Have you ever prayed the “sinner’s prayer”?
It’s the standard evangelistic method of conversion that sounds something like this:
I know I’m a sinner. Please forgive me. Now come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior.
The basic premise of the prayer isn’t bad per se, but it creates a very strange set of bi-products, not the least of which is transactional theology (i.e. “Scratch my back, God, and I’ll scratch yours”). It gets people into this weird, works-based relationship with God that inevitably leads to burnout and spiritual fatigue.
Another nasty bi-product is the tendency to treat people as projects. As math problems waiting to be solved. As a notch in the proverbial evangelism belt. “If I can just get them to pray this prayer….” the thinking goes.
Here’s a novel idea: What if we really loved people? More specifically, what if we didn’t treat them like transactions? What if we loved people even if they never showed any outward signs of changing? Even if they never prayed any sort of prayer acknolwedging their sin? What do you think would happen?
Simply put, what if you, Christian, never attempted to change another person’s behavior as long as you lived?
Most people know when they’re someone’s project. I know I certainly do. I don’t like being someone’s project. I like being treated like a human being.