Unique circumstances led some of Christianity’s outstanding leaders to salvation. Here’s the second set of four such stories. Discover each person’s greatest contributions to Christianity and what God used as the decisive factor to bring them to Himself


John Newton (1725-1807)

John Newton (1725-1807)

His Role In Christianity— John’s influence went far beyond penning his spiritual testimony in song, the hymn Amazing Grace. In the late 1700s, his preaching and his mentoring of some religious leaders of his day helped set the tone for England’s improved faith, especially within the Church of England.

His Pre-Conversion Life— John lived as he pleased, guided by two misconceptions: that he could freely indulge in all the sins he wanted and that he could only profit from selling other human beings as slaves. Suffering from malaria— a disease that killed many slaves traders—was one incident that told him otherwise.

John’s Decisive Factor:  A violent storm at sea. He awoke one evening aboard a slave ship that was beginning to rip apart in a violent storm. The storm continued for two days. During that time, John and others worked the pumps to free the ship of water. Then John was charged to steer the ship. During that storm, he denounced his wickedness to follow Jesus. John thereafter called that date his “great turning day.”

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



Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

His Role In Christianity— His preaching drew listeners like a magnet. Charles’ mental prowess and sermon delivery never hinted at the fact that he had no formal training to preach. Today, volumes of his collected sermons (over 5,000 messages) and the books he wrote (at least 135) will easily fill a bookshelf. Over 120 years after his death, Charles Spurgeon remains “the prince of preachers” for those who continue reading his words.

His Pre-Conversion Life— When he was a baby, Charles’ parents faced extreme financial problems. He was sent to live with his grandparents. Since Charles’ grandfather was a pastor, Charles grew up in an environment of Bible reading and prayer.

Charles’ Decisive Factor: A snowstorm. One winter morning when he was 15, Charles walked to church. A snowstorm prevented him from reaching the one he planned to attend. So he ducked into a nearby chapel. A lay minister delivering the sermon continually emphasized Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me and be saved.” He accepted Jesus’ death for him that day. Walking home amid the falling flakes, Charles rejoiced that his sins were now white as snow.

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



Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

His Role In Christianity— Billy became the leading evangelist of the first half of the 2oth century. His dynamic style, including what some termed “theatrics,” helped hammer home his strong message to repent and turn from sin. Billy pioneered many of the techniques used today by ministries around the world to preach to large crowds.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Billy and his older brother spent their childhood in the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Home. When Billy was 20, playing baseball in a local league in Marshalltown, Iowa, a professional player discovered him. Billy eventually signed a contract with the team known in 1883 as the Chicago White Stock-ings. He played with the team for seven seasons.

Billy’s Decisive Factor: hymns he recognized from his childhood. Billy and some other ball players went to a tavern one afternoon. When they returned outdoors, they sat on the curb to listen to the Christian song service being held across the street. Recognizing some of the hymns his mother use to sing made Billy cry. A Christian worker saw his reaction and crossed the street to invite him to the Pacific Garden Mission. Billy willingly went. There, he accepted Jesus as his savior.

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



Dawson Trotman (1906-1956) (Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

Dawson Trotman (1906-1956)
(Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

His Role In Christianity— Dawson founded the discipleship organization The Navigators. After impacting the military, Dawson wrote the materials for altar workers in Billy Graham crusades. His scripture memory program at the root of The Navigators also enhanced the work of Campus Crusade and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

His Pre-Conversion Life— As a teenager, Dawson led the life of a Christian hypocrite. His popularity as high school student body president attracted his classmates to attend church with him when he invited them. They didn’t know he was stealing money from the student body funds. After graduation, he turned to openly drinking and gambling.

Dawson’s Decisive Factor: a policeman’s warning. One night, a police officer stopped Dawson for drunk driving. Instead of a ticket, he gave Dawson a heart-to-heart talk. The young rebel began attending church. In the youth group, he excelled in a scripture memorization contest. The verses Dawson memorized eventually took root in his heart. He became a Christian and grew in his faith based on the word of God he’d memorized.

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


You can read about the unique decisive factors that brought Adoniram Judson, D. James Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Lottie Moon to God in “8 Wonderful Conversion Stories (Pt. I).” 



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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