“Conversion: How God Creates a People”, by Dr. Michael Lawrence, pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, is one book in the 9Marks series of “Building Healthy Churches”.
I selected to review this book because I’m also reading another book about conversion at the time, and I know these series of books are relatively short, quick reads. That is true of this book, but it is packed full of hard-hitting truth in relatively a brief introduction, 8 chapters, and conclusion.
As the title suggests, the book covers a biblical understanding of true conversion. I cannot say enough good about this book, as it punches square in the nose many of the problems seen in the church related to false conversions.
Chapter 1: “New, Not Nice” explains that we are made altogether “new”, not merely functionally “nice” upon our conversion. Converts must be completely regenerated (something God does), and not merely reformed better versions of our past selves. Merely being nice is not the same thing as being right with God.
Chapter 2: “Saved, Not Sincere” addresses the issue of our not being saved by sincerity or intense emotions, but only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Anything else makes salvation about us rather than about God’s glory.
Chapter 3: “Disciples, Not Decisions” focuses on a biblical understanding of repentance. Faith requires churches to make disciples, not decisions.
Chapter 4: “Holy, Not Healed” (my favorite) deals hard blows to the false “therapeutic gospel”, which is no gospel at all. This false gospel is prevalent in the church today, and is so common that is goes largely unrecognizable as being false. The therapeutic gospel suggests Jesus came to give you a better marriage, a more successful career, to make you a better parent, etc. While truly following Jesus may lead to those results, there is no guarantee any or all will happen. This gospel is me-centered, rather than God-centered. Instead, the true gospel calls us to the lordship of Christ, setting us apart to a new master and a new love.
Chapter 5: “Distinct, Not Designed” discusses that no action, word, or deed other than our love for fellow Christians will the world know the church is distinctly different from the world. And when the world sees our love for those who dislike us, then it will see the church is radically different.
Chapter 6: “Summon, Don’t Sell” The call to evangelize calls us to proclaim the gospel plainly, honestly, urgently, and confidently. Our role is not to “seal the deal”, for that is God’s doing. Don’t sugar-coat or soften the challenges the gospel declares.
Chapter 7: “Assess Before You Assure” deals with difficulty of balancing false assurances of genuine faith in others, and discerning true faith. Faith is a living, active hope and trust that produces a pattern of growth. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and encourage them when you see evidences of grace. At the same time, be careful about giving false assurance.
Chapter 8: “Charitable, Not Chary” deals with the difficulty of sinners within the church. The church is not for those who have already arrived in heaven, but for those whose longings are for heaven. The church calls the immature, the imperfect, the weak, the hurt, and the scandalous to her – not to remain there, but to grow in her. Note: “chary” means “reluctance to do something”.
RATING: I give “Conversion” 5 out of 5 stars. It is truly a must-read, and would be an excellent read for new converts, as it reminds us to always check ourselves that we are in the faith.
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge free of charge from Crossway Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine, and I was not forced to provide a positive review.