Confirming the Souls of the Disciples

Some Guidelines for Teachers of New Christians

SECTION 1

        When the Lord Jesus sent His disciples into the world to preach the Gospel, He declared to them the importance of continuing to teach the ones who are baptized--“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28.18-20). Our Lord is telling us something--it is important to take time to teach new converts. In Acts 14.22, we read that the Apostle Paul took time to "confirm the souls of the disciples" where he had just recently preached and won souls to Christ. Special studies for new converts are very important to help them be prepared to face the temptations in the world and help them understand the good grace of God where they now have come to be.

        So many times, we work very hard to win souls, but we are not able to keep them faithful. We know that many will turn away from the Lord (Luke 8.1-15; John 6.66). However, we must accept our responsibilities to strengthen the weak and lead them to a stronger faith (Galatians 6.1-2). If we put so much effort into evangelism and then forget the converts, we have not really finished our work. We have not done good for them because we have failed to encourage them in the faith. The Bible says it would be better for people never to know the truth than to know it and turn away (II Peter 2.21-22). If someone comes to know the truth and becomes a Christian, then he turns his back on the Lord and returns to the world, the Bible says such a one has turned away from life and "crucified" Jesus again and put God to shame (Hebrews 6.4-6). If we faithful Christians fail to take proper care for the new converts and they fall, we have helped them toward punishment. My brethren, we are responsible to strengthen the faith of the new converts. If we do our best and still the new convert returns to the world, his blood is upon his own head (Ezekiel 3.18-19). We have done all we could. Let us be sure we have done all we can do to keep our new converts saved.

        I would like to offer some suggestions in this short tract to help you establish a good new converts' program in your congregation or to use in establishing new congregations. It seems that many times we have plenty of good lessons for our new converts, but we fail to organize these lessons well. These are only suggestions and I cannot try to speak on every issue. We must always be looking for new ways and ideas to improve our programs. I hope what I say will be of help or at least will plant an idea in your mind to develop a strong new converts' program in your congregation. I suggest you study this and other materials to work out a class that will best benefit your congregation. We must learn to use the materials and opportunities that we have to build up the church and spread the Kingdom of God.

SECTION 2 - TO THE TEACHER

        Every good class begins with a dedicated, well prepared teacher. We all depend on our leaders to guide and provide for us--in government, home and church. The teacher of a class is its leader. Upon the teacher comes the responsibility of study, preparation, dedication, diligence and truth. James 3.1 warns us about the responsibilities and burdens of being a teacher: "My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. Why? Because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly than other people." So, if you are a teacher or desire to be a teacher, be warned! God will expect much of you. To be a teacher is a great blessing and opportunity to serve God and help lead brethren to a deeper faith in God. If you are a teacher, thank God for the opportunity to serve Him. All good teachers must prepare themselves. To enter a classroom unprepared is like going to farm without a hoe or cutlass. It is like sitting down to eat and all you have is an empty plate. To be a good teacher, you must prepare yourself. Let me give some few suggestions.

        1. Prepare yourself through prayer. A Christian should never put his hand to a task without asking God's help. We have the confidence that He will hear us (1 John 5.14). He will listen to our calls with a tender heart and strengthen us (Romans 8.26; Philippians 4.19). Our God is the God of kindness and He loves His children. Let us believe in prayer, let us pray without ceasing. Let us put all our cares and needs to Him. As a teacher, you need to pray for wisdom and understanding of God's word (James 1.5). You need to pray for strength and diligence, as well as praying for a strengthened faith. Pray for your students that they will be interested and live faithfully. Pray for guidance and a stronger love for God's people. Pray.

        2. Be diligent. Christ encourages us to be hard working for His glory (Colossians 3.23) and we know our reward is sure (1 Corinthians 15.58). You know the saying, "Pray as if all is on God. Work as if all is on you." Teachers must not be lazy. We must put much effort into our studies, our visits, being on time for class, finding new materials, learning new ideas, and, most of all, studying and preparing our lessons well. No one likes a teacher who does not prepare. Such a one cannot teach much and makes us feel cheated. Teachers, be diligent. Whatever you start, stay with it until it is complete.

        3. Study. We all know the importance of study in the life of the Christian (2 Timothy 2.15; 1 Peter 3.15). Teachers must study twice as much as anyone else. We need to read and study, try to gather good materials and plan our lessons well. Good study habits will help us. Read your Bible every day. You can begin reading in Genesis and Matthew and read some few chapters from both the Old and New Testament every day. When you complete the New Testament, go back to the beginning and start again. In this way, you can read through the New Testament two times as you read one time through the Old Testament (I suggest you read 3 chapters a day from the Old Testament and 2 chapters from the New Testament). Prepare well for your lessons. Organize your material so that it is in an easy-to-understand form. Do not try to cover too much material at one time. Keep records and copies of all your lessons so you will know what you have taught and to help you review. If you are diligent in your studies, you will be able to see how to improve yourself. Learn to teach in a way that is interesting to your students. Show them your interest in the lessons and have zeal. Give assignments to them and teach them how to study. My brethren, take time to study.

        4. As a teacher, you must be sure to live a Christian life. Be a good example to the students and your teaching will be much more powerful. How can you teach your students about the sin of fornication if YOU are a fornicator? How can you teach your students good study practices if YOU do not study? How can you teach the Christian life if YOU do not live the Christian life? Many teachers lose the respect of their students because they fail to do what they themselves teach. Live the Christian life. This is especially important for teachers of new converts because new converts can be discouraged easily by unfaithful brethren. Church leaders and teachers must realize the power of influence and refrain from immoral practices. Live the Christian life.

        5. As a teacher, you also need to try to gather good materials and books to help you prepare well. This can be difficult because of money problems and shortages of supplies, but we need to try as much as possible. Use materials that other brethren may loan to you and share what you have with others (always return books and materials to their owner). You need good Bible translations that you can understand, concordance, dictionary, and other study helps. Most of all, study the Bible and use the lessons God has put there.

        For the teacher also will be the responsibility of setting the meeting place and time of the class according to the church program. Consult the students for their ideas and make plans that are good for all. Sunday morning is a good time because most new converts will come then. The class time can also be set through discussions with the students and congregational plans. You need also to consider how long each student will stay in the class. The lessons need to be planned out so that a time can be set to graduate the students into the regular Bible classes. This we will discuss in more detail later.

        Good teachers will try to get their students involved in the class studies. Learn to give lessons in a way that the students will need to study at home to prepare for class. Encourage students to discuss issues and raise questions in class. NEVER abuse someone or laugh because of his question or comment. Be patient and humble with the students and explain well whatever may be the question. Teachers should not think of themselves as being better than their students or exalted in knowledge.

        From time to time, give the students a study assignment and let some few take turns leading the class. This will encourage them to study well and see what it is like to be a teacher. Find other ways to get the students involved and interested in the class and their studies. In this, you will help them to learn good study habits that will help them all through their Christian life. The teacher should try to develop a feeling of trust and comradeship with his students. Try visiting your students in their homes and learning of their personal problems and needs. See how Jesus helped His disciples by taking an interest in their lives (Luke 5.1-11; John 1.35-51). If the students trust their teacher and respect him in Christian love, there can be a very wonderful class.

        The success of the new converts' class will depend on the teacher and his diligence, study and faith. The students must be able to look to their teacher as the example of what he is teaching them. The task of teaching has great responsibilities and is not easy, but it has the great blessing of God that we are able to help people on their way to heaven.

SECTION 3 - BASIC AREAS OF STUDY

        Now, we shall look at some of the basic areas of study that new converts and all Christians need to study. These are only general guidelines and must be developed into series of lessons. These suggestions will help the teacher know how to cover different areas of lessons with the students, so they will gain a good knowledge of God's word.

        1. The first basic area of study needs to be the topic of GENERAL BIBLE KNOWLEDGE. This should include lessons about the books of the Bible and the general understanding of what the Bible really is. Take time to begin with Genesis and go briefly through the Bible telling what each book is all about. This will help the students to see where they are going and lay a foundation of study. Explain how the main stories of the Bible blend together--Creation, Abraham, Moses, Israel in the Promised Land, the Kings, the Punishment of Israel, their Return from Babylonian Captivity, the Promise of the Messiah, the Coming of Christ, His Death and Resurrection, the Establishment of the Church, the Spread of the Gospel and the Christian system of faith and hope.

        These lessons should be brief, but be sure the students understand the major themes of the Bible and can see the Bible as one whole book. You will study many of these lessons in detail later; but in the beginning, the important thing is to lay a foundation. The students should learn to say all the books of the Bible in order. They should be taught the three basic times of the Bible--Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian.

        General Bible knowledge will include simple lessons for a basic understanding of the plan of salvation. They need to be taught concerning God's way of life and eternal happiness. Some ideas for lessons might include: sin, forgiveness, Christ's death and resurrection, life in Christ, hope in Christ, etc. There are many good lesson books available among the brethren to help you with such materials. Keep the lessons simple in the early stages.

        The purpose of taking time to study general Bible lessons is to lay a good foundation of understanding for the new convert. Upon this foundation, you can build so many lessons that will need deeper knowledge. Take about 6-8 weeks just to lay this first foundation like a "beginners" class. If you will study briefly lessons on the inspiration of God's word, authority of God's word, man's need for salvation, etc., you will be able to set the students' minds on a good path to future studies. If you try to plant seed in an unprepared soil, you will not harvest much. Take time to clean the bush, dig the soil, and prepare it for the seeds of deeper knowledge yet to come.

        2. I believe the next most important step for new converts is to study CHRISTIAN LIVING. You have laid a good foundation of general Bible knowledge and now you must begin to build your house of knowledge and faith. What is it that causes most new converts to go back into the world? False doctrine? NO. Is it because they do not know true doctrine well enough? NO. It is temptation that pulls them back into the world. Therefore, we need to study with the new converts very early about Christian living.

        What does it mean to be a Christian? Now that I am a Christian, how should I live? These are questions that need to be studied and answered by the new convert. It is good to begin by studying the purity and holiness of God and the fact that God has called us to purity. The Christian cannot continue in sin and must be encouraged to run away from sin (like Joseph) into the arms of Christ. To do this, you should study about temptation and how to resist temptation. Also, the troubles of life need to be studied and how God will help us if we trust in Him. Our theme passage--Acts 14.22--tells us how Paul taught the new converts that it is only through troubles that we can enter God's Kingdom.

        Look at this issue like a coin. It has two sides. First, study the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 6), the attitudes and actions of a Christian. Thus you begin with the positive or good side of being a Christian and living in holiness and purity. Then, study temptation and sin and how we must escape impurity, sexual sins, drinking, lying, stealing, cursing and other temptations. One must carefully study these temptations in order to understand how to escape them. New converts need to be taught the importance of prayer, Bible study and private devotions. In the church assembly is not our only worship, the whole life of the Christian is his worship to God (Romans 12.1-2). In school, at the worksite, in the home and in the market, we must know how to live the Christian life.

        A special area of study is that of the home. From the beginning, men and boys need to learn about being Christian husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. Women and girls should learn about being Christian wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. How does God want us to live in our homes? How does a Christian man treat his wife? How should women love and respect their husbands and children? How should parents teach their children? How should children respect and obey? How do husbands and fathers work and provide and love their families? All this and more is in the Bible for our study. Attitudes and actions in marriage must be studied in keeping with the Bible. Of course, the new converts' class is only for brief studies of this nature. The congregation, as a whole, should study the Christian home very seriously.

        New converts need to be taught how to study the Bible. If a Christian is to grow, he must take the spiritual food of God's word daily. Christian living is so important, let us not neglect it and teach our people how to feed themselves. Allow the students to suggest to you the topics they feel they need to discuss. One of the best places to begin such a study is with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.1-12. These basic principles are the cornerstones of the Christian life and will help lay the proper foundations. Learn to live the Christian life.

        3. Another area of study is DOCTRINE. When we become a Christian, we obey the doctrine (teaching) of God's truth (Romans 6.17). It is necessary to continue to study the doctrine and grow in knowledge of God's word (1 Timothy 4.16). Here are some areas of doctrine that need to be studied and explained well to the new convert in brief lessons: Authority of the Bible, God's Grace, Faith, God's Plan of Salvation, Worship, The Church, Organization of the Church, The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, Baptism, The Kingdom, Christian Stewardship, Work of the Church and many other topics as you will see the need.

        Most of the time we do well in teaching our people some of the doctrines. We should be careful to teach in an humble way and encourage the students to study and learn well. Along with the doctrines, we need to teach good attitudes of humility and pure desire to teach others the truth of God (2 Timothy 2 .24-26). We need to learn to be kind and gentle toward unbelievers just as Jesus was. Because God has saved us, we must not trust in ourselves. We must learn the doctrines and trust in God.

        4. This leads us to the final general area of study we will discuss. This is the area of WORK and SERVICE in the church. We have been saved, let us learn to save others. Jesus did not come to be served, but He came to serve others (Matthew 20.28; Mark 10.44-45). Every new convert will need to be taught a zealous attitude about taking part in the work of the church, worship, and evangelism. Many new converts will be very zealous, others will need more encouragement. Here are some suggestions for study: Works of the Church, My Responsibility to My Neighbor, Need for Evangelism, Giving, Serving God Faithfully, Chmstian Faith Is An Everyday Faith, How To Teach The Lost, What I Can Do To Serve God, Benevolence and many others.

        This is a very important area of study because of the problems of new converts becoming discouraged and dropping out. Not only must the teacher teach the students how to serve God, he must help them actually do the service. Organize some home Bible studies; help them to talk to their friends; help them give to the needy through benevolence projects; encourage them to help in worship; or let them teach small sections of the class. To have knowledge is not enough, we must use the knowledge. The sooner we get the new converts involved in the work, the sooner they will mature into strong Christians. Try to think of projects the whole class can do to teach the lost or do some benevolence together.

        As we close this section, remember it is important to allow time for discussions with the students so they can ask questions and consider their problems together. They who are hungry for God's food will seek His word. I have only given suggestions of a broad or general nature so that you teachers will be challenged to study well and develop your lessons and materials. It is not my purpose to give a step by step plan. I only want to suggest some general areas of study to provide a balance of good lessons. Sometimes, we give only part of these lessons or we repeat ourselves too much or we give only some few doctrinal lessons as if that is all there is to learn. Let us try to develop good balanced classes with lessons from all these areas in a simple orderly manner. General Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Doctrine, and Service--these are four basic areas of study. If the new converts have this broad foundation of study, their faith will grow much stronger and quicker. Take a few moments at this time as you are reading to pray for God's help and guidance.

SECTION 4 - SOME ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS

        Let us now turn our minds to a few additional points concerning a new converts' class.

        1. Balance of Topics. If a person tries to eat fufu or ampesi every day for every meal, he will soon grow weary of that food. It is the same in Bible study; we need to take the different kinds of food that God has for us. Therefore, when you have studied doctrines for some time, take time to study about Christian Living. After you have studied General Bible Knowledge, you need to study more about Christian Service. It is very important to study all the major areas of Christian Faith. Please do not think that it is enough just to teach baptism, one church, worship, and a few topics. We need to declare all of God's counsel (Acts 20.27) and that includes Christian living, service, etc. We need a balance of topics in ALL our Bible classes. We must do this so we can be fully equipped to do God's work.

        2. There may be a time when we will have illiterates in the class. We should give special attention to these students and also the elderly ones who may need extra attention. You can get someone to read the Bible to them and explain it while you, the teacher, can also go to their houses for further studies as time will permit. Never embarrass them, but encourage them. It seems that even Jesus was not educated in schools (John 7.15), so we should see the value of every person. We are all equal in God's sight and must try to strengthen our unity through love and fellowship.

        3. It is a good idea to take time to review the lessons. Every class should begin with a brief review of the last week's lessons. Then about every 4-6 weeks take time to review the past lessons and blend them together into one good understanding. This is a good time for discussion and question and answer periods.

        4. It is also a good idea to give assignments to the students to prepare for the next class meeting. For example, if you are coming to study baptism in the next class, give the students certain verses to read and questions to answer. Acts 2.37-38 - What does Peter say we must do to have forgiveness of sins? Galatians 3.27 - How do we get into Christ? Romans 6.3-6 - How are we buried with Christ? I am sure you could think of many good questions that will help the students prepare their minds for the topic of the next class.

        5. Another important decision is how long shall the student stay in the class and what about those who are converted while the class is in progress and have missed the early lessons? We have to do the best that we can do with this difficult problem and I am sure that many have worked out very successful methods. If the number of students is small, it may be best to just cover very briefly the 4 major areas of study (Section 3) and move them into the regular classes. If the number of students is large and there is a constant flow of new converts, I believe it may be best to divide the class into two sections--beginners and advanced. For example, all new converts could enter a Sunday morning class to study basic, simple lessons from the 4 major areas of study (Section 3). This class should continue at least 16-24 weeks. At the end of this time, a new class will come in for the beginners and the graduated ones move on to the advanced class. Anyone who is converted should first enter the beginners class. If they are converted too late during the 24 week period, they should wait until the next beginners class, so they will not miss too many important lessons.

        When the beginners have finished their 24 week course, they should graduate into the advanced new convert class. In this class, the 4 major areas of study (Section 3) can be studied in deeper, more detailed lessons for 24 weeks. This will be a time for deeper, more detailed studies and discussion to better prepare the new converts for their Christian journey. When they have finished this course, they can graduate into the regular Bible classes. In this way, all new converts are taken through an orderly period of lessons to build a good foundation for their future studies. One class may be enough instead of two, but be sure that as many as possible go through the full series of lessons designed for them. The advanced class may want to meet during the week (Monday, Thursday, etc.).

        Of course, there are many ways you can schedule this and you will need to plan well. Much will depend on the number of teachers and students you may have. I know of a congregation that has one class for the new converts that meets on Sunday. They have no real plan to their lessons and just cover the same basic material. Students are not graduated out of the class in an orderly, planned way, and beginners are mixed with advanced students. Many become discouraged and drop out of the class and many even fall away. There is another congregation that has a beginners new converts' class on Sunday morning where basic lessons are studied and an advanced new converts' class on Thursday evenings where the lessons are studied for 6 months on a deeper level. Those who attend the advanced class become more and more involved in the church activities. Of all those who complete the advanced course, almost all remain faithful.

        However you plan your new converts' classes, try to do it in an orderly fashion so all students will have a chance to cover the lessons well. This can be done by dividing the class into two sections or having one class. With large numbers of students, I believe the two sections--beginners and advanced--will help to keep the students on a constant progression of lessons and prevent some from missing out on early lessons. See what plans you can develop for a good new converts' class. God will help you.

        6. Some brethren have developed a plan of study for new converts (especially a second phase of advanced class). Here is a sample of their classes and the order they try to follow (from Biblically Anchored Missions by Gailyn Van Rheenen).

  1. Direction Source.
    1. Inspiration of the Scriptures
    2. Lordship of Christ
    3. Indwelling of the Spirit
  2. Fellowship.
    1. Church as a body
    2. Sharing and Upbuilding
    3. The Church as God's Own People
    4. Giving-Stewardship
    5. Prayer
    6. Discipline
  3. Ministry of Christ.
    1. The Incarnation (Birth of Christ)
    2. Sermon on the Mount
    3. The 12 Disciples
    4. Christ's Power
    5. What it means to be in Christ
    6. Christ's Death
    7. Christ's Resurrection
    8. The Lord's Supper-Remembering Christ
  4. Sin.
    1. What is Sin?
    2. What Causes Sin?
    3. How to Overcome Sin
  5. The New Testament Church. A study through Acts and the Epistles (This section is mainly for new congregations. In new converts' classes, you can study conversion, the church, worship, the body of Christ, life in the Spirit, etc.).
  6. Central Christian Concepts.
    1. Love
    2. Faith
    3. Grace
    4. Mercy and Justice
  7. Family Life in Christ
  8. Evangelism
  9. Eschatology (Last Things).
    1. Return of Christ
    2. Our Resurrection
    3. Final Judgment
    4. Heaven and Hell

        You can easily see how this can serve as an example to make your own study guide for new converts. Some churches keep students in the classes for long periods, sometimes up to 2 years or more. I think perhaps, that may be too long. If there is a very good series of lessons, then I suppose two years could be productive. However, if we keep the new converts too long, they may lose interest in the worship and service of the church. Use your best judgment, seek advice, talk to the students and you will be able to develop a very good class.

SECTION 5

        The suggestions I have offered are intended only to help you plan a good new converts' class. I have not tried to cover every issue, but put down a few guidelines and principles for you to develop a strong class in your congregation. No two congregations are the same, so each must develop its own program by learning from others. The Bible class program is very important to the life of the congregation. We need good teachers who will study and try to learn methods that will make them good, interesting teachers. We need to balance our Bible classes between topical studies (men's training, plan of salvation, doctrines, etc.) and textual studies (Acts, Romans, Job, etc.). Topical studies are necessary to cover general and specific lesson topics to feed our people about Christian Living--Family, Grace, Denominational Doctrines, etc. Textual studies are to feed our people with the meat of the word and build love for God's word by studying the books of the Bible directly--Acts, Matthew, Job, Genesis, etc. We need to be studying from a book of the Bible (textual study) at least once a week in our church meetings. This is needful to build love for God's word. We must feed our people a balanced diet. Teachers, be diligent and study well.

        Let us try our best to keep our new converts saved. This will build up the church and lead many into salvation. We are our "brother's keeper" (Genesis 4.9) and we have the responsibility to know where our people are, especially our babes in Christ. Let these few suggestions help you as you plan and improve your new converts' class and other Bible classes. Let us love God's word and love one another. May God bless us all to His glory.