Thu | Aug 17, 2017

The challenges of new converts

Published:Saturday | July 29, 2017 | 7:02 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston

Do you know what it's like

When you're scared to see yourself?

Do you know what it's like

When you wish you were someone else?

Who didn't need your help to get by?

Do you know what it's like

To wanna surrender?

- Never Surrender - Skillet

The beginning of the Christian journey is an exciting time for new converts. They often think they are ready to take on the world and can face any battle that comes their way. For some who are struggling with sinful habits such as having sex out of marriage, smoking, and partying, they literally embrace the verse found in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."

Unfortunately, repeating a verse of scripture will not be enough to enable them to walk away from those sinful habits. Many new converts have returned to a life of sin, discouraged, as they weren't able to totally give up what held them bound in the first place.

For answers in this situation, Family and Religion reached out to Pastor Dennis McKoy of the Harbour View Church of God, who said new converts should not see salvation as an event where everything changes immediately.

"We have a responsibility to live holy, but they should know that being holy does not mean spotless. It does mean going on a journey," he said.

The key, for Pastor McKoy, is in not seeing salvation as a destination, but rather a process.

The longer a convert's journey in Christ is, the more they should make the effort to keep in constant communication with the Creator, as it is very easy to drift away.

"They must first realise that even though they have a responsibility to live holy, they are also aided by God's sovereignty. They must hold on to the fact that God is in complete control of their lives. They should pay attention to reading the word, but not just read it. They should try to make it relevant to their situations, which will call for deep study," points out McKoy.

For those who are struggling with letting go of their bad habits, he said they should try to have regular interactions with other believers and to stay away from situations, and even people, who might cause them to become distracted.

"One of the challenges new converts have is that they are not patient with themselves. We must bear in mind that change is not always instantaneous, but can take time. However, it is important to not deliberately find yourself there because that will make the change much harder. Sex and smoking are habits that will be difficult to break and, as such, that will call for you to seek counsel from someone who you know can relate to you and will give you sound advice. Attach yourself with a mentor," states McKoy.

The pastor had words for more experienced believers and their roles in assisting new converts.

 

MAKING THE JOURNEY EASIER

 

He said they can make the journey easier by not being condemning and chastising. Also, it would help if they shared their own testimonies on struggles they themselves had.

"New converts want to know that they are not alone. They want to know that you have also been through what they are going through, and they want to know how you were able to deal with it. Be honest with them, be open and be real. Also, some converts don't always want to hear you preaching to them, but they want to know how the Bible can be real and relevant to their situation. Be a friend instead of a police officer who is always over their heads with a baton," points out McKoy.

For many new converts, their most difficult battle comes from the place where they should be receiving encouragement and strength.

Tackling this, McKoy said the more experienced believers must always see these converts for who they are and be ready to deal with them where they are.

"When the seniors come down hard on the new converts when they fall, it actually does more harm than good. Some will be scared emotionally because of what you say and how you say it. Words have power, so we must be careful of how we speak to them," he cautioned.

McKoy said church elders must nurture and treat new converts like newborn babes.

"We can't treat them like fully grown individuals, when they can barely walk. New converts must also be actively pursuing the things of God and the mind of God. They must be deliberate in their actions towards holiness and seek help when they need it."

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com