By Matthew C. Slemp
“Slip your hand up, put it right back down.”
Many teenagers throughout the years have heard this familiar line, whether at camp, weekly worship, or other special youth events. It is a phrase that marks the decision time, the pinnacle event of worship, the results the church staff has prayed for, but sadly, too often a mere number to be added to a spread sheet.
The moment that a teenager – or anyone for that matter – declares their decision to follow Christ is the most exhilarating and life-changing experience of all time. However, moments, hours, and days following that commitment can be lonely, uncertain, and even confusing.
What’s next? Where do I start in the process of trying to read my Bible? How should I live? What activities or habits do I need to stop? What does the Lord need from me? Beginning a relationship with Jesus is crucial; and continuing to walk in your new life in Christ is vastly important.
The Scripture teaches us in Romans 10:13 that “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord, is saved.” It is an instantaneous transaction, yet involves a lifelong pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. It is crucial to get plugged in to Christ on a daily basis. This means strategically setting aside time each day for prayer, Bible study, and connection with God.
Keep it fresh, change it up, and do things differently, but, regardless of the temptations to abandon those disciplines, get started. You can never advance in your journey if you never start to walk.
The next steps
Strategic followup is necessary by student pastors and loving adults to help navigate the newly saved on this journey. Encouragement and accountability by peers and others are necessary to help the newly saved teenager avoid distractions or discouragement in their faith. This is what I call strategic next steps!
We have often been far better at obstetrics then pediatrics, but we have a solemn responsibility to help our newborn students grow and to be strong in the Lord. That moment of salvation is called the new birth. A birth should be and often is a joyous and blessed experience, but not everyone considers birth a blessing. Perhaps that is why there are so many abortions today.
There are those who consider the responsibilities, the expenses, and the time required in having a child too troublesome, too time consuming, too expensive, and too distracting.
We all know it is easier to catch fish than to clean them, but once we have the wonderful opportunity to see one of our students come to faith in Christ we must be prepared to nurture them and groom them into champions for Christ. Those new converts are not liabilities, but treasures to be cherished and molded so their value to God’s Kingdom becomes immeasurable.
Student ministers have a responsibility to facilitate the growth of new believers, but new Christians must desire to grow and mature in their faith. I would ask them, “Are you connecting?” From the time I was saved until now, one of the greatest helps in my faith journey is connecting with other believers. The tendency in our culture today is to treat church as a gas station; we will pull in when the tank is getting empty and then be on our way.
Thankfully, church attendance was a way of life for my family and me. Stay connected to a local church and small group ministry where you have other like-minded individuals to provide fellowship and accountability. We were never meant to go it alone. Jesus is with us, never to leave us or abandon us, but God also gives us fellow believers to walk with in the journey.
Finally, I believe it is vital for the new believer to start serving! Get plugged in to mission opportunities where you are active by helping others and meeting needs, sharing the gospel, and building relationships with non-believers. The most powerful tool we have is our own story. Learn to share it, and watch how God will use it in other lives.
The first step is the moment we put our faith in Christ, certainly the most vital and necessary step. That is when the decision we made should begin to solidify. Maybe you feel confused or unsure of where you are on the journey. Let me challenge you to get into the Bible and connect with Jesus on a daily basis, plug into a local church faithfully, and roll up your sleeves and start to serve. Life really does begin, after amen!
Matthew C. Slemp serves as student minister at First Baptist Church, Atlanta.