How we defined Salvations and Responses

During our recent trip to Pakistan, we had many many people responding to God and committing their lives to Jesus. You can view the stats from our trip in ‘Mission by Numbers: Pakistan’ But it’s important to differentiate between salvations and responses. You can have lots of people responding, without many salvations. If people don’t understand what your asking, then they aren’t saved simply by raising their hand in the air. They would be responding to me (or copying their friends), but not to faith in Christ.

Equally, you can have very few responses and lots of salvations; because salvation isn’t dependent on people responding to me, or raising their hands. But it’s about them responding to Jesus. So to start us off, let’s quickly define how I have used the terms ‘Salvation’ and ‘Response’.

Defining Salvations and Responses

Salvation/Saved – The acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation.

Response – The reaction to the opportunity presented by the raising of a hand.

So in the terms defined above, we count everyone who raised their hand in response to the opportunity to be saved, as a response. But we don’t count all these as salvations.

Why? You might ask. A number of reasons. We can never truly know the state of another’s heart, that is between them and God. We can examine the fruit of their life, and review what they proclaim, but salvation is between them and God. So we can’t know how many people truly responded to the message during our time in Pakistan. We also know that we were speaking to a mainly Christian audience. Although Pakistan is predominantly Muslim; the audience would have been 95%+ Christian. In Islam, it’s a sin to doubt your faith[1] so attending a Christian outreach would be very unusual. But we were in the centre of villages each time, so we believe the message would have been heard by many who didn’t attend in person.

In my view, it would be wrong to claim that the same number who responded were also saved. Of the 3000+ who responded to the salvation call, I think people fit into one of three groups.

First-timers

These are the people who have never accepted Jesus as their Lord and saviour before. They may have been living a good life, even associated with the label of ‘Christian’, but have never, until that moment, responded to the call of God on their life.

Recommit-ers

I’ll break these down again into two:

People who have walked away from God, after accepting him. People who have rejected his ways through their lifestyle choices or the decisions they have made.

Alternatively, they could have responded to God previously but have now come to a greater understanding of what that commitment meant. They didn’t walk away, but they never truly understood the faith that they had committed to, the depth of relationship God wants with them.

Incomprehension-ers

When your working in a different culture with a different language, through a translator you have to allow some margin for error. We were speaking to people who knew very little, if any, English, through a translator. A vast majority of these people would have had very little formal education. Although we don’t have al the different tribal languages like we do in Uganda; the way we say things, how we explain things and then how those things are interpreted, translated, and then understood by the recipient, will be different.

There were a number of times when we asked people to respond, that we had pastors or people who were very passionately worshipping before, raise their hands. Now they could fit into the above category, but I think some, if not most of them would fit into this final category.

Possible solutions

Now we tried to address this while we were working in the field. Our preaching focused on a number of key topics, around the core message of salvation, and our responses were very similar each time. We would outline the what God had done for us, why he needed to do it, and how people could accept what God had done. As the week went on we tried to be clearer and clearer about our Salvation being forever. It isn’t something you can loose. You don’t have to recommit every time the opportunity arises (see 1 Peter 1). We discouraged those who were already saved from responding and emphasised that we would pray for everyone. We simply wanted to pray for this specific group first.

Conclusion

So, we count everyone who responded, because everyone matters and we can never truly know where people are with God. But we don’t claim that all those who responded were first-time salvations or recommit-ers. Each of those who responded fits into one of the three categories: first-timers, recommit-ers or incomprehension-ers. I feel that it would be a sensible estimate to say at least 10% of the people who responded fit into one of the first two categories. This is based on our judgement during the events. We also considered the number of children who were part of that group (we feel it’s more likely for them to be responding for the first time).

This would give an approximate number of 300 people saved and brought into relationship with Jesus. Awsome.

[1] – https://www.al-islam.org/qalbe-saleem-immaculate-conscience-ayatullah-sayyid-abdul-husayn-dastghaib-shirazi/fourth-disease

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