Laying good foundations

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by Michael E. Brooks

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation . . .” (Hebrews 6:1NKJV).

I have had the honor several times of laying the “corner-stone” for new church buildings in Nepal and Bangladesh. This ceremonial occasion represents the beginning of the building process.

I have never yet been asked to go back and relay those stones. Once in place the remainder of the building was constructed and the foundation served it well.

Conversely, there have been some occasions when I and others went to new areas to preach the Gospel, with resulting conversions and the planting of new congregations. Not often, but occasionally, the converts turned away from the Gospel and the congregation ceased to exist.

On other occasions key members moved from the area, with the same unfortunate result.

In those cases it is necessary for evangelists to return to the same place and lay once again the foundations of faith, repentance and baptism, that others might be saved from sin and the church begun again.

In almost every instance, the second effort is a more difficult task. It is far better, and usually much more successful, to build well and quickly upon the first foundation.

One principle that guides our evangelistic efforts is the “Necessity of Continuity,” otherwise called “Follow-up.” Those with whom I work do not go to any new area to preach unless there are plans in place for repeated regular visits to ground and mature any potential converts, and to win additional souls.

This is in harmony with the great commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Note that the task of teaching all the commands of Jesus is given equal emphasis to baptism. One is as essential to the task as the other.

This is illustrated in Acts 2 where we read that those converted to Christ on Pentecost “Continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). That is, they were taught the commands of Jesus, just as he instructed.

A key to properly understanding the great commission is to recognize the goal stated by Jesus–to “make disciples.”

He has no interest in counting baptisms or confessions of faith. Our goal is not to accomplish some numerical achievement. Rather it is to teach and interact with lost humans in such a way as to bring them into the fellowship and likeness of the Son of God.

A disciple is a follower and helper. One partial synonym is “apprentice.” Evangelism seeks to recruit and train new workers for the kingdom of God. Enrolling them is only the first step. They are of little value in their vocation until they develop necessary knowledge and skill.

An apprentice program assigns a trainee to work under the supervision of a skilled tradesman, learning his craft through imitation and experience. Is that not what the apostles (disciples) of Jesus did, following and assisting him for more than three years, then inheriting the work as their own upon his ascension to Heaven?

We easily recognize the need for new trainees (converts). Are we as quick to admit the need of master tradesmen–experienced and skilled mentors who will pass on their knowledge and skill?

The Hebrew Christians were chastised because they were still students when they should have been teaching and mentoring others (Hebrews 5:12). Tragically the same applies to many today. If our foundation has been laid, let us build upon it, going on unto perfection.

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