Tag Archives: prayer

Christian Culture Church Leadership Inspiration Theology

How to Make Disciples and Why I Don’t Like the Sinners’ Prayer

     If converting people to Christianity was like buying shoes, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is like swiping the credit card and signing the receipt. It’s kind of the linchpin to a proselytizing session. The goal of all the selling, persuading, and smiling is to get the person that believes differently than you to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” And like the credit card, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is an invention to make the transaction as simple as possible.

     I was trained as a teenager to proselytize my friends to my faith. I was trained to get into conversations, and the ultimate goal was to seal the deal by getting people to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

     My first encounter with the prayer was after a terrifying Christian play. I might have mentioned this before. I was 12 yrs old, and I attended a play consisting of something like 20 vignettes of people just before some sort of freak accident (like a brick wall falling on them). Each vignette then depicted the characters waking up in front of an angel with a book, and if they at some point in their life said the “Sinner’s Prayer” and really believed it, then the Hallelujah Chorus would play and they’d get to go to heaven. 

     However, the majority of the characters had not said this prayer, so Satan and his demons would slink from the wings to drag these poor souls, kicking and screaming, into a hell of cray paper and strobe lights. At the end of the play, some guy that I didn’t know and didn’t know me came out and told me that I needed to give my life to Jesus or I would go to hell, and then he led me and other scared children in the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Transaction complete, I even got a receipt.

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advent Spiritual Practices Youth Ministry

God of the Present Tense

Every now and then, when I’m teaching at youth group, a teenager will roll his or her eyes at me and say something like, “We’ve already learned this, ugh! We already know this!” Most of the time, I resist throwing whatever is in my hand at the teen that makes the comment (most of the time), but it always gets me thinking about what I’m teaching, “Have they heard this all before? Am I boring? Am I making God’s Word boring (which is a sin if you didn’t know)? If they know all this, what am I suppose to teach them?” Then there comes a moment of thankfulness, because I remember that God often speaks through the complaints of teenagers whether they know it or not, and this complaint reveals something that I’ve forgotten—the thing that’s really important in youth ministry…scratch that, all ministry.

We are coming up on the Christmas Season in the church. I’m willing to bet that we are going to hear familiar stories, see familiar colors, and hear familiar songs. I really doubt anyone will say, “Boring! Heard it! I know all this stuff already!” When I think about the repetition of this story, year in and year out, I’m reminded that ministry, worship, and community (the things that make us who we are) are much more than simply the transfer of knowledge. We already know the story, but when we hear it again, we are reminded that God’s love is present, right here and right now. Ministry, worship, and community help us experience God’s love right now, in our very present.

I’m guilty of trying to make my ministry primarily about teaching teens things that they’ve never heard. Some times I forget that ministry is about letting teens experience God in the present, after all, the present, this present moment is the only place that we can experience God. It’s the only place that we are. We already know so many truths—God is love, God loves us, there is nothing more that we can do to be any more loved than we are right now. The trick is remembering it in this very moment.

There are so many things in our pasts and in our futures that tempt us to regret or worry, when the truth is that God is present to you right now, loving you more than you can imagine. So rest in that love, right now. And right now. And right now. It’s always exciting to hear a new idea or new knowledge, but sometimes we just need to remember the things we know, and be present to God in the moment. Merry Christmas!