Friday, July 22, 2011

Conversion (Tough Theology - Week 6)

When I was a university student, I did a one semester exchange program at European Nazarene College - a beautiful little campus on the Rhine river at the border of Germany and Switzerland.  That spring, we had lots of holidays.  Germans take almost as many holidays as Koreans.  One of the holidays was Ascension Day, to which I said, “Thanks for the day off and everything, but what’s that?”
Ascension Day is the day when Jesus ascended into heaven - exactly 40 days after his resurrection.  We had a special Ascension Day worship service, and the guest speaker was none other than Hermann Gschwandtner, the German missionary who is now the South Asia Field Director and was here in May.
I honestly don’t remember anything Hermann said, but I do remember the text: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
That day, that verse, that sermon - they changed me.  I felt God clearly calling me to give my life for evangelism.  Sitting in that little European chapel, I knew that the highest purpose for the rest of my life was to help people become authentic Christians.
About a year later, I began working on an MDiv degree in a special program focusing on evangelism.  The English word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word euangelion or “Good News” or “Gospel.”  Evangelism is Gospel-ism.  Evangelism is to do the Gospel, to proclaim Good News, to bring Good News, to be the living presence Gospel.  I am here standing before you today because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have given my life to transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So today, in our last week on the Tough Theology series, we pick up a topic that is very dear to my heart: Conversion.  What does it mean to become a Christian?  When we talk about the gospel and evangelism and all of that, what are we really aiming at, and how do we get there?
Three people have shaped the way I view conversion.  Three key thinkers have radically altered the way I think about what it means to become a Christian.  Today, I want to walk you through each of these key thinkers, and I hope they will shape your thoughts on conversion as well.

 The first thinker who has changed my thinking is James Engel.  He developed something known as the Engel Scale of Evangelism.  It looks like this.  This chart may look complex, but it has a simple movement.  Everyone in the world is somewhere on this chart.  As people’s thoughts and actions become more in line with the gospel, they move up the chart.  Anything that helps someone move up - even just one step - is a form of evangelism.  ....

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