The Continuing Conversion of the Church

Church is suppose to be the place (people?) of new life, but so often we experience it as the place of old habits—both personally, because our habits are rarely challenged, and, corporately, because “running” the church trumps “being” the church. Furthermore, in so many places, saving the church has replaced the church’s mission of saving the world. Many have commented on the malaise found in the churches today.

For example, Darrell Guder in a book entitled The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) charts how the church came to be in this place. In sum, it has to do with the church’s confusion between church member recruitment and making disciples. After years of recruiting members to maintain the institution of church, there should be no surprise that Jesus’ call on our life sounds strange and demanding.

Guder further suggests that most ministers should first focus on the conversions of the church before embarking on the mission of converting the world. Rob Bell may be right that “God wants to save Christians, too.”

Back in the colonial period of American history, a revivalist preacher named William Tennant had the nerve to preach a sermon entitled “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry” which was aimed at ministers of established church who had exchanged comfortable salaries for preaching the way of Jesus. Of course, there was a considerable backlash—but that is the way it is for prophets, right?

It may be the time for the sermon “The Dangers of an Unconverted Church.”

So what is the path forward? It really is quite simple. Be re-converted. God’s goal is to transform each of us to the image of Jesus. While there are instantaneous moments along the way, Jesus usually works through the ordinary and mundane tasks of life. However, for those who like steps, Jesus began his ministry with these action words: Repent (for the kingdom of heaven is near); Believe (the good news); and Follow (me). And when we get off track: Repeat.

I’m ready to begin again. Are you?