Conversion: Event or Process?
At my seminar at George Fox University on Saturday, I explained that conversion is not an event, but a process. This surprised some of the participants. One said that this was completely opposite to what large churches like Willow Creek have been advocating for years.
Our research indicated that 51 percent of the time, it takes over a year for someone to come to Jesus (see the figure below).
For many years, the church has used an event approach to evangelism. We have used a phrase such as, “If you knew you were going to die today, would you know without a doubt that you would go to heaven.” Then we proceeded to deliver a canned speech that called the person to make a decision to follow Christ. This approach is not effective, especially in today’s world. People are mistrusting of people they do not know, and they have grown cynical about religion in general.
When we are in genuine relationships with people, we are concerned about actions that are mutually beneficial. We want to help them, and they want to help us. We can learn from each other. In that context, conversations about Jesus are not used to push anyone into making a decision and adding a notch to our evangelism belt. Rather; we engage in spiritual dialogue with someone because we are looking for a way to meet his or her needs.
Spiritual conversations may go on for a long time. They may lead to conversion, or they might not. But, it all begins with developing sincere and caring relationships with people and—at some point—engaging in spiritual dialogue with them.