Taking Our Time
There was a time in America when you could sit down with a person who didn't attend church, explain a few Bible verses, lead them in a prayer and get them in the waters of a baptismal pool all in the same day. You could hold a revival meeting and first-time visitors would walk down the aisle as we sang just one more verse of "Just As I Am".
And that makes sense. If what we've been saying here is true, the average non-church-going person in 1960 was almost ready to make a commitment of faith. To use a crass phrase, they just needed someone to "close the deal" -- someone to hold their hand, answer a few questions and give them the words to say.
Evangelism didn't take much time; it just took willingness.
Those days are gone. Actually, they've been gone for a while now.
A 1992 study of 400 new Christians in England asked whether those new Christians had come to faith in a sudden, dramatic way or in a gradual way. Only 20% said that they came to faith in a dramatic "Paul on the Damascus Road" sort of way. Somewhere around two-thirds described their personal conversion as slow and gradual (in fact, the average time taken was about four years).
I wonder what would happen if we were to go back to those 400 new Christians now -- 15 years later. How many of those sudden conversions had legs that held up for the long haul? I'm guessing that those who took their time and slowly walked to faith may have a greater chance of sticking with it over the course of time.
I don't think slow but steady is the way to change your church. But I do think that slow but steady is often how God chooses to change our hearts.
But do we have any models of evangelism that help a person go from a 1 to a 2 to a 3 and so on -- helping them take a slow journey to faith?
Or is our own impatience killing our ability to fish?