Can you give several examples of bad evangelistic practices that result from a bad understanding of conversion?
- Altar calls, decision cards. Altar calls and decision cards result from an overemphasis on the human’s role in conversion, as if conversion results whenever someone is persuaded to walk an aisle. Also, signing a card isn’t the same thing as repenting and believing. The Bible calls us to repent and believe.
- “Pray this prayer.” Conversion no doubt involves praying to God. But praying a formulaic prayer is no guarantee that a person has genuinely repented and believed. Instructing non-Christians to pray a “sinner’s prayer” also tempts them to find assurance in the prayer itself rather than in Jesus Christ.
- Theatrical preaching and emotionally indulgent music.Christians today know that we cannot “strong arm” someone into the faith. But we do try to “strong charm” them, whether through music, humor, or something else. Such tactics tempt individuals to confuse an emotional response with repentance and belief. Both strong-arming and strong-charming indicate that we’re relying on the flesh to convert. Yet conversion is not within the evangelist’s power to accomplish. Only God’s Spirit gives the new birth (John 1:13). Like Paul, we should simply “set forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor. 4:2, NIV).
- Presenting news without calling for repentance and faith. Telling people what Christ did in his life and death without challenging them to repent assumes that people only need information, as if our fundamental problem as fallen humans is a “knowledge problem.” There is a knowledge problem, but there’s also a “will” or “worship problem.” Therefore, a faithful evangelist will tell people how they must respond to the gospel news. They must be told to repent and believe.
- Presenting a story without calling for repentance and faith.Neither sharing a personal testimony nor telling the storyline of the Bible (creation, fall, redemption, glorification) necessarily challenges the listener about his or her own life. As in point four above, we should explain to people that Jesus personally addresses them in their sin, and he calls them to repent and follow him in faith.
- Attending church. Attending church does not make someone a Christian. Rather, conversion involves a radical turn from sin to Christ, from self-rule to God’s rule, in every area of life, which will include a genuine desire to gather regularly with God’s people