The Problem of Conversion

Are we doing something wrong in the church today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In popular thinking today, it’s often asked how we can get more converts into the church. I state instead to others that I have no desire whatsoever to get converts.

“How can you say that? Do you not care about bringing people to Jesus?”

Of course I do. I would not be doing what I do all day if I did not, but I choose to follow what Christ said. Go and make disciples of all nations.

Let’s consider an analogy. It is rightly said that marriage is on the decline in our country. So let’s suppose the goal then is to make more married people? That’s easy enough. I have men who are friends and single. If they wanted to, they could go out and find someone and get married today. They could encourage all their friends to do likewise and their friends could encourage their friends, etc.

Voila! Problem solved! Marriage is back!

Well, no. We might create a lot of married men, but would we really create a lot of husbands? Would we be creating men that are devoted to loving their wives and seeking to grow in that love or not?

Getting married is easy. Any one can do that. Being a husband or wife? That takes work! The same has been said about children. Anyone can make a baby but it takes a man to be a father. Unless there’s something wrong biologically with the man or the woman, any man can get a woman pregnant. Not a big deal. I know of no way that there’s a secret technique that a man must use in the bedroom and only if he pulls it off rightly will his wife get pregnant. (If such was the case, then we’re sure wasting a lot of money on birth control and the abortion advocates can stop complaining)

Making the baby is simple. The guy’s work is usually done pretty quickly. Raising that baby as a father? That’s a lifetime of work.

So now back to the illustration of the church. In the church, we often go and make converts. What happens in our evangelism? We have someone who has come to the church and filled out a card. We go out to them. We talk with them about Jesus. We get them to say the prayer and then celebrate about our success!

It would be better if we kept tabs of such people and see how many of them actually come back to the church and how many of them grow in Christ? I’m sure some do, but do most?

Now granted if you just go with converts, you can grow a church pretty quickly. You can have several people sign up and come in to the church and be active members, but are they really going to be growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? Or, are they more just going through the motions?

How many marriages do you know of where the love died a long time ago and today, people are going through the motions just because it beats the alternative?

Worse, these people are absolutely unprepared for what waits outside the church. Atheism has gone popular in the new atheists. The internet has made information of all worldviews easily accessible. Worse still, someone with no knowledge can be seen as someone with knowledge just because they have a web site. To those untrained in a field, an argument from even a Christ-myther seems sophisticated.

There’s also the cults that are out there. Walter Martin of the Christian Research Institute said that the average Jehovah’s Witness can turn the average Christian into a doctrinal pretzel in 90 seconds or less. I would not hesitate to say the average Jehovah’s Witness knows the Bible far better than the average Christian.

This isn’t even counting moral problems! Affairs take place right within the church. 1 in 3 men in the church are said to struggle with pornography. A pastor dare not speak about homosexuality or sex outside of marriage or couples living together lest it offend those people in the church or put him on the political radar of the enemies of the church.

Our youth are often the biggest consequence of this. In their classrooms, they will no doubt hear of evolution. Now I as a non-scientist do not speak on evolution. I see it as an irrelevant question to Christian belief, but we all know there are atheists who see it as the most relevant question. If evolution is true, Christianity is false for them, and they will no doubt proclaim this letting their students know you either go with modern science or go with the Bible. It gets even worse if they make it that the Bible can only be read to say the Earth is 6,000 years old. (Do note I have friends who are YEC, my ministry partner is YEC, and my wife is YEC. In fact, a person who is an evangelical and told me about the dangers of making YEC an essential part of Christianity is himself a YEC)

And of course, the youth will have the moral issues as well. If they’re on YouTube looking up their favorite song, they could see an atheistic video on the side. Just one click is all it takes. In Middle and High School, they will be tempted sexually since all their friends are doing it and why not? It’s so much fun and it doesn’t hurt anyone! We’re just sharing love! It will get even stronger in college where professors are more upfront with an atheistic agenda and co-ed dorms are becoming more and more common and parties will involve alcohol and sex abundantly.

And hey, a young person wants to be cool.

In the past, I have written profusely on why apologetics is a necessity for the “relevant” church today such as found here, here, here, here, here, and here. This is just a snippet of it all.

In fact, to say otherwise for our youth is to say it is important for them to have pizza and to attend concerts for their growth in being like Christ, but it is not important for them to actually learn anything about Jesus Christ. You might as well tell a newlywed couple it’s not important for them to really learn anything about each other. Just have a lot of sex together and you’ll be fine!

If you want to grow closer to your spouse in marriage, you will need to learn about your spouse, devote time to your spouse, and actively do things for your spouse, and you have to do that regardless of how you might be feeling at the time. Even if you feel unloving, you are to be loving.

If you want to grow closer to Jesus Christ, you will need to learn about Jesus, devote time to Jesus, and actively do things for Jesus, and you have to do that regardless of how you might be feeling at the time. Even if you feel like you don’t care, you are to care.

When we make converts, we get people who are not prepared to deal with what is outside. When persecution comes, they will either fall away, which is the most disastrous of all, or they will simply hole up within themselves, which is fortunately going to keep them in the Kingdom, but they will be carrying weight for the those who are active and be a hindrance to demonstrating Christlikeness.

Let’s take the first example. What happens? It usually results in fundy atheists. Christians who did not get any answers and became convinced that there were no answers because no one takes their questions seriously. I meet these people most every day on the net. They have a grudge against their former belief system and are some of the hardest people to reason with.

Now let’s take the latter group. These people hole up inside themselves or with others of the same mindset. They might be helping each other be good people, but they cannot effectively evangelize. Once someone challenges their perspective, they’re sunk. In such a world, this person is going to be a hindrance in evangelism as others of the fundy atheist mindset will look at them and say “Yep. All Christians are as deluded as I was.” Others might be nicer and will have no problem letting them keep their beliefs, just so long as they “don’t hurt anyone” or “force your view on me.”

Also for this latter group, what will keep them going? Their experiences. Now experiences are a good thing, but you cannot make a regular diet out of them, at least not the grand ones. Those do not happen on demand after all and we cannot will them that easily.

There’s also a great danger that we have other groups that have experiences. I know of a Muslim man who claimed he was miraculously healed of pancreatic cancer. Prima facie, I have no reason to deny this claim. Why should I? Should I deny that he is wrong about his own life just because his worldview is different from mine? What about Mormons who claim to have a burning in the bosom? Should I claim they do not? Of course not. If all you have is your experience vs. another person’s experience with nothing else to fall back on, then there is no reason to choose one over the other except personal preference.

But what if you did have something you could use? What if you could use truth? Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere. Note that I am not saying the church must be full of scholars, though I am hopeful all would take part in scholarly information. The church should have people who have some basic knowledge about their worldview. Here are the basics they need I think.

Each person needs some reason to hold to the existence of God be it cosmological, moral, or even an argument like the resurrection of Jesus.
Each person needs to know how they can make a case for something being right or wrong.
Each person needs a basic understanding of biblical interpretation.
Every person needs a basic understanding of the reliability of Scripture including textual criticism.
Each person needs to be able to make a historical defense for the resurrection, at least a basic minimal facts approach.
Each person needs to be able to show the Trinity in the Bible.
Each person needs to make a case for their view of the atonement.

Well geez. That sounds hard.

Yes. Sounds hard to those of us who realize we live in a society where you can still remember how to get to every dungeon in the original Legend of Zelda, follow the plot of your favorite TV show with myriads of characters, know the statistics of your favorite sports teams, and memorize songs, jokes, and recipes.

This will take work. No denying that. The question that must be asked then is “Is Jesus Christ worth that work?” If He is, then act accordingly. If He is not, then also act accordingly. We can easily boast about how we would die for Jesus and how much we love Him and what He means to us. If such is true, then one should look at this and say “No problem.”

And what happens then? We get disciples. We get people who are actively learning to seek to grow in their faith. Here’s another tip for those of you out there. Get at least one good mentor. I have several mentors that I still go to today, but I have one main one that I email every night who helps hold me accountable and has been my friend and confidante in many tough situations. I say that as one who considers myself mature in the faith. I need a mentor. I am thankful to have one.

What will disciples mean? It will mean pastors also preach more informed sermons. Why? Because the congregation will know most of the basic stuff already that you’re sharing. If you want to teach them, you’ll have to go deeper than they are. If not, then they will leave you because those who are actively seeking to grow in their faith want more than just milk at church.

It will also mean we have a better presence of evangelism. Imagine how much it would mean if all Christians could at least make a case that there was a historical Jesus instead of just saying “Well you have to have faith!” Would nonsense like Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” even make a dent in the Christian community? Not a bit.

It will also mean people living holier lives. Why? Because those who are disciples of Jesus are the ones that will be taking His commands more seriously and holding one another accountable for what they do. These people will be thinking with a well-informed mind on Christian issues and know how they apply to the current situation in the world and to their own personal lives.

Dare I say it, I think this one change alone could bring about the revolution in America we’ve been waiting for. Why is our situation the way it is? Is it because of the gospel? No. We know the gospel has the power to transform lives and culture. Well if it’s not on the end of the gospel, then it must be on our end. The problem is not the message. The problem is us. If we want to change the world, we must start with changing us.

From now on, do what Jesus said. Don’t go out and make converts. Go out and make disciples. Just as importantly, be one yourself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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One Response to “The Problem of Conversion”

  1. Sam Duck Says:

    From October 13, 2013 KNS:
    Mr. Nick Peters,
    Thank you for writing the story, “Christians need to find way back to a biblical faith”, I found it intriguing and controversial, and would have thought the title ‘Christians need to find a way back to biblical belief’ to have been more beneficial to your work and goal. Belief, for the most part has evidence supporting it’s validity of real or fake, but that is not the case with ‘faith’. Faith, can ‘only’ be applied to the Christian, and cannot be applied to the other religions of the world, as they do not have faith, as faith comes only from God and placed into the heart by Himself. Consider, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:1-3
    I could speak greatly on a thing called ‘plagiarism [not by you, but quite a few in the ministry], but I will suffice to only state the more obvious from the scripture,
    “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;” Deuteronomy 28:58
    “They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.” Jeremiah 44:10
    Men and women like that of Richard Dawkins and the ‘world’ are not meant to understand the Word of God, even though many ministers have set it in their mind and to ink, to make the Bible more palatable and more easier to comprehend and understand, which is in direct disobedience to that of Jesus Christ Himself, as Christ proclaimed, “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Luke 8:10
    “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14
    “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
    “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:16-17
    “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:19
    “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” John 17:6-9
    “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” John 17:14-18
    “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” John 18:36
    Faith plays the part, in that the Father places the ‘faith’ within us that we might ‘believe’ in His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ, but it is the Lord who adds to the Church, not that the servant is above his Lord as many have assumed and built ‘shrines and music’ equaling that of the world type of music, but it was never meant that the world should enter through any domain or instrument, be it music, plays, etc.., but ministers think themselves more the wise than those disciples of the first century, whom Christ chose and gave them the command on how they should obey and conduct themselves in orderly fashion and manners. The dress, particularily, that of the female in the Church has become immodest in apparel and conduct, and sadly, so too, have many of the men and leadership, if you have been a visitor to any of the bigger Church congregations, you would have to confer this to be the case, if in honest persuasion. The Church is charged with being salt and light, but the salt is losing it’s ability of ‘standfastness’ in that which we have learned, and that to which we were taught. It is Christ that adds to the Church, not music or etc.., (worldly type), and while all instruments and voices are to give praise unto God and that of our Lord, some have carried themselves into a most undesirable position of compromise, but it is the Lord,
    “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47
    Paul stated, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Romans 12:3
    “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
    “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
    “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:” I Corinthians 2:5-6
    “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” II Corinthians 5:7
    “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” II Corinthians 13:5
    “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16
    “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
    If ‘faith’ becomes synonomous with ‘belief” then I am presented a problem, for belief does contain evidence, but faith comes from God, by the ‘hearing of the Word’ for God is the Word, and the Word was made flesh and walked among us, and we heard His speech, for He ‘is’ the Living Word, faith then is a ‘substance’ which the only description that we have been given is that of ‘having no evidence’ therefore man/womankind cannot remove faith, nor can they change faith, as it is written upon my heart, and all they who believe in Jesus Christ, as faith provided us unto belief. No man could give it, no man can take it away, if the LORD gave it you, He will never take it away, you, yourself, may decrease your faith or increase it, on that part, you have someone a control.
    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
    If faith were something I did, or could establish, then I might be given to boasting, but if faith comes from the Father, and by His gift of faith/grace, I then ‘believe’ in His Son Jesus Christ, then it is not a boasting on my part, but I do boast in the fact that it is Christ Jesus by whom we stand or fall, in Christ through the Father or perhaps, by the Father, I have received of Him a measure of faith, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to the which His Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are one of His.
    “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
    Why did the writer not include the word ‘belief”, isn’t it true that the devils believe and even tremble, but they have not faith, even though they were at one time, there with the Father, heard the Father, but it was not mixed with ‘faith’, consider that of Cain, and they of the Jews who followed after the law of righteousness, but not by faith, but did pursure it by belief, but their belief not being mixed with faith, was found lacking.
    “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” II Thessalonians 3:2-3
    Earlier, we were told that, ‘according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith’ however you should pay very close to the word, ‘the’ as in ‘the measure of faith’ and not as in ‘a’ measure of faith, and then note the words again, ‘for all men have not faith’ and note the word ‘all’ in that same sentence, for it is a surety that if all had ‘faith’ then would all be saved, there is also a difference between the words ‘saved and delivered’ we used to know these things, but education has robbed us of our language, one is saved spiritually and one is delivered as though from a point or place to another point or place, today the world is more focused on social, sex, drug, political etc.., education, and have effectively killed the three Rs, this is why one must turn back unto the real ‘truth’ which God has given in His Word, not those which bear men’s names for money sake, and not those which were disapproved having not the seal of being ‘preached and published’ unto and into all nations, only ‘one’ has had that remarkable event taken place over the past 400+ years, but men and women today, despise that Word and have made substitutions to ‘tickle’ their own ears and hearing, and if I name it, I am called a ‘thumper’ and am cast aside, but I remain in good company, as they did the same to a great prophet called Jeremiah who also gave two warnings to the United States, found in:
    “A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground. Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the LORD hath spoiled their pasture.” Jeremiah 25:31-36
    Only the USA has invented an evil that has gone forth from nation to nation, and you and I are communicating by it, Al Gore invented it, Microsoft got the money for it, and we witness by it. However, a plus for the good old USofA, and that being, we are also the only nation, throughout time, that has defended Israel and protected them since they became a nation on May 17, 1948, and this is why Israel looks ‘vainly’ [and not to God] and watched for a nation that ‘could’ not save them, not that they ‘would’ not, but something is wrong, they ‘could’ not save them.
    “As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come.” Lamentations 4:17-18
    It is my hope you continue in your work of the ministry, and if in any way, whether, by disagreement (none would learn if we never disagree) or by agreement, that you would consider some of what I have stated, and reply, or use it for the glory of God, by rejection or acceptation, whatever the LORD would commend to your heart. Yes, I do know, that it is archaic, but so to is my God, only without beginning.
    Sincerely in Christ Jesus.

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