Can “nice” be a pejorative? Can all those songs we sing in church about “Jesus healing me” be wrongheaded? That group of people who come together on Sunday – is what they are about simply coming together on Sunday?
In Conversion: How God Creates a People, Michael Lawrence, senior pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, takes these questions and more, applies basic Christian doctrine, and outlines a view of the church that is historic, Biblical, and real. It’s startling to see the simplicity of Biblical doctrine applied like this – and to see just how radical it really is.
Take “nice,” for example. In too many churches today, the prevailing doctrine is the doctrine of “nice.” Things work like they’re supposed to as long as we’re “nice.” Everyone gets along because we’re all so “nice.” Being “nice” is doing all the right things.
Lawrence juxtaposes the doctrine of the new creation against the doctrine of “nice,” and “nice” doesn’t fare well. At all.
And he goes one, in what is a relatively short (128 pages) work packed with this same kind of upending discussion. Sincerity doesn’t save our souls. Christian conversion is not a decision you make. Faith is not about healing (the so-called “therapeutic model” that has engulfed everything form the church to education and politics). The church, and churches, are to be distinct, not designed like some marketing brand. In fact, the church isn’t about marketing at all.
It’s a sobering account. It’s also a hopeful one.
Lawrence is the author of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church (2010) and co-author of It is Well: Expositions in Substitutionary Atonement (2010). He’s also a regular contributing writer to anthologies and a number of Christian print and online publications. He received a B.A> degree in English Literature from Duke University, a Masters of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a Ph.D. in church history from Cambridge University. He and his family live in Portland.
Conversion is part of the 9Marks Series for Building Healthy Churches. It tackles the basics of conversion and what it means in both contemporary culture and contemporary church culture.
Top photograph by Viktor Jakovlev via Unsplash. Used with permission.