Tertullian said, “Men are not born Christians but become such.” Being born and reared in a Christian church and family does not make you, ipso facto, a real Christian. Most know this but few will talk about it. Every great revival was birthed when people inside the church began to wonder if they really knew God in Jesus Christ. This is why the new birth has been so central to revival preaching and mission down through the ages.
But there is a corresponding problem with this emphasis. People who are born from above (that is the literal rendering of the Greek text in John 3) often judge those who have not undergone the same experience, or formula, as they have and conclude that they know who is and is not a real Christian. This problem is so great that it destroys most attempts at unity among evangelical and charismatic Christians in particular. We become quite sure who is “born again” and who is not and thus we make walls to keep out the people we know are not real Christians. I decided that this problem was so great that I devoted an entire chapter to it (chapter fifteen) in my book Your Church Is Too Small. Here is an short explanation of why I wrote this chapter and what I am trying to say in it.