One of the most dangerous things in our churches today is people who think they’re Christians but they’re not. Many unbelieving and unrepentant people are members in good standing in churches today, they attend regularly, serve in various ministries and bring some of the best lasagna to potlucks.
In this episode of Now Is the Time I give you 13 ways to make a false convert.
13 Ways to Make False Converts
(Just in case you didn’t catch it the text below is satire, listen to the podcast audio for more detailed explanations of these problems)
1. Do all the talking.
Don’t let the person you’re trying to share the gospel with ask you questions or respond unless they want to pray the sinners prayer, just keep talking to them and keep sharing the gospel with them until they finally break down and repent.
2. Tell them they need to ask Jesus into their heart.
You might also try to use a few other enigmatic phrases, tell them that they need to be “washed in the blood,” or that they should “be born again,” or simply, “get saved.”
Make sure you don’t explain these phrases in everyday language, just let them figure it out.
3. Instead of answering their questions pressure them to make a decision.
Don’t worry about how much they really understand, just go for the decision, put the pressure on them and make them feel awkward if they don’t repent right then and there.
4. Scare them with hell.
Make it hot, make it uncomfortable, make them sweat. Many people have been scared right into heaven.
5. Convince them that the Christian life is fun.
Promise them that if they become a Christian God will bless them physically and financially. They’ll move up in the world, drive their dream car and find that dream husband/wife. Life will be luxuries and filled with temporary comforts of this world.
Oh, and don’t tell them about how nearly all the disciples were martyred.
6. Attach salvation to some event, action, or class.
Tell them they need to “come forward,” say a prayer, light a candle, stop drinking, complete a “confirmation” class. Find something actual that they can do and attach salvation to that event.
7. Assure them that a prayer will get them into heaven.
Ask them if they can ever remember praying the sinners prayer, if they did, then they’re good, if they didn’t then have them pray it right away, they’re good now.
8. Leave the discipleship to someone else.
Make sure to leave the discipleship to someone else, you don’t have time to waste on their spiritual growth, certainly God can take care of that. The best thing you can do is leave them on their own so you can evangelize others.
9. Don’t investigate their background or beliefs.
What a person currently believes doesn’t matter, it’s wrong anyway, so what’s the point in finding out about it? Don’t waste your time listening to them tell you about their convictions, just tell them what you believe.
10. Only tell them about Jesus.
Really all they need to hear about is Jesus, that stuff in the Old Testament is interesting but it will just confuse them. Just tell them that Jesus died for them and they should believe in Him. Don’t get into details about how God created everything and how Adam and Eve sinned and all those pesky laws in the Old Testament.
In fact, if you can just give them a Bible without the Old Testament in it, that would be best!
11. Get them to repeat your words.
In the end it really doesn’t matter what they know or what they understand. The most important thing is that they say the right words in prayer. If they don’t know how to do that then you can just have them repeat your words.
They’re good now.
12. Count your converts.
If you’re a missionary or evangelist this is especially useful. Make sure you count everyone that came forward. Publicize the numbers so that everyone will know what an amazing job you’re doing for God.
13. Assume that if they grew up in a Christian home then they’re good.
Kids who grew up in Christian homes don’t really need the Gospel. They know it backwards and forwards so you shouldn’t worry about them, they’re in!
13 Ways to Make Real Disciples
Just in case you didn’t catch it the text above is satire, of course we don’t want to make false disciples! Unfortunately it often happens and sometimes it’s our methods of evangelism that are to blame.
It would be wrong of me to only tell you what not to do. Let’s look at these 13 methods again but this time let’s discuss the proper approach that will help ensure that you are making real disciples of Jesus.
Do all the talking.
Listening is an important part of sharing the Gospel. Notice that when Paul entered a new city he often didn’t simply preach the Gospel but rather discussed the Gospel with those interested.
17 So he began holding discussions in the synagogue with the Jews and other worshipers, as well as every day in the public square with anyone who happened to be there.
Discussion is vital for effective Gospel sharing. Discussion allows the gospel messenger to understand better the false beliefs of the people he is sharing the gospel with. Allowing discussion also helps build trust and repore.
Tell them they need to ask Jesus into their heart.
If you’ve been in the Church long enough your speech is probably already laden with Biblical and Church slang and you may not even realize it.
There is nothing really wrong with many of these terms, it’s just that someone who doesn’t have a church background isn’t going to understand what you’re talking about.
That’s why it’s important to listen to ourselves as we share the Gospel and ask if what we are saying would be clear and understandable by someone who had never picked up a Bible or walked into a church in their life.
Instead of answering their questions pressure them to make a decision.
While we must share the gospel with a sense of urgency, and we should be desperate in our call to sinners to repent before a holy God. We must avoid the temptation to pressure people into making a “decision” that they don’t really believe in.
Salvation is by faith and not be mere mental ascension or decision.
Pressuring someone into a decision that they don’t really believe in will never result in salvation.
Scare them with hell.
Hell is real, hell is terrible, hell is scary! We must never skirt around the issue of hell and nor should we use it as a scare tactic to get people into heaven.
Jesus talked a lot about hell but he never used it as a motivation for belief unto salvation. Some might say that Jesus did scare people with hell in Matthew 10:28
28 Stop being afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
However, in context you can easily see that Jesus is not scaring but rather giving comfort.
29 “Two sparrows are sold for a penny, aren’t they? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission.
30 Indeed, even the hairs on your head have all been counted!
31 So stop being afraid. You are worth more than a bunch of sparrows.”
Jesus exhorts his followers to fear (respect, honor) but not to be afraid or scared.
Communicating the truth that hell is real and that there is a terrible punishment for sin must be included in our gospel message, but we need to call people to much more than simply belief in a real heal. We must call them to believe in a real God who is in a real heaven and who really can save them.
Convince them that the Christian life is fun and entertaining.
The prosperity gospel falls far short of the real gospel. When we preach Jesus we need to be clear about what we are calling people to.
Jesus said: “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continually.” Mat 16:24
While Jesus does promise great blessing in this life, he also promises persecution.
Those who repent because they want the good life will only remain in the church as long as life is good. (Mat 13:20-21)
Attach salvation to some event, action, or class.
Sometimes people get saved when they pray the sinner’s prayer or when they come forward and repent after the sermon. Nevertheless coming forward or saying a prayer is not what saves them and it should not be attached to salvation as an assurance that the person is really saved.
By assuring someone that they are now saved because of some action they took or prayer they said can give an unbeliever a false sense of security.
Biblically there are two things we can associate salvation with:
- Belief is the basis for our foundation, it is really the only thing that we find consistently present at the moment of salvation (John 20:31)
- Fruit (personal righteousness and holiness) is a sign of salvation that should follow the moment of salvation. (John 15:4)
Assure them that a prayer will get them into heaven.
The sinners prayer is a proper response to the gospel and it is part of the process of repentance. However, we must be very careful not to communicate to unbelievers that the sinner’s prayer has some sort of magical incantation powers!
Nowhere in Scripture are people required to pray the sinner’s prayer in order to receive salvation. Salvation comes through belief in gospel truth. The sinners prayers is simply a verbal declaration and confession to God of the individual’s belief in the gospel.
Leave the discipleship to someone else.
In the mind of Jesus and the apostles preaching the gospel and making disciples were inseparable. Jesus simple told us to “go and teach all nations” (Mat 28:19) This includes the initial gospel message and the continued process of discipleship.
Discipleship isn’t just vital for spiritual growth but also for the salvation of some. In my experience some people get saved during the discipleship process.
Don’t investigate their background or beliefs.
Paul in Athens gives us a good example of the importance of knowing the background beliefs of those we are sharing the gospel with. (Acts 17:22-34)
Because Paul took time the time to investigate the beliefs of the Athenians he was able to accurately communicate the gospel in a way that was understandable to them and that directly answered the problem of their particular false beliefs.
Only tell them about Jesus.
Yes, the gospel is all about Jesus but Jesus is not all that we need to know about in order to believe the gospel.
Certain core truths such as the existence of one Creator God, man’s problem with sin and the need for a substitutionary sacrifice are all vital to our faith. It can be dangerous to assume that people know these things already.
Get them to repeat your words.
Salvation is not a matter of pronouncing a set of words, phrases, or sentences. When we ask someone to “repeat after me” we run the danger of them thinking that if they repeat the right words in the right way then they will be saved.
Instead of asking someone to repeat after you focus on making sure they understand the core gospel truths. If they do understand and they profess belief in those truths then allow them to pray with their own words to God.
Count your converts.
There is actually a place for counting converts, Luke tells us that about 3,000 people were baptized in Acts 2:41. Someone must have been counting!
The problem we run into is when we put an undue amount of emphasis and attention upon the numbers. When numbers become good publicity they become dangerous.
A preacher who is more concerned with the written figure on paper than with the unwritten faith upon the heart of an individual will likely convince many unbelievers that they have received salvation.
Assume that if they grew up in a Christian home then they’re good.
It can be easy to assume that children of believing parents know and believe the gospel because they grew up in the church.
The danger here is that the children of believing parents are some of the best at hiding their condition of their hearts. Memorization of dozens or even hundreds of Bible verses, attending nearly every church function, even good behavior is not proof that a child understands the gospel.
The work of gospel preaching must never simply assume that someone understands and believes. We must always continually strive to communicate the gospel in various ways, making it clear and understandable to all people in every culture.