I asked one woman who was about to be baptized, "How long have you been coming here to church?"

"Two years," she said.

"When did you meet the Lord?"

"Two weeks ago."

I was intrigued. After the service I looked for her and asked, "You have to tell me: Were you here every week for two years, or once a year, or what?"

"I came almost every week."

"And you just received Christ last week?"

"Yes."

"I don't want to make you feel bad," I said, "but why did you wait so long?"

"My family started out Christian and kind of broke up. I've had three abortions and drug problems. I attended one of the church musicals with a friend, and she brought me to the worship services. I had heard this was a place where I would be loved for who I am. But it took me a while to believe it."

In America, unchurched people who come to Christ usually go through a long "preconversion phase." We find most visitors attend at least four outreach events before they come to one regular service. This preconversion phase may last a year ...

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