Dear New Christian,
Welcome to the Church family! I’m glad you’ve chosen to follow Jesus and committed yourself to growing alongside a community. It takes tremendous courage to plug yourself into a new environment, but now you’re probably wondering – what next?
I’m not sure what your impression of the Church is, but some common impressions I’ve encountered are that Christians are “holy-moly” and spend a lot of time together. Maybe you think Christians are a bunch of “nice” people, or maybe you’re still convinced Christians are out to convert everyone they see. I hope this letter gives you a more accurate picture of the church life that awaits you.
UNCOMMON PEOPLE WITH A COMMON GOAL
For starters, it’s good to note that church life does not limit itself to the physical location of the church building. Instead, church life happens when people are assembled around Jesus and His Word (Matthew 18:20). Yet, the people who gather in His name are not perfect – in fact, we’re all far from it!
The Bible tells us that God reaches out to all kinds of unlikely people – some of Jesus’ followers included fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22), a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-41), a tax collector (Matthew 9:9, 10:3), and prominently, the “ex-Pharisee” and apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-19).
Likewise, be prepared that your church will probably be filled with “unlikely” Christians. Perhaps you even count yourself one too.
Imperfect as we all are, we are on a common journey with the same end in mind – we have thrown off our old selves and put on our new selves,
If you still have your doubts: The Samaritan woman had five husbands (John 4:18-19). Tax collectors in Jesus’ time were regarded as the worst of sinners, often categorised along with prostitutes (Matthew 21:32) because they often charged extra taxes and took the money for themselves (Luke 19:8). Paul, prior to his conversion, was a persecutor of the church (Acts 8:3, Philippians 3:6) – the man was recorded to be “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” before his conversion.
Nonetheless, imperfect as we all are, we are on a common journey with the same end in mind – we have thrown off our old selves and put on our new selves, and are on a journey of renewal as we grow to know our Creator (Colossians 3:10), and to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
SHARED IDENTITY IN OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
You’ll meet Christians who have grown up in church since childhood. Hence, you may be wondering whether second-generation Christians have it better, having grown up in the faith and being familiar with Christian life since young.
On the contrary, having attended Sunday School even as a preschool-aged child, I’ve wondered if you have it better – you have come to faith out of conscious choice and understanding. While I have come to own my faith for myself, my first exposure to church as a young child meant I didn’t fully understand the Christian faith then.
Hence, there have been times when I wondered if those who come to faith in adulthood are more aware and appreciative of God’s grace in their lives when He called them to Himself.
In Christ, old divisions and wrongful attitudes of superiority and inferiority no longer exist – we are all united in the common identity as children of God.
In reality, the length (or lack thereof) of our Christian journey does not matter as much as the fact that we are on this journey of faith together as a family. I may have been in the faith longer than you have – nonetheless, God shows the same generosity towards us as we persevere in faith (Matthew 20:2, 13-14).
Furthermore, in Christ, old divisions and wrongful attitudes of superiority and inferiority no longer exist – we are all united in our shared identity as children of God, despite our apparent human distinctions (Galatians 3:28). None of these affect a person’s qualification for salvation and service – God does not judge significance as the world does!
WE ARE ALL WORKS-IN-PROGRESS
Though I have been a Christian for a long time, I am still a work-in-progress just like you. The work God has been and continues doing in both my life and yours, will only be completed when Christ returns again (Philippians 1:6).
Because no one is 100% Christlike (yet), you may be surprised to discover in the course of interacting with your new family that we are all 100% human. There might be moments of tension or disappointment in someone. I find it useful to separate my faith from the people who embrace it – whether they exemplify Christ in their actions should not affect my belief and trust in Him.
In view of this, we are both called to hold firmly to God’s Word as we await Christ’s Second Coming (Philippians 2:16). Meanwhile, regardless of when we have accepted Christ as Lord, we are not to continue it in our own strength (Galatians 3:3), but to continually follow Him in steadfast love and faith (Colossians 2:6).
Love and blessings,