Evangelists and early church theologian Michael Green points out that the idea of conversion introduced three new realities into the first century:
1. Christian conversion required belief. In pagan religions one was not asked to believe in a god but to perform duties and rituals for the god.
2. Conversion to Christ implied ethical transformation. In Roman culture there was no connection between religion and behavior. You could follow this or that god and behave any way you wanted.
3. Conversion in the Christian sense implies devotion to Jesus and a belonging to his community. This also was strange to the Hellenistic mind. The mysteries were only open to those who belonged, but they did not demand an exclusive embrace. One could belong to other groups as well.
It is interesting that New Age religion and spirituality today is so thoroughly similar to the religions, mystery cults, and philosophies of the Hellenistic culture in which Christianity emerged. New Age religion and spirituality does not have a common set of beliefs and therefore does not require conversion to belief. Neither does it have a common ethical standard to which a person is required to conform. Nor does New Age spirituality have a distinct body of people to which a person belongs.
These three aspects of the Christian faith—believing, behaving, and belonging—constitute the nature of the Christian faith. The early church preached these three unique characteristics of Christian conversion in the ancient Roman and Hellenistic world. Pagan religion made no demand on what a person believed or how they behaved, and pagans had no community to which they belonged. So it is today. The church ministers in a secular society characterized by the widespread influence of a relativistic spirituality that makes no demands and offers no real hope.
To be effective in today’s world, the church must refrain from accommodation to the easy believism of the post-Christian culture and call people into a conversion that reshapes the way they think and live. The church must also provide a community of genuine relationships and support in which new Christians can grow.
 Webber, R. (2003). Ancient-future evangelism: Making your church a faith-forming community (66–67). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Published on Saturday, August 3, 2013 @ 4:25 AM CDT