Come to Jesus Moments???

Over the past couple of centuries, much of our Christian vocabulary has been filled with language that speaks of dramatic and sudden conversion experiences. 

We recall making our way down the aisle at a Billy Graham style crusade.  We recall heading to an altar with tears in our eyes to "pray that prayer" with a preacher, wherein we confessed we were sinners in need of a Savior.  We remember a Sunday school teacher or friend who asked us to suddenly pray to accept Jesus into our heart.  We recall stories of powerful decisions made for Christ.

But what if all of this, as touching and as precious as moments as these stories might be, reflect what is in truth something that isn't really "normative" in how most people come to truly know Christ?  That's not to say there aren't crisis moments of sudden and dramatic conversions, but rather, that such moments of dramatic decision might in fact be more rare than the way God normally works.  And I think it's time we begin to recognize this.

What if the average conversion to Christ comes through less dramatic means, and is in fact, much more slow and gradual in nature? 

While I do not negate the powerful stories of people suddenly and dramatically coming to Christ, as such stories are also found in the Bible, I can't help but think the heavy emphasis we have made on dramatic "altar-call" type experiences is wanting, and is theologically suspicious in light of the full testimony of the Scriptures. 

Jesus asked His audiences to "consider the cost"  of following Him.  He didn't ask such a thing of some random person He just bumped into on the street and gave a Romans Road gospel presentation to.    Rather, He asked such of men and women who had time to carefully consider His radical message, and the implications His teachings had for their lives, after having repeatedly heard His preaching over a duration of time. 

What if the average Christian conversion is normally a slow and gradual thing, and less like something we picture happening at some massive revival styled meeting?  What if the average conversion experience can be likened more unto how a plant grows from a seed than a spaceship blasting off into space? 

I know in my life and conversion to Christ, while I recall some very powerful moments and encounters with the Lord, I feel like my coming to know the Lord was ultimately through a very long, slow, and gradual process.  While I can pinpoint some moments in time that were pivotal in my journey, and where I definitely felt like I had a special encounter with God, the more I reflect on these events that have transpired in my life, the more I think my conversion was less of a dramatic "come-to-Jesus moment," and more of a "back-and-forth conversation" I had with Christ over a period of years, as I struggled with the full weight of the Gospel message and the teachings of Jesus as I gradually came to understand them.

And as I come closer to the 20 year anniversary of the time I first called on the name of the Lord, sometimes I wonder "exactly" when it was that I came to know the Lord.  Looking back at the sputtered messy beginnings of my faith, sometimes I just don't know exactly when I got saved.  Maybe it was when I prayed that prayer.  Or maybe it was sometime after that.  Honestly... I just don't know anymore.  All I know is that for me, my conversion felt more like a prolonged wrestling match than a Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of a football game. 

I know along the way I received several strong "nudges" that made God larger and bigger and nearer to me than I had ever experienced before in my life.  And I know that in my heart of hearts that as of today I believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead and that I am saved.  But the exact moment I passed from death to life, oddly, I'm not so certain anymore.  All I know is that God eventually prevailed over me. 

And talking to many Christians over the years, I'm starting to believe more and more that most came to know the Lord slowly, gradually, and over time. We came to know the Lord as a result of a seed being planted, nurtured, and in time, ultimately bringing forth life. 

And if that is indeed the case, that most Christians have come to know the Lord slowly over time, to the point where they eventually experienced the new birth, instead of in some dramatic moment, should that not radically challenge the way we do outreach and evangelism?  Should that not change the way we do church? 

Instead of trying to have a giant extravaganza and crusade to save souls, should we as the church not instead foster a culture that invites those who are outside to come alongside of us, to dialogue, to struggle with us, to wrestle with the claims of Christ, and to taste something of the Christian community that we enjoy with others who follow the Lord?  And maybe, just maybe, they will over time get caught up in the faith that we have come know, to experience the life we have, and to become true followers of Jesus Christ?

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts below. Feel free to comment!

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