I struggled for a long time (13+ years) with whether I was really a Christian. I came to Christ around age 15 and started learning about God from every possible angle. I devoured books, searched scripture, and asked teachers, pastors, friends, and bible study leaders endless questions. I even ended up at a Christian college where they poured even more knowledge on me. This was all part of my process or the pregnancy that preceded my spiritual birth or the radical transformation that takes place when we follow Christ. This process was not a decisive moment in my past that I can point to without hesitation. Many of our conversions are like that and the book I am about to tell you about will help open your eyes to understanding your journey is exactly the way God intended it, and there is something mighty beautiful about that.
Spiritual Birthline: Understanding How We Experience the New Birth by Stephen E. Smallman is a powerful work in a small package. The author extends the metaphor Christ uses to articulate the new birth to Nicodemus in John 3 by applying it to the entire spiritual journey. This means there is conception, a period of pregnancy, the birth, and then nursing and growth that results in a more mature believer. Not only is thinking through this model an effective exercise for individuals, it provides pastors and leaders a framework to discuss conversion with people in their congregation.
The following timeline shows the parallel between the physical birth and spiritual birth:
After emphasizing how important it is to grow a relationship and ask questions to establish trust with an individual, Smallman shares how various people respond to the metaphor and describe their own journey. One man came to understand that his new birth came after a 65 year pregnancy. What is refreshing about the perspective this book takes is that we do not have control over where we are on our journey. It’s by God’s grace and mercy to us that the veil is removed from our eyes and we come to know His truth at all.
There is no cookie cutter way to come to Christ. It often does not occur in a single moment through praying a prayer like our culture might suggest. The model above simply provides the means to describe our circumstances from our own perspectives and helps us understand the process of conversion. It’s a helpful tool for discipleship and evangelism, and I recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position whether that is in a church or your own family. There is even a chapter on discussing conversion with your children and Smallman’s four grown children each describe their vastly different experiences in coming to Christ. This book will do one of two things: either it will absolutely change your perspective on the conversion process of someone you know or it will reinforce some deeper instincts you have had about your own journey by allowing you to embrace the long or short road God brought you down. It is currently $9.99 on Kindle at Amazon.
Length: 176 pages
Reading time: about 4 hours