The other day as I was watching an episode, Kirk and Ray gave a most important list for us as gospel ministers and churches to consider. It was their top 10 ways to fill our churches with false converts. Now, a false convert is somebody who goes through the motions externally (i.e., praying a prayer, walking an aisle, crying), but nothing happened internally. We’ve all seen this happen before. A person comes forward in a service, supposedly repents and trusts Christ, and soon goes back to their lifestyle of godlessness and unbelief. They made a “decision,” but they were not converted.
You see, we can do all sorts of things that can influence or push somebody to make a “decision.” In fact, we can manufacture in people almost any response we desire by the use of certain methods. But if we manufacture it, is the “decision”real? I think not. For this reason, our churches are full of false converts.
Here is their top 10 list (my additions are in italics, and yes, I’m being sarcastic). Please remember as you read these that these are things we should seriously avoid:
- Don’t mention anything about future punishment or tell the sinner to flee the wrath to come. (We wouldn’t want to offend anybody.)
- Instead, preach the love of God with the promises of peace, joy, love, and fulfillment. (Jesus is just like Santa Claus.)
- Appeal to the emotions rather than the will and the conscience. (Let’s just get happy in the Lord!)
- Gloss over the serious nature of sin, spreading it around so that none feel personally guilty. (Everybody has sinned. Don’t feel bad about yourself. God wouldn’t want that.)
- Neglect using the Law of God to bring conviction. (The Law has nothing to do with the gospel.)
- For your invitation, use the old “while every eye is closed and nobody’s watching you, just slip up your hand” method. (Don’t worry, we’re just helping you take baby steps to a “decision” for God.)
- Have counselors gently pull hand-raisers to the altar. (We saw that hand!)
- Sing Psalm 119 three times as you make your final appeal. (Sometimes you just gotta wear them down until they finally give in.)
- Use light dimmers. (It’s easier to stand up for Jesus when nobody can see you.)
- Build your church with the floor sloping to the front. (That way gravity might just help pull them down to the altar.)
We’ve all seen these methods (or as Charles Finney called them “new meaures”) used in churches. When we go to these sorts of ploys, we’re basically saying, “God and the gospel are not enough. We’ve got to do something more.” But I don’t want what man can manufacture. I want what only God can manufacture.
May we with boldness and conviction demonstrate to people through the Law that they are guilty of sin and without hope in their own righteousness. A sinner cannot be saved unless he first realizes he’s a sinner. But then let’s tell them their is only hope for forgiveness is found in repenting of their sins and believing on Jesus Christ alone. Let’s passionately plead with them, but let’s not go further than that in an attempt to manipulate them into a “decision.” Let’s leave the converting up to God.
Is it possible that we have so many backsliders today because they never truly slid forward in the first place? I think so. False converts are a reality of living in a fallen world, but let’s not work to make the situation worse by man-centered methods of evangelism.