Conversion sermons have become like undesirable children, whom no one wants to play with, according to a German evangelical theologian.
Professor Christoph Stenschke teaches New Testament studies at Wiedenest Bible School, a theological training college connected with Brethren churches in Germany. In an article published by the Baptist journal Die Gemeinde he recalls the old days, when pastors and evangelists preached fervent sermons of repentance.
Today this call had been replaced in many churches by an invitation "to make friends with Jesus". Many find it hard to talk about sin, hell, the need for conversion and the ensuing joy in Jesus.
The response to an "attractive Gospel" message is poor and short-lived, however, as many churches are finding out. Stenschke: "There is precious little trace of a life long, life changing discipleship and enthusiastic commitment".
The German Baptist Union, with which some Brethren congregations are associated, is the biggest evangelical church in Germany with 85,000 members. It has not experienced any significant growth for years.
Stenschke: "The dry season in some baptisteries has been lasting for a long time".
According to the theologian, the impression cannot easily be dismissed that this is in some way connected with a lack of clear calls for conversion. These [calls] could not be issued if there was a notion that "people are somehow right with God already and will go to heaven anyway".
But in reality all persons are under the rule of sin, writes Stenschke. Without turning to Jesus Christ in faith they will have to face Godıs judgment of wrath.
According to Stenschke even evangelical Christians have embraced a postmodern "light" version of the Gospel. He admits that a call to repentance and conversion would not be received with open arms. It would indeed face resistance but also lead to sustainable conversions.
Other articles by Wolfgang Polzer: Infants watch TV before they walk and talk
Wolfgang Polzer (56), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News Agency (idea) Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. In all, he has spent 30 years in Christian media.
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