October 18, 2017

Just in case you’re wondering . . . conversion

Conversion of St. Paul, Michelangelo

Conversion of St. Paul, Michelangelo

Just in case you’re wondering, I believe in conversion.

Conversion has always been one of the main emphases of the evangelicalism that grew out of the revivalism of the past two hundred years. “Conversionism” is yet another of the four distinctives Daniel Bebbington identified as characteristic of the movement. He described it as “the belief that lives need to be transformed through a ‘born-again’ experience and a life long process of following Jesus.”

When evangelicals talk about “getting saved,” the first part of that statement is what they mean. Billy Graham, the most visible evangelical preacher of the twentieth century, called his program “Hour of Decision.” “Making a decision for Jesus,” “accepting Christ,” “asking Jesus into your heart,” “trusting Christ as your personal savior,” being “born again” or “converted” or “saved” all refer to a particular crisis experience by which a person crosses the line from death to life, darkness to light, from lost to found, from being a child of the devil to a child of God. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,” wrote Paul in Colossians 1:13.

Many evangelicals see this as an essential, once and for all transaction. “Once saved, always saved.” Others see the possibility that one may truly believe in Christ yet later apostatize, so that one needs to be born again again. Some groups link conversion with baptism, such as the Christian churches in the Campbellite traditions. Others find that anathema and insist that if one must be baptized that is adding a “work” to faith, and we are saved by faith alone. But some of them might have emphasized other kinds of “works.” As long as there have been evangelists and revivals,  preachers have encouraged people to make their “decisions” known publicly in various ways. Charles Finney’s “anxious bench” was available for those concerned about their souls. Responding to altar calls by going forward, raising hands (“with every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking around”), signing response cards, praying certain prayers, talking to designated “counselors” who could lead respondents through “the plan of salvation” — all these and many more methods have been used to help people indicate that they were coming to Jesus for salvation. “Just as I am without one plea . . . O Lamb of God, I come.” “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

The First Testament (especially the Prophets) is filled with calls for Israel to “turn” or “return” to God. This word is an action verb that indicates the basic movements of repentance/conversion. It means you are going in one direction — the wrong direction, away from God, but then you turn around and go in the other direction — the right direction, back toward God. One of the most tender and poignant texts on the subject is found in Hosea 14:

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you
and return to the Lord;
say to him,
“Take away all guilt;
accept that which is good,
and we will offer
the fruit of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride upon horses;
we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”

I will heal their disloyalty;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily,
he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.
His shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive tree,
and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
They shall again live beneath my shadow,
they shall flourish as a garden;
they shall blossom like the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

In the New Testament, the classic example is the conversion of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-18). I think those who see this as an example of “getting saved” by “making a decision for Christ” don’t read it very carefully. Paul didn’t make a decision, the risen Lord confronted and overwhelmed him. There is no evidence of Paul “praying a sinner’s prayer” or responding to a gospel message by “putting his faith in Christ.” Furthermore, the process wasn’t complete until he went into the city, submitted to ministry from another member of the church and was baptized. That’s when the “scales fell from his eyes” and he was filled with the Spirit. Paul’s experience reads more like an OT prophet’s call narrative than a story of “personal salvation.” As God said to Ananias, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). Nevertheless, it was a “conversion.” God turned Paul around on that road and he began walking in the way of Jesus.

One of the beneficial things evangelicalism taught me was that God does actively confront us and change our paths at times in our lives. He “converts” us, he “turns” us, he causes us to “return” to him and his ways. I’ve never had a problem believing that. It’s happened to me. The only thing I have a problem with is our tendency to interpret such experiences simplistically so that we turn them into formulae that create expectations for everyone else.

I’ll tell my own story about one such experience to illustrate.

Back when I was a teenager, I was confused about the purpose and direction of my life. This became clearer to me, when, at the start of my senior year in high school, my family moved across the country from the Midwest to the east coast. Suddenly, in an instant, all of the activities and relationships that I had looked to for meaning and significance were gone. I had to start all over again. I began to wonder, “If the meaningful things of life can be taken away so easily, what is the use of putting so much effort into pursuing them?”

I did not know the answer to that question and I had no idea where to find it. In the meantime, I wanted something to numb the pain and fill the void in my heart. For a short time, I basically dropped out of life’s race and sought satisfaction in substitutes like alcohol and drugs. I wasted a precious season of my life with so-called “friends” who did not really care about me, doing “fun” things that led mostly to regret, causing the people who truly loved me much anxiety, and finding that the pain did not go away and the emptiness only became deeper.

However, during those days I also became acquainted with schoolmates who said they were believers in Jesus Christ. They were not a whole lot different than me. They had problems too, and they certainly were not perfect. But it soon became clear that they had something different in their lives. Actually, what they told me was that they had someONE different, who was helping them with life’s challenges. This Person gave them joy, optimism, a capacity for caring, and a sense that life matters.

Through the influence of these friends, I came to embrace Jesus by faith, turning away from those substitute paths that were leading me to dead ends. He opened a way of purpose and meaning for me that I have tried, by his strength, to walk ever since.

In Christ, I have come to understand that God made me and put me in this world to know him and to serve him along with the other members of his family. This has given shape and significance to a life that once was aimless and without direction.

Now, what was that experience about?

If you had asked me earlier in my life, I would have given a standard evangelical answer: it describes when the Lord saved me, when I was “born again,” converted, brought into the family of God, was transferred from death to life and darkness to light.

If you ask me now, I don’t use any of those terms. I see it now as one of many turnings — a key one for sure — but only one. These days I tend to call what happened to me as a teenager an “awakening” rather than “getting saved.” I see it as a “turning back” to the God who had met me in my childhood in baptism and early family and church influence, even though I did not then always grasp his presence.   The more I have contemplated, the more I believe and see evidence that God was with me in some sense from the beginning. As the Bible says about David and John the Baptist, I believe God knew me from my mother’s womb. The whole story is about grace and the behind-the-scenes activity of God and the wind blowing where it wants to blow and me getting caught up in matters too great for me to understand. My decision? Ha!

Most of my evangelical friends understand this, and over the course of my life in the Church and ministry I have seen a lot of changes in the way evangelicals talk about these things. I’m grateful for that. So this is not a huge “post-evangelical” issue for me, except, like I said, when people start passing out the little booklets that tell you the way it’s supposed to go.

Luther said that the Christian’s life is a continual repentance, that is, a continual turning back to God, an ongoing process of conversion. It sometimes shows itself in big, transformative moments. Most of the time, not.

I’m happy to not try and define such matters too specifically. I’ll just encourage us, as the old song says, to keep “turning, turning” till we “turn ’round right.”

Comments

  1. Although I DID have a singular conversion experience, I subsequently over the years had similar, if less intense, experiences during times of trouble or as a result of intense prayer.

    My wife, on the other hand, cannot remember a specific point in time when she gave her heart to Christ. So, who is really saved? We BOTH are!

    There is one thing that I AAM pretty sure of though, and that is that when someone DOES make a decision, whether over time OR in one instance, there is a definite change that can be observed.

    It’s just SO much easier to point to a moment in time and then make a hash mark on the board for “One more for the Kingdom”. In one church I attended they had a big cross on the wall behind the pulpit, and whenever someone “made a decision” they would light up the cross as a sign. SO sad…

  2. Christiane says:

    it sounds like ‘teshuva’ . . . to turn towards the Lord (again)

    • Christiane says:

      a turning that involves a journeying of the mind, the heart, the soul, the spirit, the strength of a person becoming increasingly focused on Christ.

      This has many names . . . teshuva, metanoia, repentance

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      A different term than “conversion” would be healthy. As the post describes – there is a belief in “conversion” – but not the “conversion” described by many. This overloading of terms – even I think the term “Evangelical” itself – breaks down discourse, it results in people talking past one another. If you mean something different than a prominent somebody-else then find a different term.

      In the worst case you end up with argument about who “owns” the term, and its historical derivation, blah blah woof woof… all of which means nothing at all. What matters is what people hear when you say it; that is the purpose of language – to convey meaning, the more specific the better.

      And if you mean something different – and that meaning is important to you – wouldn’t you WANT to find a better, unmuddled, way of conveying it? Especially in the religious realm we are far to prone to clinging to terms long long past their usefulness.

      • Agree 100%. There is not a single evangelical I know that would accept CM’s definition of “conversion”.

      • I agree with Dr. F here…most evangelicals are going to insist on a clear, precise moment when you “received Christ as Saviour.” It doesn’t work for me. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t understand that Jesus was the Son of God, and that He died on the cross for my sins. I was baptized at age 11, but it was more of a profession of faith that I had held for years prior.

        Salvation for evangelicals occurs in a microwave; for Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholic, and those with a more sacramental bent, it takes place in a crock pot. It’s a life-long process. The Orthodox stance of “I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved” seems to me to be the most accurate depiction of how salvation occurs.

        Great post. Great discussion.

        • And I would add that CM does a good job of defining salvation as “God’s work”. It’s a stance that I believe is representative of the sacramental view of faith. If baptism is something I do, then who cares if I get baptized every time I make a fresh start in life? If it’s something that God does, in the Wesleyan view, using the waters as a vehicle of grace, then it’s a holy rite, one we shouldn’t trivialize by treating it as an ordinance.

          Along these lines, Brennan Manning does of good job of identifying different crises we experience in life: crises of faith; crises of hope; crises of love…that all represent points in our faith where we begin a new faith journey. Isn’t that what Christian life is all about? Going to bed at night, and putting to eternal rest the sins of the previous day, then rising from the death of sin in faith the next morning, treating each day as a new Easter?

          CM, if you don’t block me, I’ll probably end up writing a blog post…

        • “I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved

          For the record, I have encountered this teaching within certain balanced evangelical churches as well. I was very happy when I found it.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I know people in my evangelical world who would agree with that, too. As we’ve discussed before, it’s a process.

        • I’ve not done this study, but it might prove interesting. I wonder how much of Paul’s more dramatic conversion language is there because he was addressing Gentiles who, indeed, went from pagan darkness to Christian light. I certainly don’t see the same kind of pattern in the earliest Jewish believers, for example, Mary, Anna and Simeon, and the disciples.

  3. This resonates with me. It has seemed to me that I have experienced all the soils in my life. It seems to me when He said I will write my laws upon their hearts it was with the pen of love. The more He shows me of love through revelation the more I become able to move in it. It isn’t something I am doing it is more of something we are doing. Commandments do not seem as harsh as once I would have thought. Not wages, but joys. It is with His hand that I am able and it isn’t a backhand but a holding and a nudge and a can you see what I AM seeing.

    He breaks my heart over and over to what it is He sees. Maybe the scales fall off for some right away. For me it has been a process and now I have to wear reading glasses but I can see more than I ever have. WHen I had almost died and He first whispered I love you to me at 15 with no one else around I realize He has never left and it has been Him with me through it all.

    I wonder at this David much lately. It is said he was a man after God’s heart. Yet he did a lot wrong. Although I’m no David I can be a man after God’s heart. At times I wonder how He does it for mine gets real heavy in this world.

    This word obedience isn’t ododience. When I am being in I find joy. When I try to hard on my own I find only dryness and emptiness. When I leave here the questions I have now will not be necessary anymore. I choose trust not must even though trust is a must. Maybe it is trust that makes us a man after God’s heart.

    • Sorry the word today would be a people after God’s heart. I wasn’t being gender specific. I guess old habits ….

      • Bah, whatever – don’t spend too much time worrying about that stuff, W. In these terms, a “man” is still really just short for “human”.

    • Thank you, W.

      I feel very early on in the ‘awakening to become like Jesus’ process. I hope it continues. I hope to see worry, dryness and anger replaced by joy.

      🙂

  4. Christiane says:

    Hi Chaplain MIKE,
    you wrote, ” . . . He “converts” us, he “turns” us, he causes us to “return” to him and his ways. I’ve never had a problem believing that. It’s happened to me. The only thing I have a problem with is our tendency to interpret such experiences simplistically so that we turn them into formulae that create expectations for everyone else.”

    and I thought about Chesterton’s poem, and its referral to ‘the sages’ and their ‘hundred maps’ . . .

    “After one moment when I bowed my head
    And the whole world turned over and came upright,
    And I came out where the old road shone white.
    I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
    Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
    Being not unlovable but strange and light;
    Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
    But softly, as men smile about the dead

    The sages have a hundred maps to give
    That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
    They rattle reason out through many a sieve
    That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
    And all these things are less than dust to me
    Because my name is Lazarus and I live.”

    (‘The Convert’ G.K. Chesterton)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “””our tendency to interpret such experiences simplistically”””

      The term “convert” lends itself very naturally to this connotation – to a reference to a single point in time, an act.

      We convert AC power to DC power, and vice versa.

      We convert a document from MS-Word to Open Document format.

      We convert our music to MP3 [from CD].

      We convert metric to imperial, and vice versa.

      We convert dollars to euros, and vice versa.

      Plainly it does not describe what we are talking about in this use-case. It is a lousy use of the term.

      But then – in marketing a “conversion” is a customer who performs a desired action. A “conversion funnel” is a technique for tracking customer choices.

    • This is one of my favorite poems, period.

      Chesterton is under-appreciated as a poet because his prose is so routinely spectacular.

  5. I have been moved by John Wesley’s description of his experience in an Aldersgate chapel; “I felt my heart strangely warmed……”

  6. My turning back happened later in life, actually last year. I was raised in the LCMS church. I started to question what I was taught as I began meeting people of other beliefs when I was 20 and left my faith. Then God came to me in a dream 30 years later and I haven’t been the same. I now attend an ELCA church and I’ve raised children without any teaching of faith. I sometimes question God’s timing, why 30 years later, what would my life, family and faith be like if this happened earlier? I try not to get caught-up in these questions, because it pulls me down. With Gods help, I keep moving forward. There were a few people who were encouraging me over the years to go back to God, but I did not make any decision, and actually was fighting God before my dream. It was all God that drew me back.

    • “For God does speak–now one way, now another– though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” Job 33

      There’s nothing like a ‘big’ dream to stop you in your tracks. I think of dreams as one of the closest ways we come to hearing God’s voice directly. Only problem is we mostly “may not perceive it”. I’m glad you did!
      I have felt somewhat discouraged of late and sort of distant so yesterday I had one of those little synchronisities of life that I account to the Spirit (in whom we live and move and have our being). As I was working, painting some kitchen cabinets, my phone started playing, from my front pocket, some heavy metal music. I took it out and saw it was playing, and I don’t remember now if it was the name of the band or the name of the song, Lamb of God. About a half an hour later the phone went off again and played Sting’s song If I Ever Lose My Faith in You. It is when the voice calls out to us, unsolicited and unexpected as it did in your dream, that we feel fully loved. My goofy little music thing was a big encouragement for me as it came out of the blue. I think our turning back to God is definitely an ongoing process and He is there every step of the way. It’s not so much us seeking Him as Him seeking us that truly changes us.

  7. The only thing I have a problem with is our tendency to interpret such experiences simplistically so that we turn them into formulae that create expectations for everyone else.

    Yup.

    the Christian’s life is a continual repentance, that is, a continual turning back to God, an ongoing process of conversion. It sometimes shows itself in big, transformative moments. Most of the time, not.

    Yup yup.

    The demand for particular experiences as an essential component of true spirituality is tyrannical and, imo, spiritually abusive. We have no right to tell somebody what they should be experiencing. The Christian faith is not about a particular experience we have. It’s about a Savior who dies and rises to give us life. Believing this is enough. What happens when this is not enough is that people either try to make the experience happen, deluding themselves, or they begin to wonder….

    If you can sift through the more polemical tone (written for LCMS inside baseball), I’ve addressed this in my own article here:
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/06/which-part-of-from-the-devil-dont-you-understand/

    • agree agree agree It is all about Christ and what he has done for us in baptism and the Eucharist. In the old days I remember going forward every couple of months because I thought my conversion hadn’t taken hold. Then I understood that it was nothing I could do but receive what Christ gave me in my baptism and lean on his promises.

    • Great article over at Steadfast, Miguel. Well said!

    • Jimmy Dunn, in his ‘Theology of Paul the Apostle’ addresses this nicely (though not so concisely!). After noting all the metaphors and imagery Paul uses to describe ‘conversion’ (used as a catch-all term), he writes:

      ‘Two lines of reflection emerge from consideration of such a kaleidoscope of images. One is that these metaphors bring out the reality of the experience of the new beginning for Paul. Evidently they all described something in the experience of his readers with which they could identify. Something had happened in their lives, something of major importance . . .

      Second, the very different metaphors Paul drew upon were presumably attempts to express as fully as possible a reality which defied a simple or uniform or unifaceted description. There was something so rich and real in the various experiences of conversion which Paul’s gospel brought about that Paul had to ransack the language available to him to find ways of describing them. . . .

      This in turn points up another corollary of some interest. For the wide variety of metaphors presumably reflects a wide variety of experiences. Given that variety, it would be a mistake to take any one of Paul’s metaphors and to exalt it into some primary or normative status so that all the others must be fitted into its mould. Something like this has happened with the metaphor of justification in classical Protestant theology. In popular evangelicalism it has happened with the metaphors of salvation and new birth. In such cases there is an obvious danger. The danger is that the event of new beginning in faith comes to be conceptualized as of necessity following a particular pattern, the same for everyone. Equally dangerous is the assumption often made that the same language or imagery must always be used, that experience of individuals must conform to the language which describes it. Instead of diversity of experience and imagery there can be pressure to reduplicate both pattern and jargon, in effect to mass reproduce believers according to a standard formula. Not so with Paul. For him the crucial transition was a many-sided event, and not necessarily the same for any two people. And it required a whole vocabulary of words and metaphors to bring out the richness of its character and the diversity of individual cases’ (p 331-332)

      That’s a LOT to type but I think it brings out very well how even Paul could not ‘pin it down’ to a single metaphor, much less a particular experience, as well as the danger in reducing it to a single model or formula. I’m afraid that what often (if not usually) happens is that if one follows the ‘formula’ (says the right prayer, etc) one is assured of salvation (sometimes by a preacher or evangelist wanting to add another ‘soul’ to his resume). I’m afraid that, looking back, many may have actually put their ‘faith’ (i.e. they are trusting) in that experience – ‘I did what the preacher said I needed to do so I’m saved and on my way to heaven’. The faith is in having followed the formula (which, of course binds God to a contract) rather than in the Savior (which, as Dunn notes, is a little more elusive to define).

      • Robert F says:

        Much of what is said in your comment can also be said about people’s attitudes about holding the “right” ecclesiology/theology/religious practices. For instance, and to run against the grain of editorial opinion here a iMonk, why would someone look to their baptism for confidence in their redeemed status rather than looking directly to Jesus Christ?

        • This is quite true. I used to attend a church where having precisely correct theology was what gave one assurance of salvation. You gotta’ be ready for that theology test at the pearly gates.

        • Robert, that is a very Reformed question for you to ask.

          We’d say it’s a distinction without a difference. We look to our Baptism because that’s where Jesus is. They are one and the same. Without the tangible element, we are left to look to the idea of Jesus, wherever he is.

          • Robert F says:

            I know the Lutheran view. But I don’t agree that the Jesus the gospels present us with is merely an idea; I think the narratives of the gospels are tangible and concrete, and Jesus is present in them.

            Yes, it is a Reformed question, but more specifically a Barthian question. I’ll have none of that double predestination stuff.

  8. Stephen says:

    “Getting saved”

    I got saved twice. The first time was when I was six years old. I was raised in a rural hard core fundamentalist Southern Baptist community and we had a concept called the “age of accountability”. This magical moment was when you became aware of your sin and thus was able to be counted condemned before God and liable for judgment. Before that you were apparently protected by your ignorance. And of course since you had no idea when that moment was since it was different for everybody parents had to double down on the indoctrination so as to be sure not to miss it.

    I remember waking up one Saturday morning terrified and my father loading me up in the car and us going over to our minister’s house. I don’t remember much of the conversation except for the fear and the confusion. But apparently they were satisfied that I made it because shortly thereafter I was baptized in church.

    The second time was when I was a teenager going through the usual adolescent turmoil. I think I thought that turmoil was a sign of some inner deficiency instead of just normal human development and I suppose it was natural to interpret it through the lens provided me by my upbringing. That was more of a conventional “religious experience”. The fear and confusion came later when at some point I realized I really wasn’t a different person. Where was the transformation I had expected?

    Now as a middle-aged adult it’s easy to be philosophical about all this while realizing how completely crazy it was. Over the years I’ve talked to people about my experience and they’ve pointed out the cult-like aspects of my childhood and how some of it would now even be classified as abuse. But I resist the opportunity to make a claim of victimhood. Having talked to my parents I assure you they had it much worse. They were just passing on what they had received. I survived (and escaped!) though we have to acknowledge many did not. And the truth is my upbringing wasn’t any different than many many others.

  9. Lots of thoughts today, in no particular order–

    I really appreciate this series. It has been affirming a fair amount of my experiences also coming from evangelical, sometimes fundamentalist communities. It’s also a generous spirit that contrasts with some of the comments some days.

    One thought I have been mulling over for the past year has been “Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus in big ways and small ways, day after day.” The idea being allowing God to turn me toward himself in a continual process or not fighting God’s work in my life.

    My family is in the process of finding a new church. Right now we’re between a liturgical Presbyterian church and what is possibly a charismatic, Reformed?, non-denominational church–quietly charismatic, can’t tell really about the reformed thing or the denomination if it is in one. These churches feel like polar opposites in some ways. While we particularly have reservations about the possible non-denominational thing, one thing we’ve noticed about the second church is a generosity of spirit that is new for us particularly in an evangelical environment. The congregation is ethnically diverse with a number of mixed race families like ours. It is a mixed ability church with members who are mentally and physically disabled/ill. The sermon series we walked into was on homosexuality and was the most gracious discussion I’ve ever heard from a pulpit.

    So while we were moving toward a mainline, liturgical community for many of the reasons discussed here, the evangelical community we’ve stumbled on, while in form carrying the challenges of a non-denom, evangelical church, seems to have a community alluded to by Tokah at her Orthodox church. I really don’t know what to make of it.

    • Andie, it seems to me you are describing a church of the past and a church of the future. To me it would be a no brainer, but it’s you and your family to decide. Doesn’t mean you won’t find flaws in people and practice, but that’s true everywhere. I think of Eagle here whose bitter experience in a particular Evangelical church did not prevent him from finding another home after much searching inside and out, and last I heard it was in another particular Evangelical church, much to his surprise. Blessings of Spirit on your journey.

  10. Robert F says:

    Though I’ve gotten turned around quite often, I have yet to be converted.

    • Robert F says:

      And the turning, turning hasn’t brought me ’round right, but only left me dizzy and disoriented. Lately I’m feeling more and more inclined to heed my old roshi’s words when he told us, “Stop spinning your minds in a thousand different directions! Sit down, and shut up!”

      • David Cornwell says:

        ““Stop spinning your minds in a thousand different directions! Sit down, and shut up!”

        Works for me at times. Many times! I think its because this is when we end up listening best. Or sometimes it is something as sudden as the dream that LM mentions.

  11. Henry Darger says:

    Originally “conversion” meant a deep spiritual change. Evangelicals began using it to mean “getting religion,” and at some point taught that you weren’t really saved unless you had done this (a convenient doctrine if you are holding a revival). Meanwhile Catholics and mainline Protestants refuse to say who is saved (only God knows who is saved), or make it conditional on some sort of emotional thing.

  12. DennisB says:

    In Jesus’ own words, He told us to go out & make disciples, & baptise them, which implicates the start of the journey. That discipleship, I believe, includes the practises and “rule of faith” handed down by the post-Apostolic Church. Within that, there is a time when one personally comes to faith and takes that “rule” into themselves and starts living it. It becomes real, Jesus becomes real, the Spirit becomes real, the Bible becomes authoritative. Although this is a conversion, it is a day-to-day process since if you stop being mindful of God, a reversion begins to occur. I guess this is why Jesus told us to “make” a disciple.

    Modern “conversion”, may be a label placed on an experience of God, even illumination, some understanding etc. However, if this doesn’t initiate a process of “becoming a disciple”, it isn’t a conversion. Also, this discipleship is a heart issue. Some people can play at being a disciple by ticking all the right “churchmanship” boxes, but in the end Jesus will say, “I never knew you…”

  13. when pressured for WHEN I was saved (usually in parking lots, street corners, by strangers at my front door,) I say 2000+ years ago on a hill outside of Jerusalem