Follow-up is an integral aspect of evangelism. There is no way that the two can be separated because both are contingent upon the other. A sole interest in evangelism conveys a lack of true concern for other people. Unless new Christians are grounded in the faith after receiving Christ, the ministry is superficial, shallow, and void of a true spiritual responsibility.
The apostle Paul refers to himself as a spiritual father in his epistles to his spiritual children. And, as a parent in the physical realm has responsibilities to nurture, feed, care for, advise, clothe and train his child, so do spiritual parents. Those who give life to babes (either physically or spiritually) have the responsibility to see that life sustained to maturity.
Besides the practical implications of follow-up, the attitude with which a new Christian is followed up is important. Because the attitude or attitudes as we will see are of spiritual nature, it is imperative that one be filled with/controlled by the Holy Spirit in order to see them manifested in his life.
In order to be concise and yet present a total perspective of the necessary attitudes in follow-up, we will consider 1st Thessalonians, chapters 1 and 2 and some separate verses which will serve to amplify them.
I. ATTITUDE OF CONCERN.
1 Thes. 1:2 – “…making mention of you in our prayers…” Follow-up involves being interested in and concerned for other people. The most basic and yet most potent expression of such concern is prayer. Without prayer a person’s heart will not be opened to receive and understand the spiritual truths which he will be given as he is followed up. Hence, any endeavor or person being followed-up must be committed to God in prayer because of the seriousness of the task, and a true concern to see the person grow in the faith.
II. ATTITUDE OF THANKS.
1 Thes. 1:2 – “We give thanks to God always for all of you…”
A. There should always be an attitude of thanks to God for new Christians because of the importance and the depth of the new adventure to which they have committed themselves.
B. An attitude of thanks should always be prevalent on the heart of the person doing the follow-up for the opportunity to be used of God in the life of another person – to share with him deep spiritual truths with an eternal significance. And because of the spiritual lessons and qualities of godliness and holiness which will be fostered in his own life. Follow-up is never one-sided. The lessons and the growth are always reciprocal.
III. ATTITUDE OF PURE MOTIVE.
1 Thes. 2:4 – The motive in follow-up must be pure. The responsibility must be accepted with an awareness that a person’s total life is the ultimate consequence. And, “just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel,” any sharing of His Good News will be seen by “God, who examines our hearts.” Hence, the task must be recognized as being done as unto Him, in order to see one for whom His Son died experience all that the death of Christ can mean in his life. Any motivation for self, other than the joy of seeing men grow in Christ, and to bring glory to God for what He can do in a man’s life, is an impure motive.
IV. ATTITUDE OF A NURSING MOTHER.
1 Thes. 2:7 – The attitude of a nursing mother is most necessary if an adequate job of follow-up is to be accomplished. In discussing this attitude it will be helpful to consider the attitudes (and qualities) that a young mother displays when training a small child.
1 Thes. 1:3 – “…constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love…” To follow-up includes being aware of the other person, his habits, his desires, his strengths, and weaknesses, and his environmental background. Such an awareness allows us to understand why a person will act in a particular way in a particular situation.
It is necessary to accept a child for what he is at a particular age without trying to make him an adult until he has become one through age, experience, exposure, and wisdom. The object here is not to try to make a young Christian a mature one spontaneously but to accept him as young in the faith with no embarrassment to him.
Just as a one year old boy cannot kick a football with the agility and power of an older man neither can a young Christian be expected to have the spiritual capabilities of a man who has been a Christian for a number of years.
With this it must be realized that acceptance at a particular age demands giving a young Christian spiritual milk, 1 Peter 2:2, so that he can digest it. Hence, acceptance demands sensitivity, patience, and awareness to the other person.
C. Patience and Sensitivity.
As young children make mistakes, even after being told and corrected, so will young Christians do the same. The person following up can either be sensitive to the person (as discussed in the attitude of awareness) and see the reasons why such things are taking place, and remember his own personal inconsistencies, or they can place unnecessary and many times harmful pressure on the new Christian to conform to their personal level of growth. Patience and sensitivity can not be delineated. Sensitivity to a new Christian will allow us to claim the patience which is needed to work with a new Christian and which only comes from God.
With a young child an adult will modify and simplify his speech in order to communicate whatever he intends to convey. The attitude the mature Christian must have is to be willing to modify and simplify his deep and complex theological jargon in order to communicate with a new Christian. This involves patience and sensitivity to realize that his learned words do not always communicate. This is a source of personal consternation at times because it can be deflating to one’s ego. However, it is necessary to remember that the focal point of the endeavor is the new Christian and his growth.
V. ATTITUDE OF A FOND AFFECTION.
1 Thes. 2:8 – “Having thus a fond affection for you…” It would be impossible to adequately follow-up a person without having a fond affection for him. In this sense, affection means a concern, an appreciation for, and to love (1 Cor. 13) him as he is. More specifically we see that this fond affection include:
A. Imparting One’s Life.
“Imparting not only the gospel but also our lives.” If the person being followed up is considered only as an appointment, someone whom is seen occasionally or to whom a few Bible verses are given, then the follow-up is shallow and insincere. The impartation of one’s life means to spend time with a person, become his friend, empathize with him, be happy with him, or be sad with him. The things that break his heart should do likewise to the person following him up. This is not teaching the Bible to one part of man but ministering to the whole man, for as we become this involved in a person’s life then we can show him how Jesus Christ and the Bible can meet absolutely every need and want in his life.
B. Spending and Being Spent.
This also includes being willing to spend and be spent (2 Cor. 12:15) for the sake of others. With a fond affection for another person, nothing is too valuable to be spent, either physically in regard to time or energy, or materially if it will encourage young Christians on to deeper spiritual maturity. In 2 Cor. 4:15, Paul tells the Corinthians that he would do anything for them. It is imperative that we have this same attitude.
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