This morning I got an email from a sweet lady asking where in the world she should start? Start what, you might wonder? Where to start as a new believer. Basically, HOW IN THE WORLD DOES ONE DO THIS THING?
At first I wanted to forward the email on because I didn’t feel the least bit qualified to answer such a question, especially when she mentioned that “though she wasn’t saying reading the book of John as the standard answer is a bad answer”, she just wanted more.
To be more specific, she wondered, “If I don’t want to look like a complete fool as it relates to Biblical knowledge, history, early church, and generally how the Bible was compiled, where do I begin?”
I so appreciated the email because I feel like there are so many out there asking that very same question, hence the reason for this post. Maybe they’ve even read the book of John, but are having trouble interpreting it and they just need some clarity. I get that, I really do.
So, in all my naïve wisdom, as a 28-year-old still-learning-what-life-is-all-about, I am here to offer you what I personally have done, and what I know scripture points to.
I know. That’s not what you were looking for. But it’s the gospel truth. Tell the Lord EXACTLY what you are thinking and feeling, He already knows anyway. If you read a portion of scripture and you are more confused than when you dove in, tell Him. Be honest. If you can’t be honest with the God of the Universe, I don’t know who you can be honest with. And of all people, He can handle it. And He cares. So, pray.
One very specific thing you can pray if you’re just starting out as a new believer (or a seasoned believer) and treading uncharted territory is, Lord, open my mind to understand your scriptures! It is straight out of Luke, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” Luke 24:45. In fact, I have that plastered on a sticky note right in front of my computer at work so I remember to pray that. Because news flash, a lot of times I don’t always understand! He hears you! The last thing you should do is let your lack of understanding keep you from reading the scriptures. Find a translation you like that works for you. It’s okay if everyone around is you is into the English Standard Version (ESV) and you’re drawn to the New Living Translation (NLT). Don’t let comparison discourage you! Read The Message translation if you like it. There is no formula! I have personally found that for me one of the enemy’s biggest schemes is to get my mind wandering away from all or any thing Jesus. The more I allow my mind to wander and daydream, the worse off I am. The more I am in the scriptures (and it is a FIGHT at times) the more sane I feel.
Yes, this millennial is telling you to get yourself in a church. It’s a big deal! Whether you believe in it or not, you need those people. You need the church. You need the older. The wiser. The younger. The married. The single. The children. The people. As hard as you try, you can’t (and won’t for long) survive without them. These are the people that will welcome you, encourage you, love you, pray for you, laugh with you, cry with you, teach you and grow with you. You have a place (and a gifting – 1 Corinthians 12:27) in the body of Christ, don’t let anyone tell you different. Plug yourself into a church where Jesus is the focus. That may seem obvious, but it’s vital.
Consider Hebrews 10:24-25 to help you understand why the church is of utmost importance, I really like it in the Amplified version.
“And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”
Side note: Besides learning the discipline of prayer, this may cause you to be the most brave, but do it! You will find all manner of excuses not to go, but ignore them. Create the time go and commit! Commit until you know that if you missed, someone would notice. I know for some this may mean going alone, but if you never try it, you might not experience the blessing. Be brave, friend!
3) BIBLE STUDY.
I have found that the easiest way to meet people in church is to either serve or attend a small group or Bible study of some sort. Once you find a church, this will be a little easier, as most churches offer multiple Bible studies. If you’re not comfortable serving right away, no shame! You may not even know where you’re needed or what you’d be interested in doing. So, start by attending a weekly study either on the campus of your church or in someone’s home. And by all means, if this is foreign to you and you have no idea how to go about doing this, for heaven’s sake, ask somebody! Find someone standing behind an information table, ask the person sitting next to you, just ask. People are there to help, and they want to help! Simply put, the easiest way to get acquainted with the Word is to study it, and studying it with other people around you is even better, especially if you’re just beginning. Plus, this increases the level of accountability, and we all need someone to assist us in this. Even better: Ask if your church hosts any type of Bible class. You never know what the church might offer.
Can I just be honest? This is all hard. Life get’s busy, distractions pop up, you get weary. Maybe results are slim, but in the end, it will be worth it. You’ll NEVER waste a minute pursuing Christ. So to those of you who are brand new to this Jesus thing, we ARE SO GLAD you landed here! Persevere, walk it out, get honest, and just have fun. And for the record, and if you hear one thing, hear this, if anyone makes you feel like a fool for not knowing the “basics” of studying the Bible, or having to look in the table of contents to find a certain book of the Bible (which, hello, I have done just recently), then you can find a new friend. NO ONE should make you feel like that! We ALL started there. No one came out of the womb a know-it-all. You are never a fool for asking questions and being honest. Never.
If you’re looking for specific books that are more in-depth, and study books that aren’t necessarily Bible studies, a few years ago Beth compiled a list for our blog readers. You can find that here! It has some really great resources for anyone, but especially if you desire to be a student of the Word.
And if this is old news to some of you, then encourage somebody with it who has the same questions. It’s all about discipleship!
I’ve heard it said a million times by a pastor I respect greatly, you don’t just stumble into godliness, it takes work! As with most things, there is so much more you can do, but this is a start! There is hope, and godliness is possible.
We love y’all so much.