of New Christians


The third major lesson for the new believer is that of the struggles he can expect to face.  Just because he has accepted Christ as his savior does not mean that his life will be perfect and without difficulty.  There will be many struggles that a new Christian will face, but there are four important struggles the new believer needs to learn about and prepare for in advance.


The first struggle is that of spiritual warfare. We know that we strive not against flesh and blood but against the powers of evil.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  As Christians, we are at war.  Satan views the salvation of any new believer as a defeat, but that will not stop him from trying to destroy the new believer at all costs.  Jesus told his disciples in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”  He will stop at nothing to destroy the new believer’s witness and confidence in Christ. 

We need to teach new believers how to combat these attacks by Satan – by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6).  The new believer needs to understand that what he has been tasked to do in this world is nothing more than to stand his ground (Ephesians 6:13-14).  He needs to know that only through the truth of God’s word can he be ready to take that stand, and that the righteousness of Christ (his breastplate) protects his heart so that his failures do not cause him to lose heart (Ephesians 6:14).  He also needs to understand how all of these things that have been discussed in this course – Spiritual Disciplines, discipleship, etc. – are all preparations for this war.  It is the readiness of the gospel (Ephesians 6:15).  He needs to understand how Satan will constantly be casting fiery darts at him, which can only be extinguished through the shield of our faith (Ephesians 6:16). But most importantly, he needs to know that his salvation (his helmet) is his ultimate protection, and that the word of God itself is his primary offensive weapon against Satan (Ephesians 6:17).


The second struggle the new believer will face is somewhat related to Spiritual Warfare.  It is the struggle of overcoming sin. Part of the spiritual warfare that the new believer will see will be temptation.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  The new believer may feel like he is alone, but we all face the same temptations.  There is no temptation the new believer will face that the rest of us have not faced as well.

Sometimes we fail when we are faced with that temptation.  The new believer needs to be reminded that being a Christian does not mean we will be perfect, but that we do need to strive to overcome sin in our lives.  The new believer will struggle with giving into temptation.  He needs to know that when he does fail, it is not the end of the world.  He has not been forsaken by God or somehow lost his salvation.  There is more than enough grace and forgiveness at the cross.  1 John 1:9 tells us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

However, the new believer does need to learn how to combat that temptation so that he does not fall.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that with the temptation that comes, God always gives us an escape.  It is our responsibility to grasp hold of that escape.  With a bit of preparation, we can overcome temptation.  Part of that preparation is the memorization of scripture.  Psalm 119:11 tells us specifically that we hide God’s word in our hearts so that we don’t sin against God.  Jesus himself, when tempted, responded with scripture.  And so once again we see the importance of scripture in our lives. 


The third struggle the new believer is likely to face is that of forgiving others.    Forgiveness is tough for all of us.  We do not want to let go of the hurt that others have caused us.  However, sometimes new Christians can get an idealized view of the world and the church.  He may have an unrealistic perception of the “godliness” of other believers.  When those other believers fail or somehow let them down, it can be devastating, leading to potential anger and discouragement.   The new Christian needs to understand that we are all flawed humans that mess up from time to time, and so there will be times that they need to forgive other believers for hurting them.

Likewise, they will times they need to forgive unbelievers as well.   There may be some unbelievers who will reject them because of their new faith.  This can be especially hurtful if those people were previously close to the new believer.  

From the world’s perspective, however, forgiveness can be somewhat conditional.  If the person who harmed you is not repentant or does not apologize for their actions, then some might argue we are not obligated to forgive.  This is not true for the believer.   The new believer must learn to forgive the way God has forgiven them.   Jesus taught us many times (for example in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6) that the reason we give grace to and forgive others is because God has given grace to us and forgiven us.  When the new believer realizes that forgiveness is not an option, he begins to see the brokenness of the world in a completely new light.


The fourth big struggle a new believer may have will judging others.  Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-5. 


1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.


2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.


3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?


5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.


It can be so easy for a new believer to fall into the trap of viewing others from a newfound sense of piety and righteous indignation – especially those he may have left behind in his old way of life.  As Jesus has said, this is hypocrisy. The new believer needs to remember that God did not judge him, but rather was patient with him and encouraged him towards repentance.  The new believer needs to look at the world the way God looks at the world – not in judgment, but in compassion because they need Jesus.  His responsibility is to first make sure his life is clean, and then he can help the other person.  Verse 5 contemplates a position of care and assistance, not judgment.



Four Changes in Perspective for the New Christian


Finally, there are four changes in perspective or viewpoint that a New Believer needs to learn.  As a Christian, the new believer will naturally begin to see things a bit differently than he did before.  However, there are four perspectives that need to be specifically reinforced and explained.


The first change in perspective for the new Christian is his view of the WORLD.  The new believer must learn to view the world from the perspective of the Bible rather than from cultural norms.  This is typically referred to as a “Biblical World View.”  Right and wrong, good and bad, success and failure, and even one’s personal priorities must be based on biblical principles.  

At its highest, fundamental level, any world view answers 3 basic questions:


1.     Where did we come from,

2.     What’s wrong with the world, and

3.     How can we fix it?


The Biblical World View answers those questions based on what the Bible teaches about God and our relationship to God.  Where did we come from?  We were created by God, in the image of God, to bring glory to God.  What is wrong with the world?  The world has been corrupted by mankind’s rebellion against God (sin) and so we must deal with the consequences of that rebellion.  How can we fix it?  We can be reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of his blood shed on the cross.

The world will never see the simplicity of these answers because they have been blinded to the truth.  The new believer has had his eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.  He has seen the truth, which will set him free.


The second change in perspective for the new believer is his view of SELF.  Before the new believer was saved, everything was about him.  He pursued selfish ambitions. He pursued selfish pleasures.  He sought his own way and his own benefit.  As a Christian, our view of self changes from that of seeking our own good to that of considering others before one’s self.  Consider Paul’s directive in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” 

The concept of considering others above ourselves is a key element to the long-term spiritual growth of the new believer.  It is taught all throughout the New Testament, beginning with Jesus’ “new command” in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”   Whereas the Greatest Commandment is to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and the Second Greatest Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself; the NEW Commandment is to love one another as Christ loved us, giving his life for us.  Just as Christ denied himself for our benefit, the new believer must learn that we must also consider others before ourselves.


The third change in perspective for the new Christian is his perspective of LOVE – specifically, loving others unconditionally.  In order to be able to put others before ourselves, we really must learn how to love unconditionally.  Unfortunately, unconditional love – the kind that God has for us and which he commands us to have for one another – is a foreign concept to the world.  In fact, without Christ, it can be argued that true unconditional love is impossible.  Consider the impossible standard by which Paul describes unconditional love in 1 Corinthians 13.


1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.


2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.


3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.


4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,


5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;


6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;


7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.


8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.


(skip to verse 13)


13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


Just before this passage (in 1 Corinthians 12:31), Paul characterizes this as a “more excellent way” for going about all of the Christian life.  At the end, he says that of all things that abide – faith, hope, and charity (unconditional love) - charity is the “greatest” of them all.   Yet, when we look at what is required, the standard seems too high to achieve.  It is impossible.  This is the life that the new Christian has been called to live and he can only do so with the help of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.


Finally, the fourth change in perspective for the new Christian is his view of LIFE.  The Christian must view his life as a servant rather than as one who is to be served.  This is a life concept that changes the new believer’s attitude towards everything he says or does.  In virtually every letter that he wrote, Paul refers to himself as a “servant” or “bondservant” of Jesus Christ.   James, the half-brother of Jesus, begins his letter the same way as does Jesus’ other brother, Jude.   Peter also begins his second letter that way.  In all of these cases, however, the actual Greek word translated “servant” is actually the Greek word for slave.  The new believer in Christ must realize that while he has been set free from the bondage of sin and death, he is to submit himself willingly into the service of Jesus Christ.  Consider what Paul says in Romans 6:17-19.


17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.


18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.


19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.


The idea of being a slave may seem harsh and even unwanted, but as Christians we must put away any pride that would prevent us from being obedient to God as servants.  After all, in so doing, we are following after the pattern of Jesus Christ himself.  Hear what Paul says in Philippians 2: 6-8 about Jesus.


6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:


7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:


8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


Christ – the sustainer of the universe - voluntarily made himself a slave in order that we might be saved.  Jesus said so himself in Mark 10:45, saying “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister [that is, serve], and to give his life a ransom for many.”   Our response is to do the same – especially as it relates to serving others.  A new Christian, therefore, must learn that as followers of Christ, we must give of ourselves to others.



In Conclusion, these four sets of four principles are critical first steps in the discipleship of a new believer.  Invest the time necessary to solidify the new believer’s faith by helping him better understand his faith.  Make sure the new believer gets involved in a discipleship group or similar program, but also make sure these principles are reinforced as soon as possible.  Create a new believer’s class that teaches these principles, or personally engage the new believer in one-on-one discipleship.