Robin Russell at the UM Portal describes an article from the Baptist Standard,
explaining step-by-step instructions on how to become a Christian. (Hat tip to John Meunier) After listing them, she asks,
And I wondered if a United Methodist were asked, "How do I become a Christian?" what would be the response?
A colleague here in the newsroom only half-jokingly commented: "Perhaps that's why we have problems with evangelism."
Any fresh responses out there beyond: "Um, come to church with me?"
Part of the difficulty, I think, is in the question itself. I'm reminded of the old joke, where a visitor to New York asks a local, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The local, who happens to be a professional musician, replies, "Practice, practice, practice."
Christianity is not like building a bookshelf from a kit. You can't just follow a short set of step-by-step instructions -- Insert tab A "grace" into slot B "guilt," and you're done! No, Christianity is a transformation of the whole self, a journey that lasts a lifetime (and beyond).
And the roads that lead us there may be different for different people. For myself, it was a sense of loneliness, not the "lostness" the Baptist Standard requires, that paved the way for me to first experience God. And it was a mystical experience, not an intellectual understanding about Jesus' sacrifice, that started me along the journey.
I find the journey metaphor helpful in another way, too: If you're giving someone directions to get to your house, the first step is to find their starting point. "Go south on I-35 to the 119th Street exit," might get some people started on the right road, but it is likely to get other people completely lost.
Likewise, "How do I become a Christian?" is a highly subjective question. How they will get there is going to depend largely on where they are right now.
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." To the thief on the cross, Jesus simply said, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
So how do we answer someone who asks, "How do I become a Christian?" First, we get to know them, understand who they are and where they are. It is only as we build relationships with people that we can help them answer that question. Otherwise, we may unintentionally lead them away from where they need to go.