June 15, 2011


Not that long ago I along with another youth leader and some teens entered into a unplanned and rather intense conversation with someone. While we searched a thrift store for bargains we ran into a man selling books. Me being interested in local authors stopped to take a peak.

As it turned out in the course of our conversation we discovered that he had been well on his way into a life of organized crime under the banner of the Hell's Angel's until Jesus changed his life. This book was his semi-factious chronicle of people in very difficult situations that turned to God.

A few moments in the conversation left the youth with me a little rattled. One such moment was that the author  stared each one of us down, eye to eye asking if we were saved. Three people passed with flying colours the other 2, he seemed less sure of.

In a funny way I am grateful for that odd conversation. It allowed me to have a fantastic conversation with the teens present. We were able to talk about what it means to be saved and how one is saved. And as we talked and I got to know them all better I was able to assure them of their previous commitments of Christ.

However the conversation with the author, and his 'not quite' of an accusation that two of the teens present were not saved has promoted me to write this blog. I want to outline that I think are the two different types of conversation experiences people can have.

The first is a radical about face, the second is a slow transformation. As far as I am concerned both are legitimate, both are real, and both have a place in the Christian community. Near as I can tell our friend the author was looking for evidence of one kind, and knowingly or unknowingly rejected the other.

Lets explore them both.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly Spend Enough Time In Church
And You Will Hear Someone Explain Christian Conversation In These Terms  
Radical Transformation-This is the type of conversion that our friend was looking for. It clearly was the one he had. This conversion experience is also what happened to Paul and more or less everyone else we read about in the New Testament. And this is likely the type of conversation experience that almost every non-Churched, non-Christian adult will have to become a Christian.

What is this type of transformation? It is a dramatic, it is a complete 180, it is a massive course change in life. This person may have had little concern for God, or they may have had a very different impression of God. But then all of a sudden they have an intense experience that causes them to fully reevaluate everything they thought they knew. In that moment they come to an abrupt understanding of God, themselves, and Jesus after which their beliefs and priorities are reorganized.

This type of conversation, from an earthly perspective, is red hot, it is sudden, and the person that goes through it attacks their new faith with great energy and vigor. They dive head first into almost everything. Church, bible reading, Christian music, small groups, you name it and they are there. One of the biggest challenges this person will face is trying to turn their red hot excited faith into a sustainable daily faith, one that won't burn itself out.

Think of this transformation as a love story. Two people meet unexpectedly, they quickly connect, fall in love, and after what would be best described as a whirlwind romance they get married. The challenge now is to learn how to love when the intensity fades.

Slow Transformation- This brings use to the second type of conversation experience I want to explore, the slow transformation. Unlike our first example of conversation this is fair less documented in the bible. This is the experience that our author friend seemed to discount. Never the less this is the type of conversation experience that I and I suspect a number of 'church kids' had.

So what is this type of transformation? It is exactly what is says, slow. Normally it takes years, maybe even decades. This is the process that a person walks when they like God, have some belief in the teachings of Jesus and the doctrine of the church. This is process is sort of like the flowering of long planted and cared for seeds.

The funny thing about it is a person just sort of realizes one day the kind of faith they have. It might take a tragedy, or a confrontation to bring this faith the the surface of ones heart and mind, but it may not. Likewise it may take a new stretching opportunity, like a week at a camp, a mission trip or a new ministry. Or it may just be a sudden and unexpected realization.

Because of this it becomes difficult for a person to pin point the day they were 'saved'. Unlike the dramatic conversation they don't have a single defining moment that they can point too. It just has sort of happened. So many opt for their baptism date (assuming they were baptized as an adult) or they'll point to a series of events that helped to shape them.

One of the biggest challenges this person will face is trying to increase their level of commitment and experience. They need to grab on to something that stirs passion in them so they can move on and grow in their newly discovered faith.

You can think of this story as a love story also, but one we are less familiar with in the West. Think of it as two people, that were arranged to be married. When they met they are almost if not total strangers. However over time as they get to know one another, as they work together laugh together and grow together a bond forms. And soon that bond flowers into a deep and heartfelt love. The challenge now is how do they learn to love passionately and truly when passion was not their starting point?

So there you have it. These are, generally speaking the two types of conversion experiences I think a person can have. What do you think? Am I off base? Does everyone need a radical conversion? Is the 'slow transformation' just a get off easy card for church kids, an excuse to allow nominal Christianity?

Tell me your thoughts?

Or better yet I hinted a little at my story, I would love to hear yours. Were you radically changed, or did God slowly transforming your heart until you realized the faith you held?