Tag Archives: Baptism

Why Religious Conversion Is More Than Joining a Church

A Muslim man once confidently told me that everyone born in the United States is a Christian, unless his family is Muslim or Jewish. I did not ask him what that means for people from Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Sikh, or Baha’i families, nor did I ask what it meant for people who intentionally convert to one of these religions later in life.

A convert is, simply, a person who has been converted – that is, a person who has chosen to be altered or transformed. In religious conversion, a person who believed certain things about God and existence comes to believe other things and adjusts his or her life accordingly.

I know little about the way other religions view conversion or the expectations they consider appropriate for converts. If they are anything like those placed on Christian converts, they vary widely from group to group. Among the many groups that claim allegiance to Jesus, some require only a verbal profession of faith. Others expect regular church attendance, participation in instructional classes, and personal accountability in an ongoing relationship with a spiritual mentor.

Whether a simple confession or many months of intensive training, most Christian groups see the process of conversion culminating in the admission of the prospective convert into the church family, usually at baptism. This, I think, is a mistake, which does not serve the convert or the church, and does not align well with the biblical data on the nature of transformation. Continue reading

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The Emu and the Kangaroo (Matthew 28:18-20) – What Is Baptism All About?

Many countries have a national coat of arms, often featuring magnificent beasts and birds, like the majestic lion and the soaring eagle. They carefully chose such images to convey the idea that their people are courageous and strong.

The Australian coat of arms also features two animals: The emu, a graceless bird that can’t even fly, and a kangaroo. Courage and strength are hardly the first things one thinks of when seeing the comical-looking emu and kangaroo. Why did Australia choose those two animals?

Because they share a common characteristic with which the Australians identify: Both the emu and the kangaroo can only move forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving backwards by its large tail.
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