Conversations not Conversions

I want to share a quote I read recently that moved me to write this post. I have talked to a lot of people about this topic and it has been good for me to really think about. I hope it will be for you as well.

“Much of our evangelism here in the United States was developed in a context of Christendom, in which just about everybody knew the basic information of Christianity and was favorably disposed to it. Evangelism got people to act on what they already knew and, in a sense, already passively believed. You could call people to commitment relatively quickly. You could also use pretty forceful persuasive techniques. In dealing with postmoderns, you’re dealing with people who do not know the basics of Christianity. If anything, they have a negative idea of what Christianity is. So it makes no sense to them if you come on too strong and quickly ask for a commitment. We should count conversations and not conversions, not because I don’t believe in conversions, but because I don’t think we’ll get many conversions if we keep emphasizing them.”

-Brian McLaren

Christians love Jesus. That’s hopefully not a surprise to anyone. And when you love someone you want to talk about them. A lot. You want to tell everyone everything about them all the time everywhere you go. Have any of you every been around that person who is in a new relationship? And although you love this person, you sometimes wish they would just stop talking about it? I trust that I am not alone here.

Now imagine someone you have never met before, or don’t know very well at all, walks up to you and gives you a really long winded speech describing this person they love and tell you how great they are. They tell you about how this person has done so much for them and has changed their life in the best way possible. At this point you are probably a little uncomfortable.

Now imagine they, after spewing all of their thoughts on this person that they love, plead with you to love this person too. They say that you should really let this person into your life and learn to love them because they could change your life in ways you couldn’t imagine.

This is the part where you try to politely decline, maybe even say that you’re really happy for them, but look for the quickest way out of this conversation. And rightly so. I would do the exact same thing.

I feel as if this is our approach with sharing our faith. We are in a conversation, and the first moment that comes up where we can begin to talk about Jesus we begin our rant. It may be eloquent. It may be calm. But a rant it is and uncomfortable it shall be.

If you’re going to love someone you have to experience them for yourself. You are going to have to start as strangers and move to acquaintances. You will have to have conversations with this person on your own. You will spend one on one time to get to know each other. As you grow in this process, somewhere along the line you may find yourself gaining a liking for this person. Maybe after that you will find yourself genuinely in love.

A relationship with Christ is no different, so I suggest we stop trying to get people to speed date the person we love, and instead we start building relationships with these people. I suggest we have honest, real life conversations in which we look to love them. Really love and care for them.

I believe that if we do this people will begin to trust us. They will know that we care about them as a person. They will know that we don’t have some hidden agenda to convert them. If converting them is your only agenda, I lovingly suggest that you take some time to pray and ask God to give you His heart for lost people. God doesn’t want people to stop living one way and start living another way for just any reason. He loves people and desires us to share that love for these people.

If we love people and allow them to see first hand that you can be trusted, as well as genuinely care for them, we can create a lot of room for the kind of conversations we want to have. We want to see them saved and know the love of Christ, but first they need to experience this relationship themselves. So I suggest that we all start introducing people to Jesus as we would introduce them to another friend.

As you live life with this person begin to introduce Jesus by showing them His love, and as that draws them in, start to point them to your hope when they ask where it comes from. Ask questions before giving answers, and most importantly walk alongside them where they are in life, not where you wish they were. It is a process, but I believe if we truly care for these people we will be in it for the long run.

So please, join me in counting the conversations and not the conversions.

Image by Marc Wathieu via flickr

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Curtis Snell

I am first and foremost someone who is trying to follow the example and teachings of Jesus. I serve on the pastoral staff of a church in Iowa and I love writing, reading, and my dog Pepper.

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