Through high and low points over the past 150 years, Mennonite Brethren have been learning how to speak about their initial and ongoing conversions. This history reminds us that our churches continually need to grow in their witness; and that individuals don’t need to say everything about the gospel, but simply share their experience of Jesus. These discoveries – often made as a result of blunders – about how God converts people can help us “scatter seeds” as we speak of Jesus.
Mennonite Brethren discoveries:
• God gives believers in Jesus joyful confidence of being forgiven and saved.
• Whenever God rescues someone, he re-forms that person’s ways of living.
• Conversion can be a process, not only a crisis; the U-turn of repentance may be gradual or sudden.
• God saves people personally but not privately; salvation is into the community of the Spirit, because the Way of Jesus always has social implications.
• Each person’s decision to follow Jesus must be voluntary.
• Conversion is more like changing direction to walk towards Christ Jesus the Lord, than like crossing a line in the sand—whether that line is defined as specific moral behaviours, doctrinal insights, or modes of baptism.
Implications for speaking of Jesus:
→ We promise people joy from God; yet we recognize that not everyone will have an intensely emotional experience when God first changes their life.
→ When we introduce people to Jesus, we are upfront about the implications of being Jesus’ disciple because Christ teaches and promises a reorientation of people’s morals, desires and relationships. We create difficulties, however, when we predetermine the order in which these changes will happen in the life of a particular person.
→ We accept that the Holy Spirit brings people to Jesus in different ways. We also recognize that the ongoing conversion of each person’s ways of living continues for a lifetime.
→ We invite people into God’s family, which consists of local, visible, fallible congregations; yet, we confess that too often our churches have erected false barriers for newcomers who want to belong to Christ and to Christ’s people.
→ We invite people to accept Jesus’ invitation; then we wait for them without pressuring, manipulating, or preplanning their response.
→ As Jesus’ witnesses, we focus on helping people know Jesus Christ the Lord—that is, on having a life-changing relationship with Jesus, the risen son of God and son of man.