Five Types of Christian Conversion

One the mistakes that Christians often make is to assume that their own conversion experience is normative for how people come to Christ, generally.  The truth is that there are a variety of ways in which God the Father draws people to His Son Jesus Christ by the working of Holy Spirit.  Not everyone will experience the crushing burden guilty that Martin Luther did.  Not everyone will come to faith in a crisis moment, but some will come to faith more gradually.  In order to not impose our own experience upon other people, we must learn to appreciate the varied manner in which God works.  To that end, I found the following passage from Wilhelmus à Brakel to be an excellent summary of the different types of conversion.  I myself have not read à Brakel’s books, but a pastor friend posted this online and it was so good that I wanted to pass it on:

"(1) Some are converted in a very sudden manner, as in one moment. Such was the case with Zacchaeus, the thief on the cross, many on the day of Pentecost, and the jailer. With others this transpires less rapidly.

Voting for a Sermon

Larry Dinkinsguest post by Dr. Larry Dinkins

 

I tried an experiment in a Thai church I was asked to preach at recently. As a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate I always try to prepare my expositional messages well ahead of time and end up spending many hours in preparation. Yet I departed from my usual regimen on this occasion and found myself standing in the pulpit on this particular Sunday saying something I had never said in 40 years of preaching, "Congregation, I have to be honest and tell you that I'm not sure what I'll be preaching on today." They gave me a rather blank stare and then I put a PowerPoint slide in Thai on the screen with the title and references to 15 Bible stories, "You see today I want you as a congregation to "vote" for one of these 15 stories. The one that gets the most votes will be the one that I will preach on." Before they voted, I asked for 6-7 people to tell the congregation which story was their favorite from the list and to convince the rest in just a minute of why they should vote for that story. One Thai lady got so carried away in her appeal that she almost told the entire story. When the votes from the 50 or so that were present were counted, the majority voted for the story of the poor widow who gave her two coins (Mark 12:41-44). Fortunately this was the shortest story on the list. I briefly looked the story over and then for the next 40 minutes I led them through that story in a "Simply The Story" style (www.simplythestory.org). The response was quite encouraging and I promised to return for another "election" in the future.

 

How to Make Your Own Sunday School Curriculum

The other day a missionary friend called me for recommendations for Sunday school curriculum in Thai that he could use for a small church plant on the outskirts of Bangkok.  There was only one that I could think of, but I didn’t know if it was in print anymore.  I was stumped for a moment.  What could I recommend to him... that was in Thai?  What do you do if you don’t have any ready-made materials to put in the hands of the Sunday school teachers at your church?  What if there just isn’t anything available?

Then it dawned on me. Just tell Bible stories.  But not just any stories.  And not in any old way. Select a set of stories from the Old Testament and New Testament, and systematically work your way through the entire Bible.  And don’t just tell a story, but help the kids really learn the story and discover what it means.  Get it in their heads.  Get it in their hearts.  A couple years back, I started learning how to do Bible storytelling via Simply the Story, and ever since then I’ve been seeing ways to put it into practice all over the place.

First Steps in Sharing the Gospel with a Thai Buddhist

I sometimes get email from Christians living outside of Thailand who want to know how to share the Gospel with a Thai friend, neighbor, relative, etc.   It is easy to think that can Thai Buddhists are so different from the standard secular or Christian Westerner, that sharing the Gospel with them will be really difficult or will require a lot of special knowledge.  The good news is that although there are differences, they are not so vast that it is impossible to share the Gospel effectively.  In this short post, I want to give just a few pointers to get you started in sharing Christ with a Thai Buddhist that you know.  


Although it is not absolutely necessary, if you want to share the Gospel with Thai Buddhists it is good to know a bit about Thai Buddhism.  Alex Smith’s little book, "A Christian's Pocket Guide to Buddhism" is a good place to learn about Buddhism.  But even before you go out and buy a book, just ask your Thai Buddhist friend about what they believe and what Buddhism means for them.  Most people like to talk about themselves, and many Thai are open to talking about religion.  Buddhism has a lot of diversity within it, so reading a book will only give you a general idea about Buddhism.  No book can tell you what an individual person thinks about their religion.  It is okay to talk about differences in beliefs, but if you can avoid saying things that sound like you are insulting Buddhism, that will go over better.  And pointing out what you perceive as logical inconsistencies in Buddhism probably won’t further the conversation as much as you might hope.  Asking about their faith with a real desire to know, however, may open the way for your Thai friend to ask about your faith as well.

How to Listen to a Bad Sermon

You’re at church.  Maybe it’s your own church, or maybe you’re just visiting.  But as the preacher gets going, it becomes obvious that his sermon is going nowhere.  Maybe it is just dull.  Or maybe he is spouting off his own opinion with the Scriptures as a springboard.  Or maybe it is moralistic or allegorical.  Or maybe the preacher is simply getting the Bible wrong, twisting the meaning of the passage at hand.  There are a thousand variations of the bad sermon.  But when you are locked in to listening to a bad sermon, how should you respond?

The typical way that I respond to a bad sermon is to sit quietly and stew about how bad it is.  Then when we get home from church, I complain to my wife about how bad it was, and list all the reasons it was bad.  This elicits empathy from my wife, who also had to sit through the bad sermon (though she is sometimes less affected by it when our kids are squirmy).  While I admit that getting upset about how bad it was is my gut level reaction, it is not all that helpful.  I go to church to encounter God, to worship Him, to listen to His Word, and to be built up.  Meditating on all the reasons why the sermon is bad doesn’t really accomplish any of those goals.  There is, of course, a place for critiquing bad sermons (I wrote a whole blog series about this), but there is also something to be said for redeeming bad sermons, and avoiding bitterness.  The reason that I can sometimes get bitter about bad sermons is that I am hoping to hear something good from God’s Word and then have my hopes dashed.  But it is no fun to live in the gall of bitterness.  And it certainly does not honor God.

Why Thai Churches Don’t Send Missionaries

Missions: Not on the Radar ScreenToday I asked the students in my world missions class if their home churches send out missionaries.  They looked at each other, then looked at me and said, “Uh, no.”  Granted, my class was only 13 students but from what I have observed in Thai churches, sending out cross-cultural missionaries is on nobody’s priority list.  

Thankfully, there are some Thai missionaries. Unfortunately, I can count all of them on one hand.  Why is this?  Why is it that a country that has received thousands of missionaries over the years hardly sends out any of its own?

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