One of the truths in ministry I’ve been reminding myself lately is that I need to be about the business of converting the converted. Granted, I can’t give life to anyone’s heart and enable them to turn to the living Christ. Only God’s Spirit can accomplish that endeavor. But when I speak of converting of the converted, I mean I am to help those who only think they belong to Christ, realize their need for the gospel.
Initially this might appear to be an arrogant assumption. It is true, I cannot see into the heart. I can’t make guarantees for who has or hasn’t genuinely received Christ as God and King. But I am reminded of Christ’s sobering words in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” There will be those who think themselves converted by God in Christ only to find out in the end that they were alienated from God and his grace. Dare I say I encounter some of those individuals every week at my church – the ones who see Jesus as another accoutrement to their life, not wanting him but only the gift he gives, ready to abandon him at any moment of discomfort or inconvenience. In the West, it’s hard to pastor churches full of rich young rulers (cf., Lk. 18:18-23).
I’m further reminded of this sad reality when I hear parishioners talk about their confidence in morality as justification for their right standing with God, or how he loves them less when they drop the ball spiritually, or why their religious activity is an indication of their favor with him– and all this while holding big, thick Bibles faded and tattered not from neglect but consistent use. All of it grows my conviction that, especially in the South (i.e., Bible Belt), part of my calling is to convert the converted. What does this mean for a pastor?
Chiefly, I believe it means he should be tireless in the proclamation of the gospel from the pulpit. Like many of my Reformed forebears, I am persuaded that the gospel isn’t just a door we walk through but the room where we live. In other words, Christ crucified doesn’t only show me where eternal life begins but from where (and whom) it continues to flow. Thus, the gospel is for both the unbeliever and believer and should proceed from the pulpit with great regularity. However, I sense neglect from some preachers of gospel-oriented preaching because it may feel remedial for the older believers in the congregation. They’ve heard this before and need something different, something more. My earlier comments notwithstanding, let me encourage you to keep faithfully and consistently reminding your congregants of the gospel from the pulpit if only for the fact that the continual ringing of the grace bell will, over time, be a clarion call finally heard by many of those who already think they’ve received the gospel…but haven’t.
In a world given to a consumer, pseudo-faith called Christianity, Inc., my dear pastor, make it your mission to convert the converted.