“If you die tonight, and you are not 100% sure that you will go to heaven, pray this prayer with me!”
“If you are 99% sure that you are saved, you are 100% lost!”
Of all the things I heard in my youth group and camp experiences growing up, these two quotes stuck out to me the most. They are used all the time. Usually, to follow it up, the evangelist/preacher that says these kinds of things will post on twitter afterward “54 saved tonight! #booyeah!” Why? What is so good about saying any of that?
Christian culture is obsessed with numbers. “Get ‘em saved, and bounce.” That’s basically the model that we follow. But it goes a little further than even that. Christian culture distorts the meaning of biblical Christianity by doing things like this. It doesn’t work. The majority of the people that I knew growing up who got saved under the guidance of an evangelist who said things like this dropped it and went back to doing whatever else it is they do, sometimes not even returning to church. That’s a problem, and it creates a lot of cognitive dissonance among Christians. I don’t think evangelists are intending to do any of this, but it is harmful, for a LOT of reasons. There are two main components that are missing from evangelical culture: 1. The freedom to doubt not just your salvation, but Christianity as a whole. 2. Discipleship.
Losing My Faith
I lost my faith when I was in seventh grade. Not because I didn’t believe in God anymore, but because I decided that there was no way to fully know, with complete and utter certainty, that I had been saved. Yeah, I had accepted Christ when I was six, so I really was a born again Christian, but I went through a painful moment where I couldn’t reconcile my salvation, which was in fact true, with the degree of certainty that many evangelists and pastors wanted me to. So, I felt that by their definition, I wasn’t a Christian.
The next step is a big one. Doubt. Oh yeah, you better believe I doubted the truth of Christianity. But it didn’t last for long. It was just an early high school thing that I more or less kept to myself. But even so, during that time, I was anxious. I was anxious because I was still hearing the 100% message that I had been hearing my entire life. This caused me to believe that I wasn’t a Christian. Yeah, I genuinely believe it. I was so scared to continue doubting, but I longed to be open-minded and learn the truth. But as I began to question certain truths of the faith, I began to become more comfortable with it. I mean, after all, Habakkuk did it, and God was fine with him.
Doubt is powerful. Without considering it, it can be difficult to learn. It is okay to go through periods of skepticism. God would much rather you gain knowledge than hide in ignorance. But don’t make doubt the center point of your life. I still go through periods where I doubt God, His motives, and other things. It’s part of human nature. We doubt. And it’s okay. I would say that the 100% message is most harmful in this category. If someone hears the Gospel at a summer camp, gets saved, and begins to doubt some small aspect of their Christian walk later, they will leave the Christian faith. No doubt about it (well, I guess there’s SOME doubt J). Evangelists, instead of trying to get numbers, should focus on teaching people to learn. They should teach people not to worry in times of doubt and frustration. Let me assure you of one thing, if you are 99% certain you are saved, you are most certainly not lost.
Finally, here is the most important step. Discipleship doesn’t happen. Christianity is not confined to ten minutes of your morning devotional or the moment you get saved. Christ has called us to become true disciples that walk with Him daily. This means that Christ should be radiating throughout every moment of our lives, not just a few. Evangelists need to teach people to continue to follow Christ, and not just live for that one moment of salvation. Being a Christian is not the moment of your salvation. Being a Christian is your life.
“Even the disciples doubted Jesus’s power — and that was after Jesus performed miracles in front of them, but, ultimately, faith invites us to trust and, more importantly, to look back over our lives and see God’s activity throughout.”