I'm an Evangelical and we all have one. A salvation story. How we "got saved" or "converted" or "came to know the Lord". Pick your favorite euphemism. Conversionism is the fourth part of the Bebbington quadrilateral. It's what Evangelicals are known for. We believe in the necessity of the individual to turn from sin and to God.
Conversion stories are fun to read. C.S. Lewis has a great conversion story in Mere Christianity. Growing up in the late 70s, I was also part of the culture that indulged in evenings of giving testimonies, an event where people would stand up and tell about how they became Christians. I am inspired to write about my salvation story today because of reading about Tim Fall's (and also because I don't want to do the laundry).
Alas, since I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, I don't have the greatest of all the testimonies: the debauched and sinful person who is brought to Jesus in a dramatic conversion a la the apostle Paul never to smoke, drink, or dance again. No, my salvation story is downright tame.
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, the kids my age at church all started going to the front of the church during the "invitation" time over the course of several months and then getting baptized (by dunking - we were Baptists). The invitation (for those uninitiated) is after the sermon and is a time when the congregation sings and those who feel led may come to the front of the church for prayer, for salvation, or for any other need. One Sunday I wanted to go forward. My Dad said that we'd talk about it later.
That week, the pastor came by the house and we talked about "getting saved". I prayed the magic words and "asked Jesus into my heart" and the deed was done! The next Sunday I walked forward. The Sunday after that, I was up in the baptistry (like a hot tub, but cold and with no bubbles) getting dunked.
That was it. I was 9 or 10 years old and saved. Washed in the blood so to speak. I could now safely die. Or could I? Did it really take? Was I really saved? Really?
For the next five years I prayed the Sinner's Prayer (don't check your Bible - it's not there) at least every three months, sometimes every three days. It was an anxious time for me. Sometimes the pastor or youth group leader would talk about "knowing you are saved". Well, I didn't FEEL like I was saved. Down on my knees that night, I'd pray the prayer yet again.
Finally, at age 17, I was in an evangelism class where we were learning to share our faith, except that I suspected that I didn't have any faith to share. I went forward during the invitation again and confessed that I wasn't really saved. I prayed the prayer yet again. But, this time, I was baptized again! As a 17 year old! I must really be saved now!
Looking back on this time in my life, I can laugh at my anxiety-ridden self. Was I "saved" at age 10 or age 17? Actually, I have loved Jesus from as long as I can remember. I know that Bebbington's quadrilateral says that we have to have a conversion event, but I can't find that specifically in the Bible. Maybe it's OK to be an Evangelical and not have a specific salvation event. Maybe?
I loved God in whatever way I could at whatever age I was. When I was 10, I was very concrete, so I was very anxious to do everything right. Hence, my constant need to "know" that I was "saved". That's certainly what my church taught - get saved and be sure about it. And at 17? I don't know what that was all about! Peer pressure? Not understanding my relationship with Jesus?
What do I know now? I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember. When I was 17, I started walking with Jesus in a newly conscious way. I tell people that I have been a believer since I was 17.
What is your conversion story? If you are no longer a believer, what is your deconversion story? I'd love to hear? Post in the comments, or post your link in the comments!!