Conversion versus Connection

When I began attending church in my early years, I was introduced to the concept of the altar call.  You may know of this practice.  The pastor/preacher or whomever is up front gives a rousing sermon (one which often provokes feelings of guilt or conviction) and then invites individuals forward to seek forgiveness from God and invite Jesus into their heart.

Come forward and get saved.

You know what I'm talking about, don't you?  Maybe you've gotten saved before.  Me?  I've gotten saved like 800 times.  I mean, there was always something that I could feel guilty about.  When the preacher offered the invite, I would go running to the altar.

I became a church member at some point in time.  There was actually an application to fill out.  On the application, there was a blank that asked me if I was "saved" (or maybe "born again", can't remember which).  I checked the box marked YES.  Then it asked me for a date.  Like, there was a blank there, and I was supposed to fill in the actual date I got saved,

Um...which time?  The most recent?  Or the first time?

So, I left it blank.  Of course, this had to be corrected.  I couldn't join the church if I didn't know the instant that I changed from darkness to light in the book of Jesus.  So, I made something up.  I wanted the connection that came with being in church.  I read the Bible so much (moreso than most of the adults that I knew) and throughout the New Testament, Jesus spoke of relationships with one another.  He was all about connection.

So, I got connected, making up a date of salvation in the process.

Isn't the church weird?  Or...I guess...aren't people weird?  We make things so awkward when Jesus didn't make it awkward at all.

What if I told you that Jesus never gave an altar call?  He never led someone in a "repeat after me" prayer that flipped their Christian switch on.  You may think this started with the disciples, but you would be wrong.  They didn't do it either.  When Peter preached on the first day the Church existed (we call it the 'Day of Pentecost'), the scripture said that "3,000 were added to their number that day).

Added to their number?  So, they got saved?  Nope.  They became part of the church.

Hear me on this one.  It may make some of my fellow preachers mad, but I'm going to say it anyways.  

Churches emphasize conversion.  Jesus emphasizes connection.

Why do churches emphasize what Jesus didn't?  It's simple.  It's a numbers game.  As non-profit institutions, we are required to count like you wouldn't believe.  We complete reports that say who joined, who attended, who gave and...who converted.  It gives us a measurement with which to determine our success.

I got saved so many times that my church must have looked extremely successful on those reports.  And they were successful.  After all, I am a Christ-follower to this day because of the connection that I had to a wonderful group of people that helped to make me a disciple.

So, do me a favor.  While you are out there seeking to better your life, find a good church to be a part of.  They will likely put pressure on you to "make a decision for Christ" and that's okay, I guess.  Following Jesus does begin with a personal decision, even if it isn't as instantaneous as they want it to be.  More than that, though, make that church your family.  That connection is important.

We believe in church family because Jesus believes in church family.  That's good enough for us.

And you don't even have to come to the front to be a part.

Matt Monyhan

Matt Monyhan is the Lead Pastor of Real Family Church. He has been in ministry for almost 2 decades and is a husband and father of 2 sons.