I recently read Michael Lawrence’s fantastic book on conversion entitled, strangely enough, Conversion: How God Creates a People. In it, he connects how some churches handle conversion to how he chose to be a Red Sox fan as a child. Growing up in an area without a professional baseball team, he decided to become a fan of a team in order to enjoy the game of baseball more. Ultimately, he settled on the Red Sox.
It was a lifestyle choice, really.
Thirty years later, I’m still a Red Sox fan. But I’m not sure all my fellow fans would agree. It’s not that I follow other teams. It’s simply that life is full and busy, and I no longer have time to watch the games on TV, pore over box scores, or keep up with the trades and prospects. If they make it into the postseason, I’ll probably watch, unless I have a meeting, or one of my kids needs help with homework, or my wife needs help with something.
The decision I made stands, but there’s not much to show for it these days other than the decision itself…
Recently a man came to my office to talk. I learned that he had made a decision for Jesus years before, as a youth. It was sincere and heartfelt. But like me and the Red Sox, life had become busy. Marriage, work, kids, and the house all kept him away from church and personal spiritual disciplines. No one would know he was a Christian unless he told them.
As I unpack these words, my heart reacts three ways: it breaks a little bit, it dies a little bit, and it catches fire a LOT. My heart breaks and dies because I have seen this cultural, lifestyle choice reaction; it makes my stomach churn in frustration, restlessness, and angst. There are times I want to take the concept of “Once saved, always saved” and chuck it out the window even though I believe it to be completely true.
Following Christ is so much more than making a decision and my heart catches fire because I know it is the church’s responsibility to get it right. My heart burns with a desire to teach and reform and exhort people to understand that following Christ isn’t a lifestyle choice but a surrender; that it isn’t a “get out of jail free card” but a life-giving freedom from the bondage of sin; that it isn’t about becoming saved but becoming sanctified for God’s purposes.
Lord, forgive us, Your church, for cheapening Your grace so. Forgive us, Your church, for allowing people to think they have been saved because they said a prayer. Forgive us, Your church, for trying to usher people into the kingdom but not showing them how to become a citizen of it.
Father, we repent of our misspelling of your gospel truth.
Lord, lead us, Your church, to the truth and give us the courage and boldness to proclaim Your gospel in a way that brings people to their knees in submission to You. God, put words into our mouths as we, Your church, seek to glorify Your name in all the earth, through all of our actions.
In the name of Jesus, Your very Son through whom You have reconciled the world to Yourself, we, Your church, pray.