[Rector]

Conversion

 

What does it take to get saved?

Some time ago a television programme looked at the Christian sect "The Children of God", better known these days as "The Family". There are not too many members of the sect about. They live in small community groups, communes, and are renowned for their street evangelism. They are quite a strange Christian group, holding some views which are less than Christian.

One of their ideas is that a person is saved by simply saying a prayer to Jesus asking for forgiveness, and for his presence in their life. Say the words and you are saved. "All you have to do is receive Jesus, God's Son, as your saviour by asking Him into your heart." "I now receive Him (Jesus) as my saviour.... and ask Him to come into my heart." This simplistic idea tends to control their evangelistic strategy. They will do anything to get someone to say the words.

For a time many young girls in the cult practised "flirty fishing". This was nothing less than prostitution, anything to get someone to say the words. Many years later those same girls, now grown women, were able to admit that for the offer of free sex a bloke is willing to say anything. As one former cult member put it, "I'm sure some were saved, but mind you they would have been saved anyway without the sex. As for the rest, they certainly went away happy, but that was all." The sex was the bait on the end of the gospel hook, but of course, in the gospel hook doesn't need any bait. It will always catch the true seeker, and only the true seeker. In China, before the revolution, many missions baited their hook with rice. It was known as "Rice-bowl Christianity". While the rice flowed, conversions were many.

At the other extreme there are those who say a true conversion requires a detailed knowledge of the Christian faith, particularly of the human state of sin and of Christ's necessary sacrifice for sin (i.e. the theology of the Atonement). This position is pushed by some reformed churches. For example, many hold that the "Christianity Explained" course would be a minimum requirement for a genuine conversion.

I certainly don't agree with the mechanical simplicity of the Children of God, nor their desire to bait the hook of the gospel, but I do go along with their fundamental view that "salvation is simple! All you have to do is receive Jesus, God's son, as your saviour by asking Him..." Or if you like, say with the thief on the cross, Jesus "remember me."