I’m doing some research on the very early church and have found out that, in the second and third centuries, a new convert was not immediately invited to join church services. In fact they were excluded. They underwent a period as a “catechumen” during which they were educated in the teachings of Jesus and were expected to demonstrate the changes that He had made in their lives. This period varied from church to church but may have lasted as long as two years. Only when they had completed this period were they baptised and allowed to join in church services, which included communion.
Church services were, therefore, restricted to those who had committed themselves to Christ, been instructed in his teachings and found to be living according to his commands.
Today, let’s face it, many people who attend church services regularly are not actively seeking a committed relationship with Jesus. Nor are they actively trying to live according to his commands. A genuine seeker, attending church services for the first time, may assume that the people they meet all have the relationship with Jesus that they themselves are seeking. And they may become confused.
I would suggest that a seeker needs a simple environment where they can spend time with one or more Christians who really do know what it is like to have a love relationship with Jesus. These people won’t have all the answers, none of us do, but it will be an environment where the seeker can ask questions, learn to pray and learn to start living according to the commands of Jesus. (Jesus said that new disciples should be taught to obey everything that he commanded his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)). I think a small group meeting, in someone’s home would probably be a good environment.
Here’s a question. If revival breaks out soon (and many of us are praying that it will) are our churches equipped to respond to large numbers of people who want to know Jesus? Our task will be to disciple and encourage these people as they develop their love relationship with our Lord and Saviour and live in obedience to his teachings. Is there a danger that we will respond only by encouraging these people to join our church communities?