Nearly 60 percent of evangelical leaders say that family members introduced them to the Christian faith, while nearly 20 percent came to faith through friends, according to the July Evangelical Leaders Survey. Eight percent credited Christian events, and 14 percent selected “Other.” None surveyed were introduced to Christianity through colleagues.
“Throughout the Bible the family is central to God’s vision for human beings and society,” said Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “As expected, family plays a foundational role in introducing the next generation to Jesus Christ. At the same time, evangelism beyond family is critical, especially in a post-Christian world.”
In many cases, evangelical leaders noted that more than one influence was in play. For Kim, it was a conversation with a friend in a parking lot after watching Star Wars that planted the seeds of the gospel in his life. A couple of years later, he had an unexpectedly charismatic conversion at a Korean-American Presbyterian conference.
Daryl Nuss, special counsel of the National Network of Youth Ministries, grew up in a Christian home with his mother taking the lead in spiritual nurture. “My parents’ influence cultivated my heart to know Christ. I made a more formal decision at a church camp, and after a crisis of faith my junior year in college, I made a very serious decision to follow Christ wherever he might lead,” he said.
Gregory Johnson, president of Standing Together, said, “My seventh-grade buddy, Eric, asked me as a Latter-day Saint youth to attend summer Bible camp just outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. That week changed my life, and I began to exchange religion and trying to be good for a personal friendship with Jesus Christ. I would later leave the Mormon faith to embrace an evangelical Christian worldview, and Jesus has been my Lord, my Savior, and my best friend ever since!”
Johnson founded Standing Together in 2001 to unite the Christian community in Utah through relational efforts of prayer, worship and strategic evangelism. He is also co-author of “Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical.”
Steve Douglass was introduced to faith through observing a group of strong Christians. “After a few weeks, I came to the conclusion that they had what I wanted: a close relationship with Jesus Christ.” Douglass now serves as president of Cru.
Many evangelical leaders shared sentiments similar to Steve Lawson, executive director of Advent Christian General Conference. “I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family in which both my mother and father were strong Christians. I don’t remember a time in my life that God was not honored in our home, and it is a heritage I have continued,” he said.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.