Reformed churches have a different culture of discipleship than the broader evangelical world. In general, and there are exceptions, committed Reformed churches promote the importance of catechizing children from the earliest of ages. If a person grows up in a Reformed church, chances are he will know his Heidelberg or Westminster Shorter Catechism, for example. This means that many Reformed churches have a group of people within the church that know what they believe, why, where to go for theological help, and why the church believes and worships the way it does. Such people can be a great asset in the church, but they can also sometimes have problems with new believers.
New believers come into the church and know little to nothing. A newly converted young woman, for example, might not see any problem with the length of her skirt. Or a newly converted family might not know that they shouldn’t go grocery shopping or to the football game on Sunday. They might not know who Cornelius Van Til is, or even care. The long-term members, those who have been bottle-fed Calvin’s Institutes from the cradle might not suffer such ignorance very long. I had one person in my church who took great offense that a new believer came to church dressed too casually.
This brings me to a significant question, “Does your church have a nursery?” I’m not talking about a nursery for infants, but I’m talking about a nursery for new believers. All churches talk about the importance of evangelism but I think many are ill equipped to deal with new believers once they walk through the door. Mature Christians expect new converts to be running when they’re barely able to crawl. This means that your church needs to have a “nursery,” a place where new converts can learn how to crawl, walk, and eventually run. It needs to be staffed by people who know the Reformed faith very well and who are very patient—those who can step into the shoes of a new convert and see things from his perspective and then simply and effectively explain things. It may seem like crawling, for example, but if your church has or expects new converts, then have a class on the Shorter Catechism. Even though it was originally written for children, such a basic exploration of the doctrines of Scripture can equip a new convert with some much needed spiritual milk and meat! And don’t be too quick to hammer the new convert when she doesn’t understand or act like a mature believer. Yes, her skirt may be too short, but don’t embarrass her publicly. Have a mature woman in the congregation gently, privately, and winsomely, take her aside and disciple her. In time, God willing, she will learn what it means to wear modest clothing.
In the end, be prepared to care for new converts—love them as Christ has—teach them with patience and love.