Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Agree or Disagree? The Motive of Conversion

In their book, To Transform a City, Eric Swanson and Sam Williams remark:

Conversion is our ultimate motive but not our ulterior motive in loving and serving others.  ‘Ultimate motive’ means that we absolutely want every person on earth to be in a right relationship with God through Jesus, in the same way that God does not desire any to perish but all to come to repentance.  But ‘ulterior motive’ means that we do acts of love and service toward others so that they become Christians (which could signify that if they don’t become Christians, we stop loving and serving).  It is important to remember that we don’t engage in the needs, dreams, and pains of our communities so that they will become Christians; rather we engage the community because we are Christians.  (Swanson/Williams, To Transform a City, p58 emphasis mine) 

Mainly I am asking whether you agree or disagree with the italicized section.  I will be reviewing this book as part of this blog tour later in the week. 


  1. Great question! I want to agree with both. Are they necessarily opposed?

  2. Andrew,

    Great question. I probably did not do an adequate job of really framing the question. My question is really this, "Do you agree that we do not engage culture so that they will become Christians?"

    Sometimes I'll pull these quotes out and ask "agree or disagree" just so we think a little deeper.

  3. It's weird because I think I agree with what they mean to some degree, but not necessarily with how they are saying it. A missionary specifically "engages a culture" so that people "will become Christians." Is that wrong? And if it's not wrong for them, why is it wrong in our own culture. The issue is really an issue of honesty. If you are going to talk to someone about spiritual things, don't pretend you're really just there to take a survey or have a picnic or whatever. Bait and switch is lying in my book. But as followers of Christ, engaging the "culture" (a term fraught with issues in itself) for the sake of the gospel seems to me to be part of our mission. But we shouldn't simply misuse or abuse people in any way in fulfilling that mission.



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