What does Christian conversion involve?

Is Christian conversion simply a single moment of time?

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" -- 2 Corinthians 5:17

Should conversion be seen as a process which includes (1) serious heart-searching before making a decision, (2) a decision to submit to Christ's lordship, and (3) a commitment to discipleship after coming to that decision?

Sometimes people think of soul-winning as solely the single decision-making moment or point of conversion. They neglect the "before" and "after" steps of a what the call to become a believer in Christ means for most people. Those "before" steps may be brought on by activity that some have called pre-evangelism.

Hesselgrave's stages of conversion

In his book Communicating Christ cross-culturally (Zondervan, pages 446-452), Missiologist David Hesselgrave points to several stages which generally occur in authentic Christian conversion. Believers wanting to win others to Christ should understand that they are trying to help people through a process which Hesselgrave outlines with alliteration:

Discovery
"There is a person called Christ whom the true God is said to have sent into the world to be the Savior and Lord of human beings."
Deliberation
"Should I forsake my old ways and follow Christ?"
Determination
"I will repent and believe in Christ."
Dissonance
"Forces are trying to draw me back to the old ways. Shall I resist them and continue to follow Christ?"
Discipline
"I will identify with the people of Christ in His church. I will live in submission to His lordship and church discipline."

Thus, the point in time when a person acknowledges Christ as Savior may be very specific. However, the path leading to that point may have been a long one. A praying mother, a godly professor, a Christian book, a dramatic play, a loving friend, a personal crisis . . . all may have played a part in that person coming to the decision to repent and accept Christ's lordship. (I Corinthians 3:5-10; John 4:34-38)

12 steps to Christian Conversion based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We have admitted we are powerless over sin -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that only a power greater than ourselves could restore us.
  3. We decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
  4. We made a searching a fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We have made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continue to take personal inventory. When we are wrong, we promptly admit it.
  11. We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to others.

    -- Howard Culbertson

Additional witnessing / soul-winning resources

What to do when a discipleship group seems to falter?

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pointing rightSunday school classes are the primary fellowship and discipleship groups used by local churches. What should be done if one starts to falter? [ more ]


Talking about your faith in Christ    Ages when Americans become Christians    Case study: Group conversion     Receptivity to the Gospel

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