The church is made up of new people. At least that is the way it is supposed to be. The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, said that if a person is in Christ he or she is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Those who are new creations are not controlled by the desires of the sinful nature but by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9). Submitting to the control of the Spirit makes one holy, conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). That is God’s desire: changed lives, people made new.
But when we speak about new people in the church we may also mean something else. We may mean that there are people who formerly did not attend our church who now do. This can be for a number of reasons. One is that they have recently come to the Lord, they are among those that the Lord has added to the church (Acts 2:47). This is always desirable, and is especially encouraging if someone in the local church was instrumental in leading them to the Lord. New converts generally have great zeal. Another reason why we may have new people in the church is because they have moved into the area where the church is located. This can happen quite frequently in “college towns,” that is, areas that people typically move to in order to go to school. People who relocate for a new job may also find their way into our churches. And lastly, we may find some new people in our midst because they have left another church. This can be for good, or not so good, reasons.
Having new people attend the church is usually considered a plus. This is perhaps especially encouraging if the church is small, a larger crowd is a blessing. Not only is it nice to see an additional face or two in service but it helps boost morale. This is true not only for the minister but also for the church body. In some sense it changes the dynamic in the congregation. This change can prove to be a “breath of fresh air” that provides a sense of “lift” to the church. It makes people feel good. In some cases it can be interpreted as a sign of growth, especially if these new people continue to attend. Having larger numbers in attendance at services is great and experiencing the boost in morale can be quite beneficial, but having new people can add something else to the church as well.
When I first assumed the pastorate of the English congregation in a Pentecostal church we were very light on musicians. There was one man in the church who could play the piano and he would play for the services if he was given the songs in advance. When he was away we sometimes had a woman from another church come in to play. On occasion I played the guitar for Sunday service. We had no worship leaders and so I lead the worship. I liked to sing but I would not say that leading worship was one of my strengths. We did the best we could with what we had.
In time the situation changed. Others in the church learned to play instruments, or matured to the point where they felt comfortable enough to play in service, and we had some new people come into the church as well. Over the course of time we went from having one piano player to a complete worship team. We had a piano, electric keyboard, bass guitar, electric guitar, and drums. In addition we had some new people come into the church who led worship. It was a very good group; a number of the musicians could play more than one instrument. Some of the new editions were people who were ethnically different than the people of our congregation. These newcomers were welcomed by the church and proved to be a great blessing to all of us. The Lord has a way of sending just the right people to help improve the ministry of the local church.
Music was not the only area in which new people helped improve the life of the church. We saw a greater interest and participation in prayer and spiritual gifts due to the influence of some newcomers. Their influence in these ministries drew some who had been in the church for years into a greater participation in both of these areas. So it is not just the gifts or talents that new people bring to the church that make a difference, their impact on others who are already there can help change the church.
We need the faithfulness and consistency of long time members of the church but we also need new people. New people can help facilitate change. They increase our numbers, bring new life, add a fresh perspective, bring their spiritual gifts, and can generally encourage the church. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Lord moves His people around from time to time. I am not advocating the practice of church hopping but merely saying that at times the Lord moves His people around because He has a mission for them to complete, and this mission is in the church. It is also true that each of us, regardless of how long we have been in the church, need to be new people. We need to have an ever growing revelation of the Lord and a greater relationship with Him. In short, we need to be constantly made new. May the Lord help each of us to continue to cooperate with Him and with one another, so that we can be the best church possible, the church He desires us to be.
About the Author
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Zion Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written articles and book reviews for a number of publications including the Pneuma Review, the Africanus Journal of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Christian Trends Magazine, in India, and Berita Mujizat and Jurnal Jaffray, both in Indonesia. He is also the author of four books.