March 21, 1748 is the day that John Newton (1725-1807) would look back on and commemorate for the rest of his life as the beginning of his conversion. But it wasn’t much of a conversion, in some ways: He was pumping water out of a storm-damaged ship somewhere in the Atlantic and expecting to die any minute. Somebody suggested making another desperate attempt to patch up the damaged hull of the ship, and Newton, who was swearing like a sailor as usual, said, “If this will not do, the Lord have mercy on us.”Thank God for dramatic conversions! But I like the fact that Newton's "real story’s a little dull and a little unclear." I imagine a lot of believers' stories are like this. It isn't always a clear point of conversion (though I believe there is a definite point when we go from darkness to light). The important thing is not so much when we turned to God, but that by God's grace we did.
“I was instantly struck by my own words. This was the first desire I had breathed for mercy for many years.”
Newton survived, and cleaned up his life a bit. He stopped swearing so blasphemously, started reading the Bible, and even started to pray (his mother had taught him to pray before she died when he was seven). But by his own admission, he didn’t come to know Christ or understand the gospel for some time. This is the man who would teach the world to sing about God’s amazing grace, preach 50 sermons on the text of Handel’s Messiah, and accomplish so much solid Christian ministry from his pastorate at Olney. Half-drowned in the middle of the ocean, he yelled “Lord have mercy” and surprised even himself that such words would come out of his mouth.
As poor a beginning as it was, it was a real beginning. Newton commemorated it for the rest of his life as his “great turning day” toward God. He observed the anniversary of this day along with his birthday, his call to the ministry, his wedding day, and New Year’s. These were all days he marked with special prayers, spiritual stock-taking, and resolutions when appropriate.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I was encouraged to read this account of John Newton's "conversion story":
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Alvin Reid has two posts adapted from the chapter “Converging on Evangelism,” in the book The Convergent Church: Missional Worshipers in an Emerging Culture, which he co-authored with Mark Liederbach. When it comes to evangelism, they argue "for a 'convergence,' a bringing together of the best of the more evangelistic conventional churches and the more evangelical emerging churches." From his first post:
1. Convergent evangelism will embrace the concept of missional living.
What is “missional?” Evangelism refers to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, with unbelievers. “Missions” refers to the practice of understanding a people and a culture to become more effective in sharing that good news. MISSIONAL means we in the U.S. recognize that we now live in a mission field, and must shift our posture in evangelism from inside a church building to the lost world. Missional simply put means to live as a missionary, whether you are a pastor, a bricklayer, a school teacher, etc.
There must be a fundamental shift in how we perceive and practice evangelism. We have been effective at attractional evangelism, getting people to events at church facilities to hear the gospel. But as teeming masses of unchurched live all around us, we must shift the focus of our evangelism from our church to the culture....
When a nurse goes overseas to the mission field we call her a medical missionary. When a believing nurse works at the local hospital, we call her a nurse who is a Christian. Perhaps we would see a change in our effectiveness if we helped nurses and lawyers, barbers and homemakers, even the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker as missionaries where they live and work. So, the change we need starts not with a program but with a posture.