I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Last week I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and then offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.” I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).
Today I want to ask about the “salvation moment.” In my church growing up there was a lot of emphasis placed upon this salvation moment. You wanted to be able to point to a particular moment when you “accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour.” Often this moment was predicated on praying a prayer “asking Jesus into your heart”. These moments were (in my experience) often the result of pressure whether in the form of an emotional altar call, a threat of Hell, or an older teen “helping” a small child to pray a prayer that he or she didn’t understand. This was also the moment that all evangelism led up to: moving someone to the moment of decision.
As I’ve left the church of my youth (and especially as I have left behind the doctrine of Hell), I have left behind the idea of a salvation moment.
I’m wondering if I/we need to revisit that idea. Is there a moment (or even moments) in our liberal/mainline/progressive experience that a person can point to and say, “This is the moment I decided to follow Jesus”? And to push it even farther, is that moment even important?
For those who grow up in the church, those who have absorbed the faith over the years, what does salvation mean? If you convert as an adult there is a clear moment (or at least trajectory) of decision. You have decided to make the way of Jesus the way you attempt to live, you have thrown in your lot with these other Christ followers, but for those who have never left the church, what does salvation mean, especially if you believe in a universal salvation?
If we understand salvation as a journey, a lifelong process, is there still a way to account for a salvation moment? Is this a question that matters to you?