Organized. Systematized. Routinized.
I have come to feel concerned about one aspect of the organized church's methods of evangelism. And I suppose it stems from the highly unusual way I got saved, myself.
I shall explain.
When I was in the Sixth Grade ... as in the picture over there ... a couple of things were going on that really affected me. One was that Russia had The Bomb, and we knew it. I can even recall air raid drills in Grade School, after WWII was over ... as if sitting in the hall with our arms covering our heads was somehow going to protect us from an atomic blast.
The second thing was that our Air Force began flying Convair B-36 Bombers. They were loaded with nuclear weapons, and flew over the USA all night long (perhaps during the day, too, but I never heard them, then). As we lived in a small house in a suburb of Chicago, and had no air conditioning, we routinely slept with the windows open.
Now the B-36 had a very distinctive droning sound. Eerie, in fact, and particularly to an 11-year-old kid in a suburb of what was assumed to be a target city .... should Russia have decided to attack us, in which case those B-36's would have turned and headed for the Soviet Union. Hearing them fly over us, very high, in the night caused me to worry about what would happen to me if the USSR actually decided to attack us.
After lying in bed many nights, I started worrying about what it would be like to simply not exist. No me ... no consciousness ... no awareness of anything. And that is a depressing thought for an 11-year-old kid. It occurs to me, now, that the fact that we are spiritual beings is behind our inability to imagine not existing. But that was not on my radar at age 11.....
That worry had an effect on my behavior, during the summer of 1949. I was a normally-happy kid, but the juvenile depression had me poking at my food, not talking much, and exhibiting behaviors of that sort.
Now, my dad had been around me enough to know something was wrong, and one evening after I'd poked at my dinner and not eaten much, he came into the darkened living room, where I was sitting, and asked me what was wrong. My response, which is seared into my memory, nearly 70 years later, was "I'm afraid of dying." His response, equally dominant in my memory, was:
if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to Heaven?"
Then, through a series of providential events, we ended up on the other side of Indianapolis, and in a Bible Study in a friend's living room. It was the first time I had ever really dug into Scripture, and it was filled with overwhelming revelations, for me.
We visited around at different churches, and I ran from altar to altar, looking for some sort of "experience" ... like those I had heard glowingly described by some of my friends. Of course, I didn't find any, but I did eventually come to the conclusion that I really was saved.
I was saved the moment I trusted Jesus!
I didn't know anything about metanoia repentance or the kabod Glory of God. All I knew was that, if I believed in Jesus, He'd take me to Heaven when I died. And that was good enough for me. I trusted Him to do that.
One quote I'd heard in those days, about children who were saved at an early age, was this: "He gave as much of himself as he could give, to as much of Jesus as he could take". BINGO! That's what I had done at age 11! It was almost as if I had been a fish, caught by the Great Fisher of Men, who looked at me and said "He needs to grow some more", so put me on a stringer and tossed me back into the lake.
When it suited Him, He reeled me back in.
These days, the organized church seems to have organized, systematized, and "routine-ized" salvation ... inside our churches at least ... into "Walk that aisle, say this prayer, fill out this card, and wade into this water". And when I ponder that, I wonder if we are not omitting something that started me on the Right Road when I was eleven years old:
Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I'm eternally grateful that the Starting Post, for me, was Trusting Jesus to take me to Heaven when I die.
He can be trusted to do that.
ps: I've seen too many people respond to The Invitation, seeking assurance of salvation, to dismiss my thoughts completely.