November 19, 2008

Holding on to the New

2008 1532 page6 cap’LL CALL HER ANN.
She was as new to Adventism as I was to being a pastor, and at least as nervous.
On the first night of the Daniel seminar I launched in a small Massachusetts town, she sat on the edge of her chair, reveling in the opened Word her faith tradition had never emphasized.
Green though I was, and unaccustomed to nurturing hearts for the kingdom, it was impossible to miss her radiant eagerness for God’s Word. She came each night of the 10-part seminar, faithfully attended the evangelistic series that followed in the church, and sealed her commitment to Jesus and His church in baptism. There were tears in my eyes and in the baptistery the night I lowered her into the water.
All in 60 days. But then the music stopped.
2008 1532 page6Six weeks after her baptism Ann stopped attending church. At first, my mentor pastor and I assumed the cause was illness or a family gathering. But when the absences added up to three, he recommended a visit.
Ann greeted us sweetly at the door and invited us into her living room. I noticed she still sat on the edge of the couch, chewing her lip, interlocking her fingers.
“My car isn’t working anymore, and I can’t get a ride to church,” she offered when we asked if everything was all right. And fixer that I was, I jumped immediately to naming church members who lived nearby and could bring her with them on Sabbath mornings.
A gentle look from my mentor pastor quieted me. “Ann,” he asked with a sensitivity born of years of caring for hearts, “have you gotten nervous about the good decision you made to be baptized?”
The flood of relief and tears was instant. “Oh,” she groaned, “my family—my parents, my brothers and sisters—they’re all so opposed to what I’ve done. And it’s hard to hear them telling me week after week that I’ve made a mistake. I know what I’ve done is right—and true—but I feel so lonely in this new faith.”
That’s what it’s like for many new believers whom the Spirit brings through the doors of our churches. Convicted by the Word, drawn to the timeless truths taught in our Bible studies, small groups, seminars, and public evangelism, they’re eager for the reassurance that they’ve made the right decision. Their first 12 months in Adventism are the crucial time when they either find their feet or lose their way. Research has repeatedly shown that they need at least a handful of significant Adventist friendships and a steady supply of solid, gospel-laden information to ground them in the church.
Thirty years ago, there was no New Believers’ program to ensure that Ann had a weekly visit to build her up in Jesus. But for the past 10 years, the Adventist Review New Believers’ program—funded by you, our faithful readers—has helped tens of thousands of brand-new Adventists grow into mature disciples. Through your generosity, they get a year’s subscription—36 issues—to Adventism’s flagship journal for free, and just when they need it most.
Your contributions to the New Believers’ program—ranging from $10,000 (670 subscriptions) to $15 (one soul-anchoring subscription)—are amplified by your local conference’s annual gifts to this program. Our news editor, Mark A. Kellner, was one of those blessed by your gifts when he was baptized 10 years ago. He found in this magazine the confidence, the Bible teaching, the inspiring stories, and the call to mission that helped him to dedicate his talents to God’s church.
Join me this year again in making more of those stories happen. I’ve already made my prayerful contribution to the New Believers’ program this year. I need you to share the largest gift your resources will allow to help us secure 38,000 new believers across the North American Division.
Use the envelope inserted in this issue to make your gift.
Use the love the Spirit has planted in your heart to bless the newest and most vulnerable among us.
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review.