Beating Down the Newbies


The following made mistakes in their ministry and held erroneous views of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and basic Christian doctrine:

  • C.H. Spurgeon
  • Billy Graham
  • A.W. Tozer
  • John MacArthur
  • Jack Hayford
  • Apollos
  • Amy Carmichael
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Martin Luther
  • George Whitefield
  • John Wesley
  • Gladys Alward
  • David Brainerd
  • C.S. Lewis
  • Leonard Ravenhill
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Peter
  • George Mueller
  • Watchman Nee
  • Elisabeth Elliot
  • John Calvin
  • Dallas Willard
  • John Wimber
  • Hudson Taylor

And you can add to that illustrious list the name of every born-again believer who has ever lived, including you and me.

The funny thing about growing in Christ is that you don’t start from a blank slate; you start from erroneously held beliefs about the way it all works. And erroneously held beliefs don’t vanish the second someone says, “Jesus, I put my faith in you alone.”

Growing in Christ is an experiment in reaching your hand into the fire and finally realizing that fire is slightly warm. While the Holy Spirit gives believers a new set of senses that turn us on to another world, for the newest of us we are like the blind man who responded to the first portion of Jesus’ healing with “I see men, but they are like trees walking.”

The great saints listed above at some point in their Christian ministry changed their view from more worldly to more godly. None of them (or us) sprang fully formed from the head of God. If we think otherwise, then we’ve confused God with Zeus and us with Athena. Greek myths, folks. Greek myths.

Which is why I am utterly perplexed at the beat down so many young Christians receive from supposedly mature believers. A  boot to the neckWe can claim all sorts of spiritual adventures and trips to the fourth heaven that even Paul didn’t get to, but if we can’t treat with kid gloves the young believer who has a mistaken notion about some spiritual thing, then we don’t know what discipleship is all about. And rather than looking like the Lord we claim to know so well because of our eight-hour a day quiet times, we bear more than a passing resemblance to a giant, round piece of bronze beaten with a large mallet held by a guy who should lay off the Twinkies.

I don’t read as many Christian blogs as I used to because I got tired of the smackdowns. No one gets any theo-points from God for flaming some newbie Christian who mistakenly confused justification with sanctification. As far as the guy spewing the napalm goes, for all all he knows, he could be setting back the cause of Christ by beating down a young Christian who would otherwise go onto greater and greater ministry sooner and sooner had that newbie not incurred the wrath of a Protector of the Faith™.

And it’s not just online.

The way many new and not-yet-mature Christians are treated in our assemblies, it’s a miracle of God the gates of hell have NOT prevailed against the Church. Supposedly mature believers say all sorts of soul-crushing things to young Christians. And trust me, it sets people back. The kind of self-righteous, loveless rebuke some inexperienced believers receive is like a focused magnifying glass on a sunny day to an ant.

As a counter to that, consider one of my favorite passages of Scripture:

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
—Acts 18:24-28

Apollos was good—but he wasn’t quite good enough. He didn’t see the whole picture. He didn’t have the full empowering of the Spirit. He was too raw.

But rather than verbally lashing Apollos for the inadequacies in his mostly decent theology, rather than crushing the life out of him because he had not “arrived,” Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and worked with him. Other brothers in Christ actively encouraged him and treated him as they themselves would wish to be treated.

And the result was worth waiting for. Folks would not have been saying, “I am of Apollos” (1 Cor. 1:12), if Apollos had not finally come into his own as he grew in favor with God and walked that journey from good to great.

Our transitions from sinners to saints is not a clean, clear-cut process. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, the one reality that comes out is that discipleship is messy. Your walk is a mess and so is mine.

But we can’t look at our own mess and excuse it, especially if we are looking at someone else’s and shrieking, “Man, what a disaster you are!”

Log and speck, right?

So what is the deal with beating down the newbies?

Here are a few suggestions I pray we can all consider or practice with believers who don’t have their Christian walk together yet:

Always lead with love. Always.

Consider that Jesus uttered The Golden Rule for a reason.

Start with encouraging a young Christian in what he or she is doing right.

Keep praying that God would take that young Christian from one degree of glory to the next.

When considering confronting a raw, young Christian, pray that God would do an inner confrontation in that youngster by His Holy Spirit first. Later, if the Spirit should reveal a need to partner with Him in offering gentle removal of specks, do so only after removing one’s own logs.

NEVER correct unless willing to work alongside the young Christian to help him or her reach maturity. If unwilling to partner with that immature believer, then find others who will and leave the correction to them.

Remember that if a young Christian is truly walking with the Lord, then God will not fail to complete His work, no matter how rough things appear at the moment.

And remember: You and I started out rough, too.

Did I mention to always lead with love?

The world is full of beat downs of people who don’t quite have it right. We live in merciless times among smug people who think they know it all.

But that can never be the Church of Jesus Christ. If anything, our love and mercy should always go out to the tenderest among us.

15 thoughts on “Beating Down the Newbies

  1. Excellent post! The older I get, the more I know that I still only know in part! That’s become my favorite phrase recently! Was blessed reading this! Thanks!

    • Karin, We all see darkly, which means we are bound to be mistaken in at least one area of our belief. Why this does not make us more humble is one of the sad outcomes of our outsized trust in our own rightness.

  2. Wow and Amen! I needed to read this today. Thanks!

    It would be great if we would also stop approaching doctrinal differences with newbies or oldies with a Smackdown attitude. We’ve got to stop biting and devouring one another, before we’re all consumed.

    • Laurie,

      There’s a right way to correct people and a wrong way. Too often we come at it from a position of superiority rather than from love and humility. I think the Lord would have that we not respond at all or let someone else do it if we can be living and humble—and in the right season.

  3. Wow, thank you.
    As a person who is wrapping up a ministry position due to burnout, frustration, and in need of spiritual refreshment I find this post both timely and soothing.

    Blessings to you, brother!

  4. Dan: “I don’t read as many Christian blogs as I used to because I got tired of the smackdowns.”

    Dan, I have already touched on a matter related to what you’re discussing here. I called it the Bloke Katzbalger Thesis. It’s a little long, but its upshot is that the problem has always existed, just that the Internet has amplified it to a much higher decibel level.

  5. Pingback: Grace and Discipleship « the night sky
  6. Sonya

    Very nice. I recently have started attending a EPC church which I absolutely love and just last night at a bible study we were talking about this very thing.

    I could actually ‘breath’ there and self disclose about some of my past churches over the 30 years and you know what…? There were some who could identify. I was near tears !

    I sure don’t want to go back where I came from though. Although my first few years as a christian were very sweet in the early 80’s. One women there was quite ‘ word of faith ‘ (been there done that too.) She is a new christian so am being sensitive ! :>0

  7. Sulan

    I so enjoy your articles — or whatever they are called. It is almost like you take us into this old building — with many locked doors — that are painted with cobwebs because it has been so long since the doors were opened; and what is inside the room discussed, inspected and dissected for truth and for growth — due to fear of bringing it to the light, and facing rejection for our stand.

    Thank you for continuing to be faithful to your calling. I am sure it cannot always be easy — simply because we are human still.

    And Karin, the older I get, and the closer I get to God, the more I know that I see in part.

    May you all be a blessing this day to someone.

    • Thanks, Sulan.

      I guess the best word for what I write is post, as this is the term most people use when referring to writings on blogs.

      I write what I do because of my own brokenness. My sin is ever before me. And my sins are the same ones that most of us have, yet we have a tendency to forget our own and concentrate on the sins of others.

      Getting Christians and their churches to admit to failures is one of the hardest things to do. For too long we have made the Faith and the Church into an edifice propped up by our own innate goodness. This means that acknowledging a need to improve does not come easily; doing so opens us up to introspection and tough questions lacking in easy answers.

      At Cerulean Sanctum, I try to give a voice to people who have an itchy feeling about some of the things they experience but who can’t put that unease into words. I think many times folks find the words hard to come by because they’ve been rebuked for speaking out in the past. Being the square peg in a round hole hurts when the round pegs try to pound you into their shape, regardless of whether their shape is the right one or not.

      This blog isn’t an attempt to create dissent; it’s a voice saying, “Hey, Jesus means everything. We need to model Him in everything, even if that everything means we must reconsider every aspect of how we live.” And for that, I pray that the dialog here helps others deepen in what it truly means to follow Jesus.

  8. Dan, thank you for this post. I discuss Scripture on a couple of Yahoo lists and am feeling very beaten down. The tactics some use to dismiss my points of view are very hurtful, especially considering they come from Christian friends I have known for years and have much history with. I’m a relatively new Christian, do not have any religious qualifications and am searching for better understanding.

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