Monday, 6 October 2014

The Sinner's Prayer - It's not enough!

Talking with someone about their experiences I began to realise that the same old thing that troubled me many years ago regarding people being converted still runs rampant through any parts of the Church here and in the mission field.

My issue is with the (mis)use of the 'Sinner's Prayer'; that little prayer which talks of repentance and turning away from sin, sorrow for keeping God out of our lives and a commitment toward right living from that point onwards.

'I see that hand ... let's pray!'
I have been in many services over the years where I have seen someone up the front ask those who have been convicted by what they have heard to stand up and commit themselves to Jesus. I have watched as friends and family praise God for the loved one (or at least the person they brought to the service) as they stood and repeated the prayer that was said, line by line, by the person at the front. I too have been grateful for the lives that have been committed to God and felt a sense of joy . . .

As time went on I found that joy turn, slowly at first, before it became, contractionlike, increasing in intensity and pain until I really struggled at the sight before me. Struggling because I knew that the reality was that for many who were saying the words of the prayer would progress no further in their journey of faith; what was before me was the pinnacle and conclusion of their Christian walk. We were celebrating scalps and not the beginning of a faith journey of exploration, growth and deepening discipleship. In fact, to put it rather graphically, we were effectively spawning (in the right sense of the word) 'bastard children' - for they, generally, would be left alone, untended, uncared for and undisciplined the very next day after their 'new birth'; left alone to continue as they had under the impression that they were Christians. No one would be assigned them as mentor and guide - they would just be left to their own devices and unless brought to church (any church) the following Sunday (or to a midweek service) then they'd be effectively lost and the window for effective discipleship was soon gone too!

Speaking with one from the missions fields in distant places I learnt that some might have prayed the sinner's prayer a dozen time in their lives but never been discipled. A situation that I've personally witnessed in the UK on a number of occasions.

So here's a simple plea:
If you're not willing to invest the time into help people become disciples of Christ then don't deny them the joy of a real relationship with Him because you want to win a scalp - encourage them and pass them on to a church (or person) who takes conversion and those who come to Christ seriously!

Leading someone in the sinner's prayer means that you are committing to:

Disciple them (or making sure that they are introduced to someone who will)

Be available for them (and that means being contactable and willing to spend time with them)

Pray for (and with) them (and this means teaching them to pray and to discern God's voice)

The sinner's prayer is the first step into a new way of thinking and living. You wouldn't leave a newborn to fend for itself so why on earth would you leave a spiritual newborn to do exactly that?

I have to admit that during my journey I have been part of churches who 'saw that hand' and led people n the sinner's prayer and yet never discipled those who stood and said it. I am grateful for the journey and sad for those who have passed by and fallen in their walk because of my unwillingness to make more noise about the situation or have remained silent through fear of attack from the leadership (says something about those who were leading I guess)!

There is a great temptation for us all to want to score a scalp but we must put that temptation aside and look to making disciples - anything else denies the love of God and acts detrimentally towards the life of the Kingdom.


1 comment:

Bob said...

Scalps, souls, lives
So many just count the number of "soul scalps" on their belts. Rather than those who's lives have been truly transformed by being properly nurtured in Christ.
For a number of years I worked with a mission organisation touring the country, yes there were many who "prayed the prayer", but the real joy was when I met someone years later, in a church leadership role who said "Thanks, you were just one step along my road to Christ, and He's still moving me towards Himself one step at a time"...