by Pete Tegeler
The theologian Christoph Blumhardt said every Christian is called to be converted two times. Blumhardt believed that we are first converted to Christianity, from the world to God, but must be converted again, back to the world.
When I first heard Blumhardt’s suggestion, I was reminded of the conversion experience where someone steps into relationship with God for the first time, and then comes clean from the world by throwing out “secular” music, cleaning up their language, and even sometimes finding a whole new group of friends, just so they can reorient themselves as a Christian. But if that’s turning to God, what does being converted back into the world entail? What does that look like? Some might say that it’s when you start to initiate friendships with people who aren’t Christians by relating a bit more. Maybe you listen to secular music again. Maybe even just a cuss or two every now-and-again or a drink or two, just to let everyone know you’re not one of those “uptight Christians.”
That just doesn’t ring true to me. It strikes me as being too much of an escape from life as a Christian. And I don’t think that’s what Blumhardt had in mind either. It has more to do with what our driving force is. When we first turn toward God in conversion it’s a beautiful example of love and of worship as we become fully oriented toward him. Why shouldn’t we stay there? Because that’s not where God is fully oriented. Because God’s love is also oriented toward the world, so our love follows. God’s love in us must be the driving force to the people around us. It puts us back in the world. The point isn’t if we listen to Mumford & Sons or not. We must know that it’s God’s love in us that drives us, not to “secularism,” but to real people.
My friend illustrates this by referring to Pentecost; he says that we must be an upper room people that learn to go back downstairs. I’m sure that the experience of the upper room wasn’t easy to leave, and yet the apostles did leave, to go back down the stairs, and engage with real people in a real world. It was not safe for them. It was not convenient. I bet they wouldn’t have used the word “fun” to characterize their time downstairs. I’m sure there were times when they felt they had no idea what they were doing. Yet, they went to the places where Christianity is not the orientation to be Jesus there, and so must we.
So, perhaps we do have an example of what it looks like to be converted back to the world. The Bible again shows us the way. Being converted back into the world doesn’t entail a secularization of Christianity, it means we live a life of intention, as a missionary in whatever context we find ourselves in. To our next-door-neighbors, our co-workers, our baristas, and our table-tennis instructors ( What? You don’t have one of those?). By living as upstairs-Christians in a downstairs-world, we intentionally make ourselves available, relationally and spiritually, allowing God’s love to convert us once again.
Ways forward …
- Pray for the people in your life who have yet to experience that first conversion. Then pray some more.
- Be a missionary in your own context. Intentionally spend time in places where there is no God-ward orientation.
- Do you have anxiety about going downstairs? Self-consciousness? Pray through those feelings. Journal about why that may be.