Spiritual Child Abuse

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Is your congregation guilty?

Are You Guilty of Spiritual Child Abuse?

How would you feel toward a mother who regularly overlooked her newborn child's feeding time when the infants cry for milk fell upon indifferent ears? What feelings are aroused by knowing that a newborn child is fed only once every couple of days? We would view that mother as totally unfit. We might even report the mother for child abuse because of the neglect.

Neglect: a form of child abuse

Physical children

Spiritual Children (new converts)

Rely upon world's public school educational system to teach with no spiritual content

Rely upon the church's Public education system to ground new converts. (regular sermons and classes)

No weekly family devotionals

No personal one-on one weekly follow-up

Lose world to children

New converts fall away

Fewer qualified men for elders

Slows growth and discourages church

Are you guilty of child abuse? Should Social Services remove the new converts from your congregation?

Are we guilty of neglect when it comes to our new converts? We spend many hours preparing non-Christians to obey the gospel. Likewise, birds invest weeks building the nest and incubating the eggs. But, have you ever heard of a bird abandoning the nest the moment the eggs hatched? We must emphasize that baptism is just the initial step in a new life. Soul-winners sometimes feel that baptism marks the end of their work, yet their work has just begun! Any church that has no tangible follow-up program is truly guilty of spiritual child abuse and neglect. We must give more energy and thought to the area of follow-up.

1 Peter 2:2 says: As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation. Every mother in the animal kingdom recognizes her infant's cry. And every infant will give its mother some signal when it is hungry. Spiritual parenthood is unique. Newborn Christians will starve themselves to death without even knowing it! The Bible admonishes the newborn babe to long for the spiritual milk of the word. This is contrary to all nature. What newborn babe doesn't know when it is hungry and gives that piercing cry at 3 a.m.? To make matters worse, spiritual babes give signals that the mother does not instinctively recognize and will miss unless she diligently looks for them. So we have real potential for disaster! The basic instincts in both mother and child are lacking: babies that don't know when they are hungry and mothers needing to be taught the hunger signals. These signals include: an unwillingness to attempt to read the Bible daily and to pray, indifference to attending the assembly, willing moral compromises, fears, doubts, or lack of assurance of salvation.

We need to spoon feed our spiritual newborns instead of merely pointing the way to the kitchen!

One solution to the problem is to have some form of follow-up program for new Christians. There are a number of programs that can be set in place, but the one that will succeed has at its center a one-on-one teaching environment. It is important that at least one other Christian take the initiative to stabilize and ground them. Ideally, this person is the one who either introduced them to the gospel or directly led them to Christ. Yes, the newborn will benefit from the weekly diet of sermons and classes, but these are not specialized enough to meet their many immediate needs. They need a special, well balanced diet to be healthy. Each Christian lies somewhere between the verse which urges us to long for the milk of the word and the other verse which warns that the time is already past for us to be teaching the gospel.

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Baby Formula:

We must give great thought to the needs of the new Christian and design a formula accordingly. It is important that the formula provide a well balanced meal. Our physical bodies need some of all four food groups for good health. We have three spiritual food groups, which might be called the three D's of spiritual nutrition.

Three D's of spiritual nutrition

Food Groups



Attendance, Giving, Outreach

Heb 10:25 "Forsake not the assembly"


Detailed Bible knowledge

2 Tim 2:15 "study to show yourself approved"


Developing a relationship with God through prayer & Bible reading

Jas 4:18 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you"

Many times our efforts to ground new Christians are out of balance. Of the entire food group, Devotion is almost entirely lacking. Great emphasis is placed on only two of the food groups: Duty and Doctrine. They know the intimate details of various biblical subjects and are conscience of their failure to perform certain duties. Usually, their relationship with God is only academic. We have placed little emphasis on having them develop a personal relationship with God. Churches who dunk 'em and leave 'em without any follow-up often starve their babes to death. Churches who follow-up with an incomplete spiritual diet don't starve their new converts to death they kill them with malnutrition and scurvy! If they do survive their first birthday, they are stunted and deformed.

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Let me touch upon a few suggestions to help you set up a well balanced follow-up program.


It must be stressed that when they miss church they need not answer to you or the preacher, but to Christ. This will impress upon them the Lordship of Christ and make sure they are not pleasing men. Studies have shown that new converts are very successful soul-winners. Shortly after conversion, ask them to make a list of 20 people they would like to invite to church or to sit in on a one-on-one Bible study. Take them out to the park and get them to help you hand out tracts or coupons for the Bible correspondence course.


Doctrine will require getting together on a weekly basis. Have a series of topical lessons prepared with questions for them to answer by the time of the next study. You will need theological topics, like the Lord's supper, and exhortational topics, like the privileges and responsibilities of being a Christian. Alternate both kinds of lessons on a weekly basis for a good balance.


Devotion is what they do on a daily basis by themselves and on their own initiative. Give them a daily Bible reading schedule and get them to agree to follow it. Once a month spend an hour together with them in prayer. Prepare for the prayer session by drafting a list of requests. Divide the list in half, with each taking a half, and alternate the leading of prayer as you take your requests to God. Encourage them to spend time alone on a daily basis in prayer with God.

Spiritual child abuse/neglect is truly a problem for all of us to tackle. Parents may be guilty of neglecting to personally train their children in spiritual matters. Christians may be guilty with new converts in general. God is the one who hears the endless cries of the babes who long to be fed. It is up to us to be devoted to one another in love and to grow up in all aspects into him who is the head, even Christ" (Rom 12:10; Eph 4:15).

Steve Rudd

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