BY O’NEAL COPELAND | September 2019
One of the key principles of Christians is to be disciples of Christ – to witness, spread the good news and tell our personal testimonies to others. Strangely this is something that I started to hear more about after I got baptised.
I recently started to re-evaluate my spiritual life after leaving the Adventist church in my teenage years. During my time away I was continually invited to various church campaigns and poignant occasions such as youth days, Christmas and Easter services. Everyone told me that I had to start coming back to church. When I eventually did start returning (last year) I felt there was a strong requirement from the church for me to be baptised (which of course is no bad thing and personally I had made that decision in my mind).
New disciple of Christ
The real problem for me started after I was baptised. All of a sudden I was a new disciple of Christ and I felt there was a desire for me to go spread the word and take up positions in the church. However, this approach seemed rushed and convoluted to me as it appeared to be a way of keeping one’s interest in the church i.e. if you are doing a role in the church then you’re less likely to leave. Although I agree there’s a time to do God’s work within the church, I personally didn’t feel comfortable with doing that more or less straight after baptism. What I really desired was to help re-establish my unity with God, was to understand God’s word (the Bible), and time to understand how my God given talents could be effectively be used in everyday evangelism.
Although my teenage years are far behind me, I still considered myself a spiritual baby and I needed an avenue for increased spiritual growth. I believe each individual has to spend time daily to learn the Word, but there are times when you need explanations for some of the texts/chapters you’ve read. Personally, I think it would be great if the church put more emphasis on learning rather than just baptising. It almost seemed to me that baptism was the holy grail, but I’ve realised this is just the start of one’s spiritual journey with God. It’s the point where you have accepted the truth and realise you need Christ to be at your side to help you through the joys, traumas and perpetual daily challenges.
I’ve found so many people feel more isolated after baptism than prior to the event, because the emphasis is to ‘win souls for Christ’ but ultimately in a number of cases it leads to people getting baptised and leaving the church within a year. The greatest investment we can make in our churches today is in teaching and mentoring, and the question should not be what it costs, but what it saves.
People with the desire to learn will benefit from having bible studies and courses on how to evangelise naturally and effectively.
Bible Book Club
My wife came up with the idea of starting a Bible Book Club at Croydon Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have been supported by pastors and elders, and the group runs twice a month where we read and discuss a specific book of the bible. I have found the book club extremely helpful in gaining a greater understanding of God’s word and discussing and sharing points of view from like-minded people. My spiritual knowledge has grown exponentially (in just over a year, coupled with the Sabbath school classes). If you will learn more about our Bible Book Club and how you could join, visit: www.croydonadventist.org/event/bible-book-club/
Croydon SDA Church has also run the course ‘Becoming A Contagious Christian’ workshop, which helps you understand your God given ability to evangelise in a way most suited to your personality. Again, this has been an unusual insight into understanding how as disciples we can evangelise in a genuine manner in our everyday lives, in any given situation.
Become effective disciples
As obvious as it sounds the only way we can become effective disciples, is if we have (A) have the personal desire, and (B) the right training and guidance. I’m yet to see the pilot who can fly a plane without any lessons.
If we really want to do God’s work then we must be given the right tools to equip ourselves. Hopefully spiritual training in all churches will be seen not just as a way to win souls, but also to develop passionate and knowledgeable Christians who have the confidence to effectively disseminate Gods wonderful message of salvation.