What happened to conversion?

In line with my post the other day on revival and Pentecost, I have been thinking about a word (unlike revival) does not get as much use any more. Very rarely do I hear talk of conversion. What is especially odd is that we once used this word a lot in context with revival. Even I have to admit that I don’t use the word much in sermons (I thought about that this morning as I read John Meunier’s draft for his Pentecost Sermon).

I like the definition of conversion that I once heard from a seminary friend of mine who was describing a church where she worked one summer. She said the church didn’t seem to talk much about the sense of letting go of the world’s hand and grasping onto the hand of God. Instead, we talk about the church’s activities in two ways:

  1. Mission and Outreach – The church’s activities are helping people (I use this as a vague term to encompass lots of things, and I ask forgiveness for the simplistic way it sounds as if I am belittling it). These activities are very important, but when I ask about how/if this will turn to discipleship I get either a blank look or am told it does not matter.
  2. Providing a place where people will come and see how nice we are and maybe start coming on Sunday morning and giving. OK, unlike the first, I am belittling this one slightly. The question is, why would they want to come on Sunday morning? What does it mean if they do?

I think we have lost something in the church’s counter-culture nature if we lose this word. We need to find (perhaps new and different) ways of confronting people with the gospel as Peter did on the first Pentecost. More so, I don’t want in the rush to do the outreach work that we stop thinking about conversion, even if we only say, we don’t know how to approach it yet.


3 thoughts on “What happened to conversion?

  1. I just want to put in my tupence worth of thought process, having felt the tug of God’s hold on my hand recently and having had the courage to let go the world’s hand that I had been hanging onto.

    I agree that the definition of conversion – letting go of world’s hand and holding on to God’s hand – rings very true. This beautifully explains the 2 essentials parts of conversion. But I wonder… Is it that only people who have already converted can understand this.

    If anyone had said this to me BEFORE,… I would have thought that “God’s always got a hand on me. I practice all that is required of me and so I am doing God’s will”
    The ignorance there is that, I have not chosen to hold His hand, (and let go off the other) rather depend on God’s grace to still hold on to me!

    Howmuch ever, one tried to tell me THEN with words, actions (mission, outreach, sermons), I would believe whole heartedly that its not true. (afterall I had chosen to worship Jesus..hadn’t I?)

    The moment of truth – conversion feels something like Galatians 2:20 (Message version:I identified myself completely with Christ. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me.)

    I feel its is true that God chooses the right moment for you and that you have to chose to give it up to God too. That does not come from any of the “good works” that we do. It only provides the means when you are ready!

    Although it the MOMENT of truth, unless followed by experiences, willingness to learn, it can be lost.

    I find that mission, outreach and attending church are but a few things that provide the means, for the people who are already looking for a hand to hold. AND they also provide means for the people who have converted, to exercise their submission.

    The other means seem to be death, natural disasters, personal tragedies, illhealth, old age etc… God has more ways than we can imagine to attract our attention to Him and discipleship. (intriguingly for me most, if not all seem to involve suffering)

    I finish with this quote.

    It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.
    James Gordon, M.D.

  2. GJ: Forgive me for taking so long to respond. I agree with all that you said, and would say that God is indeed holding onto us. I didn’t mean to imply that God wouldn’t. I am on about what you talk about in your post – but we rarely talk about conversion in the church for whatever reason. We seem satisfied if they start coming to events at church, but never really entering into the relationship with Jesus. Of course, we can’t convert anyone, but I do believe that God works through us as we are open to him. Thanks for your comment!

    Sally: Thanks!

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