Conversional Piety means “a strong devotional life and a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ crucified and risen” (Olson,Collins Winn, Reclaiming Pietism, pg 94). This is not unique to Pietism, but this is a strong characteristic of the movement–a sense of intimacy with God.
Critics will be quick to point out that at times this has eroded into a sappy romanticism or sentimentalism, but that must not allow this hallmark to be dismissed.
Christianity for Pietists is not just an intellectual exercise, or a religious duty; following Jesus Christ means that we enter into a relationship with him. As some say it is not just knowing about Jesus, it is knowing him. This understanding of our connection with God is at the core of Pietistic faith
It is joyful, emotional even. Jesus knows me. I know him. At its best–Jesus knows us. We know him. “Jesus loves me/us, this I/we know!”
Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed as faith became something personal for him. Hymnody expresses this sense of intimacy–
- what a friend we have in Jesus
- I have a friend who loveth me
- Jesus what a friend for sinners
- My Jesus I love thee
- Sweet hour of prayer
- Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
- I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
And on and on, the songs of the Pietists ring out with this sense of relationship and intimacy with the God of the universe through Jesus Christ. This is so much more than just a formal connection to an institutional church
Early Pietist August Hermann Franke would note that the means of this conversional piety are: self-examination, daily repentance, prayer, hearing the Word, and the sacraments. Evangelicals understand the practices of regular Bible reading and prayer, journaling, “quiet time.” Franke says that the marks of this sense of piety are: trials, cross-bearing, obedience to God’s law, trust in God and joy (Olson, Collins Winn, p. 96)
Pietists, but not exclusively, are people who live for Jesus, love him, and serve him, in community with others.
I have written more on Jesus as friend at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/fuller/2014/12/being-a-friend-of-jesus/