The Process of Conversion in a Post-Christian America

April 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

A few days ago Will Toburen shared a few paragraphs out of Lesslie Newbigin’s book “Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture”

Newbigin’s argument was simple: Once the Christian faith becomes “one among many religions” it will loose its “God-given hold upon objective reality.” Newbigin was simply restating what W.E. Gladstone had written over 140 years ago, here is the point,

“What Gladstone foretold is essentially what has been happening during the 140 years since he wrote those worlds.  The result is not, as we once imagined, a secular society.  It is a pagan society, and its paganism, having been born out of the rejection of Christianity, is far more resistant to the gospel than the pre-Christian paganism with which cross-cultural missions have been familiar.  Here, surely, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time.”

In other words- the society in which we live is more resistant to the gospel than the pagan societies. Why?- Because this is a “post-Christian society”!

It’s one thing to bring the gospel to a culture that has never heard of the good news of Jesus. It another thing to proclaim the gospel in a society that has rejected the very movement that centers on that message. When someone in our society talks about “Jesus”, or the “church”, or even “Christianity”- we must never assume that everyone is operating with the same understanding of those “words.”

There are sectors of the church that are not aligned to a Biblical faith. This is the the most challenging missionary frontier of our time and calls for us to clearly proclaim the biblical Gospel, not American Christian religion- what ever that is in your mind.

This also has massive implications on how we go about telling others the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Dodson makes a few good points on “how culture affects conversion”,

“America has changed. We cannot assume our listeners possess the same knowledge and experience that we did, which is precisely why it is so crucial that we exercise pastoral wisdom through contextualization…

Like the former missionaries, we must reconfigure our understanding and expectation of how people undergo gospel change and how disciples are made. We must be more open to “process conversions” while also guiding that process toward full commitment to Jesus as Lord. Our goal should not be to replicate our personal conversion experience, but to preach the gospel effectively so that we can make disciples in the emerging post-Christian context. We must heed the failures of the past and call people, not to our experience of conversion, but to the experience of the Spirit’s converting, whatever that process may entail.

Entry filed under: Christianity, Culture, Faith, Personal, Philosophy, Religion.

Matt Chandler: A Gospel Illustration True Theological Humility

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