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Back to the City January 4, 2009

Posted by clintcarter in Books, Church Planting.

I finished reading “Cities of God” – see my previous thoughts here.

Stark dug up some great research on conversion.  Check out these 2 critical points:

  • Doctrines are of very secondary importance in the initial decision to convert
  • Conversion almost exclusively happens when interpersonal ties to members of an organization overbalance interpersonal ties to those outside of the group

The first couple of chapters were excellent.  After that the book turned more statistical and was a slower read.  There were still a few “aha” moments, but you have to wade through a lot of information to find them.

A couple of new thoughts which were fascinating for me:  1) “oriental” religions that preceded Christianity and how they helped prepare the Greco-Roman world for the gospel  2) how Hellenized Jews throughout the Roman Empire were religious and cultural fertile ground for the message and practices of Christianity – AND that the majority of the personal ministry of the Apostle Paul was to Hellenized Jews.

There were definitely some very relevant thoughts in this book as we consider how to most effectively bring the gospel to a region.



1. Rick - January 4, 2009

“AND that the majority of the personal ministry of the Apostle Paul was to Hellenized Jews.”

Yes…exactly. There are logical implication to the way we conduct international ministries and church planting if we are wanting to follow the pattern of Paul.

I agree on the latter chapters. Slow reading.

2. Steven Jones - January 4, 2009

I haven’t read the book or the other post you made about it, but from what I read here I have a concern. There seems to be a lower view of sound doctrine in the initial decision to convert to Christianity, according to the author. I’m hoping the author defines conversion outside of social assimilation. Christianity is first and foremost, as the Bible conveys it, identifying yourself with the death and resurrection of Christ. Isn’t doctrine simply an affirmation of Scripture and its teaching? Without the Christ of the Bible there is no conversion. Of course, the Bible hasn’t always been available to present Christ. On the other hand, the God of the Bible has been available.

What if it isn’t thorough doctrine that has been primary to conversion? Paul did speak to the Corinthians in 1 Corinth. 3 as though they had little to no understanding or right response to sound doctrine. He did acknowledge their place in Christ but rebuked them heartily. I can, then, only deduce that, no matter what methods have been pragmatic in historical conversion, sound doctrine is essential to true Christianity. Even at the beginning of a person’s walk of belief in the Savior. All this being true even if knowledge comes with time and repentance.

3. clintcarter - January 5, 2009

Thanks for the push back Steve. You are absolutely right in your concern about conversion being more than social assimilation. There must be a high view of doctrine within the church along with an accurate presentation of what conversion means. Perhaps I did not state the point in context.
There is not a lower view of sound doctrine in the initial decision to convert, the author is only recognizing the data that very few come to a new faith apart from relationships with others who are apart of the faith.
It’s not a lower view of the truth, only the realization that someone outside of the faith isn’t likely to have much interaction with the gospel until they interact with the people of the gospel. The call of the gospel is a call to a new way of living. Check out what 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 says.
“But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
Thanks Steve, for challenging me to think through it more thoroughly.

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