God sometimes uses surprising twists in calling individuals to make life’s most important decision. Often at the end of a string of whispers and appeals from the Holy Spirit, there’s a unique decisive factor. That element comes as a new sight, sound, or situation in the person’s journey to faith. Here are the uncommon experiences for four well-known Christian leaders.


Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)

His Role in Christianity— Adoniram and Ann Judson were America’s first foreign missionaries. In Burma, Adoniram faced a variety of harsh conditions, including imprisonment, to win the Burmese people to Jesus. His legacy includes translating the Bible into the Burmese language.

His Pre-Conversion Life— In college, Adoniram abandoned his religious upbringing to become a Deist. Apart from refusing to believe in a personal God, he had a brilliant mind. After graduating class valedictorian at age 19 wanderlust led Andoniram to join a theatrical group.

Adoniram’s Decisive Factor:  A dying friend. The night he checked into the inn, the manager told Adoniram there was a very sick man in the room next to him. He heard the man moaning throughout the night. The next morning, he learned the man had died. What shook Adoniram to the core was the dead man’s identity: the very friend who swayed him to accept Deism as superior to Christianity. He retreated to his home town, attended the church his father pastored, and returned to the Christian faith.

To learn more details of Adoniram’s service to God, read here.



D. James Kennedy (1930-2007) Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

D. James Kennedy (1930-2007) Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

His Role in Christianity— He formulated one of Christianity’s most successful witnessing programs, Evangelism Explosion. After founding the vibrant Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Jim became a familiar voice in the battle to restore conservative values to America. He did so through his radio called program, Truths that Transform, his  television ministry The Coral Ridge Hour, and the more than 50 books he wrote.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Jim never heard the gospel presented until he was 23. He became a skilled dance instructor at an Arthur Murray studio. He met his future wife, Anne, when she came to the studio for lessons. After they started dating, Jim believed all was well.

Jim’s Decisive Factor:  A radio alarm clock. Jim slept in one morning with a hangover after an all-night dance party. His radio alarm clock awakened him, but not with music. He heard a radio  preacher asking the question, “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?’ — what would you say?” Jim wasn’t sure. That began his quest to discover why God should welcome him into Heaven and how to prepare for it.

To learn more details about Jim’s service to God, read here.



C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)  Image: butterfunk.com

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Image: butterfunk.com

His Role in Christianity— Clive Staples Lewis shared God with the world by sharing his God-given intellect with the world. He turned important Christian truths into profound non-fiction and fiction, each volume full of creativity and wit. Reading Clive’s writings sharpens our minds and our spirits. He showed us by example how to apply both the left and right sides of our brain to present Christianity to a non-Christian world.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Clive lived as an atheist for almost half of his life. During both childhood and his teens years, people Clive cared about died unpleasant deaths. His involvement in World War I added to his doubt that God really existed. As a person who greatly loved books, Clive chose a career teaching at Oxford University.

Clive’s Decisive Factor:  A Ride to the Zoo. First, he had to admit that God existed. God used the Christian faith of some of Clive’s fellow teachers who were also personal friends. A long walk and talk one night with J. R. R. Tolkein and another Oxford instructor brought Clive to conclude at least that God existed. Two years passed before he accepted Jesus’ death for his sins. While riding to a zoo in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle, every-thing clicked in Clive’s mind and heart. When they reached the zoo, he fully believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world, including his sins. He surrendered.

To learn more about Clive’s service to God, read here



Lottie Moon (1840-1912)

Lottie Moon (1840-1912)

Her Role in Christianity— The single female missionary stood four-foot-three but cast a giant shadow in China and around the world. Lottie set a standard for missionaries by enduring austere living conditions and prejudice. Among her frequent correspondence to the missions board, she suggested churches receive an annual Christmastime offering for missionaries. In 1919, the Southern Baptist Convention renamed that offering the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Her Pre-Conversion Life— Lottie, the Civil War era Southern belle, had a pleasant, privileged upbringing. But she didn’t adopt her parent’s faith. Lottie graduated from boarding school then attended an all-female institute. She chose not to attend church and scoffed at the students who did.

Lottie’s Decisive Factor:  A barking dog. Lottie surprised her peers one evening when she appeared at revival services being held across the street from the school. A noisy dog outside her window kept Lottie awake most of that night. Her wandering thoughts returned again and again to the teachings of Christianity. By dawn, Lottie had decided to follow Jesus. That second evening of revival services, she went forward during the altar call. The next night, she was baptized.

To learn more about Lottie’s service to God, read here.


In “8 Wonderful Conversion Stories (Pt. II),” you’ll discover the unique ways God captured the hearts of  John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, and Dawson Trotman.



About William E. Richardson

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Deb. We're the parents of a son and daughter who bring great joy to our lives. I currently pastor the Assembly of God church in Afton, Iowa.
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