In the last two editions I shared the idea of the ONE Programme and unpacked details of the first part of this - Outreach. In this edition I want to look at NURTURE.
I remember when our first child was born - we were so excited! She was wonderfully made and beautiful; yet fragile, vulnerable and needy. She became the priority of our lives and had our full attention. Why? Because she was a helpless baby! If she was to survive and grow she would need the total support, care and love of her parents. She depended on us for everything and we were there for her every moment, even when we were exhausted. With our intentional care and nurture, over time she grew and matured into a healthy, balanced and responsible citizen.
Anyone coming to faith in Yahshua through the efforts of ‘Outreach’ is a newly born baby (John 3:3-8) and, as such, must be afforded spiritual care and nurture in the same way we care for natural babies. Congregations must have in place a nurturing situation that will fully cater for the spiritual needs of the new-born. The Bible says, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13). It goes on to say that, “Solid food is for the [more] mature” (Hebrews 5:14). The passage introduces us to two stages of growth:
This process is exactly what parents follow as they nurture their children through the early stages of development. The Bible encourages leaders to embrace the same process in rearing spiritual children.
1. The ‘Milk’ Stage
At this point in the life of the new-born believer, they know hardly anything about the ‘faith’. Through the means of a nurture group or nurture minister:
Nurturing ministers ordinarily spend as much time with the new-born as is needed to assure and reassure them. As the new believers grow they are able to progress from ‘milk’ to the next stage of their development – ‘solids’.
2. The ‘Solids’ Stage
Here individuals can begin to deal with and embrace more difficult (harder) things - this is what ‘solids’ signifies. Their understanding of the things of the Kingdom and their relationship with Yahweh and others is expected to grow. After all, they’re already conversant with the basics.
Leaders must think carefully how they enable members in this stage of their development. They are still vulnerable and need guidance and support if they are to maintain spiritual health. Too many believers have been stunted in their growth because this crucial part of their development was not given the priority, resources and attention it deserved. Some have never grown up because of this failure! After many years of nurturing they are still totally dependent on their Pastor or nurture minister - they haven’t advanced from the ‘milk’ stage. If this is occurring in congregations, leaders may well be guilty of neglect and will have to give an account to the Master. In the natural realm this would have serious implications.
At the ‘solids’ stage believers are taught spiritual disciplines that will enable them to:
At this stage of development the believer should also be empowered and encouraged to feed him/herself.
The task of leaders is to have a process that naturally, yet intentionally, moves an individual from milk to solids. Knowing when a person is ready to move from one stage to the other requires a good knowledge of the individual, and recognising when he has grasped both the essential and elementary aspects of the ‘faith’. As Hebrews 6:1-2 suggests, having the knowledge and experience of:
I am among an innumerable number of parents who, when their children were young, had their health and growth regularly assessed with health professionals to ensure that they were developing properly. Leaders should apply the same principle to new believers in their care to ensure they grow properly and become effective servants in the Kingdom. There are various ways this can be done. Perhaps, in a future edition, we’ll be able to discuss some of them.
 Author’s insertion
Becoming a Christian is not making a new start in life; it is receiving a new life to start with JOHN BLANCHARD
There are some believers who can’t be called ‘pilgrims’ because they never make any progress ANON
‘To know’ is not a mere exercise of the head. Nothing is ‘known’ until it has also passed over into obedience J. A. MOTYER
Therefore, if anyone is in [Messiah], he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come 2 Corinthians 5:17
I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the [Master Yahshua] has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of [Yahweh’s] grace Acts 20:24
Yahweh, we want to do the things that will promote growth in Your family. Please. Help us to make ‘nurture’ a priority for those coming to faith in our congregation; give us the grace and wisdom to support and care for them so they will grow properly; give us men and women who can be effective nurture ministers to them.
For just as each of us has one body with many members...