How should we celebrate conversion stories?

Hi everyone,

In my cultural context, there is a lot of celebration of people becoming Christians — and much less celebration of people becoming Christ-like.

For instance, in 1994, Billy Graham did a Crusade in Atlanta. I volunteered to pray with people who made a ‘decision’ to follow Jesus and to direct them to local churches that could help establish them in their faith. I was only 13 years old! I’m not sure how helpful I was to those I prayed with — or how their lives turned out in the 28 years since then. Nor was this Crusade all about ‘decisions’; it also prioritized a theme of racial reconciliation. But as anyone who saw or went to a Billy Graham event will remember, the #1 priority was seeing people make a decision to give their lives to Christ.

More recently, in 2019, Kanye West announced his commitment to Christ. He started the Sunday Services, released the album Jesus is King, and received accolades for his newfound faith. Fast-forward to 2022, and Kanye is under criticism for working with Marilyn Mason, who has horrifically, sexually abused many women, and Chris Brown, who was convicted of felony assault for beating Rihanna, and has been arrested on many other occasions since then.

Of course, it is good news for anyone to begin a life-transformative relationship with Jesus!

At the same time, Dr. John Dickson provides some historical context on how the church once tested new converts:

To join the Christian movement and get baptised in AD 300 in Jerusalem, you had to do 3 hours of lectures a day, 6 days a week, for the 7 weeks leading up to Easter. That’s 126 hours of biblical, philosophical, and apologetic content. They don’t grow converts like that any more!

When you hear a story of someone becoming a Christian, what is your immediate response?

Do you think it would be wise for churches to have a ‘catechesis’ period before baptizing a new believer and welcoming them into church membership?


This is a critical issue, I believe. I must be honest, I’ve got to the point that when I hear a conversion story, I take it with a pinch of salt. That is, I reservedly give thanks, but don’t necessarily know how deep or genuine the conversion is. This is sad really, and I feel that it might be partly too much cynicism on my side. However it has also come from witnessing exactly what you’ve highlighted: brief interest in the new life as a Christian before falling back into the old ways.

With these instances that I’ve witnessed, I have observed the lack of discipleship that follows conversion. I mean deep theological discipleship. A weekly course for ten weeks is great, and is what a lot of churches might offer, but after the ten weeks are over, the honeymoon period wanes because there has been something lacking in the new Christian’s understanding of what the new life is about.

I think there are 2 major aspects of this:

Firstly, there are the feelings that go with conversion. It’s exciting and new, and naturally as it becomes more familiar, and less exhilarating, the new Christian can lose interest if they haven’t some deep roots laid.

Secondly, I find that God often seems to answer the prayers of a new Christian a lot at first. However, as soon as God is silent on an issue, the feelings of elation disappear, and there’s no understanding of what it means to follow God in the quiet or dry times. There’s doesn’t seem to be much teaching on suffering or when God seems silent, to equip new Christians.

Actually, what John Dickson describes of the 4th century sounds amazing! Maybe not so realistic with today’s schedules - but maybe that’s the test of a genuine believer? I imagine attending that amount of teaching in the early days would force the convert to explain his absence at work or family gatherings. This alone would be a great witness to what God has called them to. I wonder if it might even lose them their job? That would certainly be an early experience of taking up one’s cross! In comparison, I imagine that the outward signs of a conversion today are much more subtle unless the person had a very noteworthy background before conversion.

I see the early church preaching repentance and baptising new converts immediately after.

Acts 2:41:

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

It seems that the conversion and baptism occurred together without any period of theological study for the converts. Therefore, perhaps this is something churches need to consider doing once believers who have been baptised?


I love conversion stories! When I get discouraged, hearing about how God has worked and is working in someone else’s life can strengthen my faith in the process. That’s the one side.

Then there’s the other side. I, too, sometimes find myself thinking along the same lines as @alison. Is this conversion real? Is it going to remain when tested, because it will be tested? I find myself wondering what kind of teaching they have been exposed to and their interpretation of that teaching. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh or like I have my act together. That is not my intent. I guess I don’t take things for granted anymore. I’m more skeptical than I used to be, especially after the last few years.

I think a discipleship course of some kind can be beneficial to all parties. The one who is discipling gets to know the disciple and vice versa. I just recently joined a very small discipleship group. The following quote is from the Cultivate handbook:

“Discipleship was a widespread practice in the ancient Greco-Roman world and was especially common in the training of Jewish rabbis. Discipleship was a life-on-life process-a complete shaping of a new rabbi-a passing on of not just knowledge, but also values, character, wisdom, and a way of life, a way of being.”
(Organic Discipleship McCallum/Lowery)

I agree, maybe this is something churches need to consider incorporating in order to build into the health and well-being of the flock.