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Transforming Conversion

Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation

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"Seminary students, missionaries, preachers, and other church leaders involved in the wider conversation of missional church and church renewal would benefit greatly from reading this book."--K. Rex Butts, Restoration Quarterly
This volume offers much-needed contemporary theological reflection on the phenomenon of conversion and transformation. Gordon Smith provides a robust evaluation that covers the broad range of thinking about conversion across Christian traditions and addresses global contexts. Smith contends that both in the church and in discussions about contemporary mission, the language of conversion inherited from revivalism is inadequate in helping to navigate the questions that shape how we do church, how we approach faith formation, how evangelism is integrated into congregational life, and how we witness to the faith in non-Christian environments. We must rethink the nature of the church in light of how people actually come to faith in Christ. After drawing on ancient and pre-revivalist wisdom about conversion, Smith delineates the contours of conversion and Christian initiation for today's church. He concludes with a discussion of the art of spiritual autobiography and what it means to be a congregation.

Transforming Conversion will be useful in evangelism, spirituality, missions, ecclesiology, soteriology, and practical ministry courses. Pastors, church leaders, and thoughtful lay readers will also appreciate this book.
1. The Language of Conversion: Revivalism and the Evangelical Experience
2. Conversion and the Redemptive Purposes of God
3. Chapters in the History of an Idea: Part 1
4. Chapters in the History of an Idea: Part 2
5. Conversion and Spiritual Maturity: Avoiding the Worst Tragedy in Life
6. The Contours of a Christian Conversion
7. The Penitential Dimension of Conversion
8. The Sacramental Dimension of Conversion
9. Spiritual Autobiography and Conversion Narrative
10. What Then Does It Mean to Be a Congregation?


"Transforming Conversion is a welcome addition to the growing literature on conversion. With great skill, Smith explores the fields of biblical studies, theology, church history, and religious biography to develop new language to capture the complexity of conversion. Unwilling to be confined to the outdated and inaccurate language of revivalism, Smith articulates a holistic understanding of conversion to guide renewed modes of outreach for a church often paralyzed toward evangelism in the twenty-first century."--Richard Peace, Robert Boyd Munger Professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This is an important book and full of surprises. What appears to be a simple historical survey of 'conversion literature' turns into a serious work on the theology of conversion. Transforming Conversion is of ecumenical interest because Smith's attention to the doctrinal and sacramental aspects of conversion goes far to bridge the divide separating evangelicals from Orthodox and Catholic believers. It is heartily recommended."--Patrick Henry Reardon, senior editor, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity

The Author

  1. Gordon T. Smith

    Gordon T. Smith

    Gordon T. Smith (PhD, Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University) is president of Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, and professor of systematic and spiritual theology. He has also taught at Regent College, Vancouver, and is the author of many...

    Continue reading about Gordon T. Smith


"Smith's Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation is quite satisfying. He's got all the right enemies, revivalism in particular, and he wants to sketch out an account of conversion that overcomes all the dualisms that dog the heels of modern Christianity--heart v. mind, body v. soul, individual v. community, personal v. sacramental. He places conversion within a broad account of God's cosmic action through Jesus and the Spirit, and emphasizes repeatedly that the Christian life is a life lived in a community of believers."--Peter J. Leithart,

"[Smith] presents a compelling case for why the church must take seriously not only the salvation of humankind but the conversion of humankind as well. . . . Throughout the entire volume Smith's tone remains critical yet balanced. . . . Smith's book is an excellent contribution to a theology of conversion and should be read especially by pastors. It is written in a very engaging style and . . . it is not overly academic. Footnotes are few and far between and theological concepts are simply explained. . . . [This book] deserves a good reading by many in the evangelical church. It is time that we begin anew to take God's command to evangelize seriously and this book is a good instruction manual on how to begin to make that happen."--Greg Peters, The Scriptorium (Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University)

"It is refreshing when so much attention of late has been given to the role of justification in saving believers from the divine retribution for sin that a book comes along to address what we are saved to: a life of Christian holiness lived in the life of the Spirit. . . . Transforming Conversion contains an important call for a paradigm shift in our understanding of conversion, along with a renewed vision for the Christian life itself. . . . I certainly hope this book finds its way into the hands of pastors, seminary students, and Christian lay leaders."--Mary Patton Baker, Themelios

"I recommend this book for those wishing a thorough library dealing with Lordship/works salvation."--Robert N. Wilkin, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society

"Seminary students, missionaries, preachers, and other church leaders involved in the wider conversation of missional church and church renewal would benefit greatly from reading this book. . . . Smith offers a much-needed correction to the typical view of conversion found in contemporary Christianity."--K. Rex Butts, Restoration Quarterly

"An important contribution to the existing literature on conversion and, indeed, a necessary one."--John W. Nyquist, Trinity Journal