Is Conversion a Goal?
by Frank DeSiano, CSP
I have often thought that some evangelical approaches to evangelization are too focused on the experience of conversion. Indeed, I have found it paradoxical that, starting with a message that only grace (and no human work) brings salvation, some people are guided to a quite vivid work—the decision for conversion.
Another puzzlement to me has been the way conversion seems to be the goal of evangelization in the mind of some. This view suggests that once a person has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then salvation is achieved, in that very moment of conversion.
Conversion, however, is not a goal or an end. It is the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Christ that forms a person in discipleship. Unless the “converted” person is open to growing as disciple, living an active relationship with God through Jesus, the Spirit and the Christian community, then something has gone wrong.
We Catholics can have our own version of this issue with the structure of the R.C.I.A. Often one hears, anecdotally, of people disappearing after the great sacraments of Easter, skipping out on “mystagogia,” and, more troubling, sometimes not persevering even in Sunday worship, let alone other marks of discipleship.
So we can get hung up on the process. One kind of process might be quite psychological, as a convert turns his/her life over to Jesus; another process might be quite social, as the community surrounding the R.C.I.A. completes its weekly gatherings. But any process has meaning only insofar as people build upon the initial experience of conversion and grow beyond it, recognizing that full conversion is an ongoing and lifelong journey.
Perhaps a clearer picture of conversion, and its place, might be helpful to everyone involved. Any resonance with this line of reflection?