Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Concerns Over the "Sinner's Prayer:" An Example

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the primary reason that some [members of churches that are in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention] are concerned about the "Sinner's Prayer" is because the "Sinner's Prayer" is not biblical. Use of a "Sinner's Prayer" is found in neither the commands nor examples of evangelism in Scripture, and the idea that a person needs an unbiblical scripted prayer is inconsistent with what the Scripture teaches concerning repentance and faith: i.e., if a person truly desires to call out to God in "godly sorrow" and love for Christ, he won't need to use another person's words.

The fruit of using the "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism also renders the practice suspect. I would contend that using the "Sinner's Prayer" has been a major contributing factor as to why LifeWay research has shown that about 60% of Southern Baptist church members are not present in any church on any given Lord's Day. I had intended to give three examples of how I have seen the "Sinner's Prayer" directly lead to bad results, but it is getting late-- and this post is already getting long-- so I will limit myself to one personal example.

The last time that I utilized the "Sinner's Prayer" in a gospel presentation was several years ago, when I was an employee at Publix Supermarkets. During shift breaks, I was committed to telling my co-workers the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done. One day I had a very good conversation with a co-worker who I'll refer to here as "T." I asked him if anyone had ever personally explained the gospel to him. He said "no," so I asked him if I could show him a booklet I had. He said "sure," so I led him in looking through the Four Spiritual Laws tract, because that was the gospel tract that I happened to have on me at the time. T didn't seem to be very interested, so I was surprised when we got to the end, and he said he was willing to pray the "Sinner's Prayer" printed there. I led T in praying the prayer and encouraged him to come to church with me the following Sunday. He said that he would probably go to the church where his family attended. Then we had to get back to work.

My shifts at Publix didn't really match up with T's for a couple of weeks after the conversation I just related, so I didn't get to talk with him much to "follow up." I asked T a couple of times whether he had been to church and he said "no." Then I overheard T talking to some friends about going out and partying over the weekend in terms that seemed decidedly unChristian.

So I wanted to ask T about our previous conversation: to ask him if Jesus had really made any change in his life. "Hey, man," I said to him the next time we were in the break room together, "do you ever read your Bible or pray?" "I pray every day!" T said. "What are your prayers like?" I asked. "Every day before I go to bed I pray the prayer in that back of that booklet you gave me!" he answered. I realized that he was using the "Sinner's Prayer" as some kind of magic charm to make him feel like he was spiritually OK. Now, I was in the position of needing to tell him that the "Sinner's Prayer," which had been the culmination of the previous gospel presentation, was useless to him without a changed heart.

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