Over the weekend I was reading 1 Corinthians and got stuck meditating on Chapter 1. This is one of most diverse epistles in the New Testament. Corinth was a vibrant, growing church that was filled with questions and problems. According to this letter they were moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, reaching out to the lost in their city and even supporting the preaching of the gospel through missionary activities.
The church also had its fair share of problems and issues. There were all types of questions, people were not getting along and there were some things taking place that would even make headlines today.
Corinth was a prominent Greek metropolis in the first century. It was a port city with a strong economy and a diverse culture. Pleasure, sensuality and luxury seem to have been synonymous with Corinth in the first century. There are many who believe sacred prostitution was a regular part of the worship of Aphrodite in the city. The city was Greek, the government was Roman and many of the citizens and residents were wealthy.
I have heard preachers say that building a church in Corinth was like building a church in Las Vegas. The Apostle Paul spent about 18 months in Corinth along with Priscilla and Aquila on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). These apostolic teams planted this church, raised up leaders and moved on to the next city to continue their ministry. We have two of Paul’s letter to this church and the subject matter of the two letters shows that there was a period of major maturation between the two and that Corinth became a strong church.
I don’t want to take the normal approach when talking about Corinth. Most will talk about the sexual sin, the divisiveness among the members, the lawsuits between Christians and even the discussions on “Christian Liberty”. The teaching on the gifts of the Spirit and administration of the gifts of the Spirit within the church are amazing in this book. We have the chapter of love (13) and the chapter of resurrection (15). 1 Corinthians provides us with many of the doctrines and practices for New Testament Christianity.
I want to look at why Paul had to write this letter.
- The church was filled with new believers who were all brand new to the God of the bible
- There were many questions on what was acceptable to God
- There were issues with sin and schism
If you were raised in a “Christian” environment prior to being born again your acclimation and indoctrination into New Testament Christianity is on a completely different curve than someone who has come from a Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu or just plain heathen background. The Corinthians were mostly gentile, whose only knowledge of Jesus Christ came from the church after they had been born again.
The Christians of Corinth were blank slates. They had wholeheartedly accepted Christ, but everything about Him was new.
Talk about culture shock – they experienced it. Most had a polytheistic background that involved feasts, celebrations, rituals and even offering and sacrifices to multiple deities. Roman and Greek cultural practices were very different from Old & New Testament ways of living. Morality was different, family life was different, worship was different – they were truly translated out of one kingdom and into another.
Notice that we are not talking about their love for God, His Word or their commitment to their faith. Notice we are not talking about their worship; we are talking about their culture or their world view. There is a great need in our churches for the type of instruction found in 1 Corinthians.
New Christians need to be taught what the Bible has to say. They need to be coached on issues of lifestyle, standards of practice and other things that pertain to living in God’s Kingdom. They need a scriptural foundation. I think some of us who have been in the church for 20+ years or more tend to look a little sideways at some believers when they do or say things that are not appropriate for the church. We must remember that newborns don’t come with Masters Degrees – they come as a blank slate. They need to know what the bible says.
The fact is that most believers only learn what they hear in a Sunday morning message and most Sunday morning messages do not cover the foundational doctrines and truths of scripture that help people grow in their faith. Our Sunday morning messages tend to be event centered preaching where the word is applied to various events or seasons in our lives. (No judgment here – for these messages are extremely important too). Here are the most common messages you will hear most Sunday mornings (depending, of course, what type of church you worship at):
- Loving your….
- Current Events
- Dealing with…
- Relationships – Marriage
- Worship – Prayer
Sunday morning Christianity alone does not provide the new believer with enough of a foundation necessary to become a mature believer in Christ. Consequently many of the people who respond to our altar calls consistently deal with the issues dealt with in 1 Corinthians and many quickly fall away from their new faith. New believers need a foundation in the scripture and it is our responsibility as existing believers to make that happen or at least to provide the opportunity for it to happen.
Churches can employ a variety of methods to connect new believers to the body.
- New believers classes
- Home fellowship groups
- Books for new believers
- Podcasting sermons
- Social Media, Etc.
We really cannot find an excuse for not doing these things, but yet we do. Have you ever been to a crusade or evangelistic meeting that saw a significant amount of people respond to a salvation message? I have been to hundreds of these meetings and I love to see people come to the altar and give their hearts to Jesus. The big question at the end of the meeting for those that answered the invitation is “What next?”
Imagine this scenario. You are a non-Christian, raised in a non-religious environment with no real knowledge of Christianity or Jesus Christ and you are invited to a church service or evangelistic event. During the meeting you are moved by the worship, the testimonies and the message. You feel God tugging on your heart and when an invitation to accept Jesus is given you respond. The next thing you know, someone counts to 3, you raise your hand, you walk down an aisle, and then a preacher says, “Repeat after me”. You pray a prayer that asks Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your life. The church prays with you, someone asks you to fill out a card, perhaps they give you a book or DVD and then the service ends.
It almost feels like a spiritual tornado has taken place. You feel different. You feel clean. You have cried, you have laughed and you have most likely even been singing songs about Jesus. The person who invited you to the meeting is excited and they want you to come to church with them again on Sunday. You’re hungry for God, you’re excited about your new faith, but you have tons of questions.
This is where we, the body of Christ, have to be there. It is painful to see altar call after altar call answered at churches and yet some churches never seem to grow. What happens to the people who accept Jesus at our altars? Where are they 1 week, 1 month even 1 year from the day they walked down our aisles and filled out their “decision” card? Christianity is not a transaction – it is a relationship.
If you are a pastor or church leader – you need a mechanism in your ministry to turn your infant Christians into men and women of God. If you are a believer in Christ that does not have a pulpit ministry you have the opportunity to be a father or big brother in the faith for a new believer. You can be a mother or big sister for someone. They need a friend who knows the bible. They need a mentor who can provide godly wisdom, prayer and even correction in their new walk with the Lord.
Do you remember how many things you had to deal with in your life the first year you became a Christian? It is going to be the same for them.
1 Corinthians was written because new believers needed godly leadership and instruction about how to be Christians. New Christians aren’t given a bible download into their brains when they answer the altar call – they need to learn. New Christians have tons of questions that need to be answered. We, as the church, need to be there.
Just like everything else I write, my challenge is to you and to me. What are we going to do about it? When we stand before Christ we will have to answer for ourselves not our pastor or church leaders. What did we do? Did we bear fruit? Did that fruit remain?
We preach the gospel because we know that God loves the world and He has commanded us to do so, but we should also be preaching the gospel because we love the people in the world too. If we love people enough to preach the gospel to them let’s also love them enough to help them grow in their faith.
What can you do?
- Get connected to believers who believe and live like you do
- Make sure they consistently provoke you to be more like Jesus
- Share your faith with those who do not know Jesus
- Form relationships with new believers
- Add them into your circle
- Love and accept them
- Talk about scripture
- Pray with and for them
- Call them out on things they shouldn’t be doing (Always from a place of love and grace)
- Get them connected to the body of Christ
- Get them active in ministry
- Continue to grow in your own faith and relationship with Christ
- Read the bible
- Go to church
- Witness your faith
- Live right
Everyone needs to be connected to God through the Lord Jesus Christ and every Christian needs to be connected to other Christians who will provoke them to be more like Jesus.
1 Corinthians was written for a reason – it was written for you and me. It was written so that new believers can be grounded in the Christian faith.