Genuine conversion results in changed hearts
June 20, 2006
As we approach our nation’s birthday, I always think of the vibrant spirit of revival that was present in so many of our churches and how the Holy Spirit worked. I also am amazed at how many similarities exist between then and now.
During both times, incredible challenges faced the body of Christ. In the new testament when the challenges came from outside, the church seemed rise to the challenge, call on the Lord and the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit would come. However, when the problems were from the inside, we see letters from Paul correcting and exhorting the church. We don’t read about changed lives and people being added to the church.
The issues and controversies that faced the church then face the church now. Some were theological – the differences between Reform and Armenian perspectives were hotly debated then as now; some had to do with the influence of Christians on the culture – business and political ethics, moral behaviors, are just two. Musical tastes in worship were a big issue in the churches because the “new hymns of Isaac Watts” threatened the traditional psalmody of the Puritans.
Religious affections and expressions was a topic. There was great concern for what was viewed as excessive over encounters with the Lord. Then as now there was a concern over genuine conversion and what seemed to be purely emotional response to following a crowd. I would like to look at each, but for this article, let’s look at genuine conversion.
Vance Havner used to say, “I don’t know why you expect to have the lost come to a revival; you can’t even get half your crowd here.” We chuckle, but it is true.
We even hear that out of 16,000,000 Southern Baptists, we don’t know where 4,000,000 are! We are even considered to have a good day when 40% of our membership shows up.
This past Easter evening, I was winding down from a great day and watching TV and I caught Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Some “clergy” from various religious groups were discussing Easter. It was really not very good, but at the end Russert played a clip of Meet the Press from 1957. It was a clip of Billy Graham. He was asked “What was the greatest weakness of American Christianity?” His answer was “Too many unsaved church members – maybe as many as 50-60%.” Within the last year Thom Rainer, new president of LifeWay, published research concerning the barriers to reaching the lost in America. Unsaved church members were right at the top of the list. At least 50 years have passed and we still suffer the same ailments. Over 200 years have passed and we still suffer from this disease.
Many in our churches have had an experience with God like Jacob, but like Jacob still have an unrepentant condition for the next 20 years. At Bethel, Jacob had an experience and he even said, “The Lord was here and I didn’t even know it.”
Ian Thomas called it a soul massage. Having an experience with God is not necessarily a conversion.
The church at Thessalonica was converted because people “turned to God from idols.” That is a perfect example of repentance. Edwin Orr called it, “the first word of the Gospel.”
Genuine conversion results in changed hearts that lead to changed lives. It’s no wonder when revival is spoken of in the Old and New Testaments, it always is directed at the people of God.
1. Explain the Gospel from the pulpit. You don’t have to “holler” to make it clear. Volume is not necessarily a sign of something spiritual or Godly. On the other hand, passion from the pulpit is clearly missing, but that passion is never unkind. Truth sets us free.
2. Put a plan in motion to clearly present the Gospel to those not attending your church but who show up on lists as members.
3. Set aside a day in church, pass out a Gospel tract like “Steps to Peace with God” or the “Eternal Life” and read through it for your sermon. Great preachers of great churches have been doing this for years.
4. Start a “New Members” class. After people come forward or mark a card, take time to counsel them even if they have come from another church. Jim Henry and Adrian Rogers had “New Members” classes for years in their churches.
Fresh wind of the Holy Spirit always blows when people are being converted.
Remember, Missouri Matters. (Ron Barker is personal evangelism/spiritual awakening specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention. You can contact Ron at 573-636-0400 Ext. 651 or e-mail him at email@example.com.)