Some helpful excerpts from 'Down the Highway', from a wiki entry.
There were signs during the latter stages of the 1978 tour that Bob had become caught up in this enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. Bob met his old college friend Dave Whitaker after a concert in Oakland, California, in mid-November, and spoke to Dave's eleven-year-old son, Ubi. "Would you send me a guitar?" asked the kid. The next day a truck pulled up with a gift from Dylan- a brand-new Fender Stratocaster decorated with quotations from the Book of Paul. A few days later Bob played a show in San Diego. He picked up a cross that a fan had thrown on stage and started wearing it. Shortly after this incident Bob felt what he later described as "this vision and feeling," which he believed to be the presence of Jesus Christ in the room. Billy Cross was sitting next to Bob on the bus when he looked over and noticed that Bob seemed to be writing a spiritual song- "Slow Train Coming"- the lyrics of which were only partly formed at this time but which described a resurgence of faith of God. The band played the song at a sound check in Nashville on December 2.
The catalyst to Bob's extraordinary full-blown conversion to Christianity seems to have been his relationship with sometime girlfriend Mary Alice Artes, although his relationship with Carolyn Dennis also focused his mind on the subject. Artes was linked with the Vineyard Fellowship, a small but growing evangelical church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The Fellowship was founded in 1974 by Kenn GUlliksen, a singing pastor with a Lutheran background. "I did an album of my own and had a number-one song in the Christian world," he says. "It sounded like The Carpenters, it was so boring." Popular music was used to enliven services at the Fellowship, with people encouraged to get up and play songs. Several well-known musicians were associated with the Vineyard Fellowship, including a member of The Eagles. Church meetings were informal and Pastor Kenn often dressed in shorts. Because the Fellowship did not have a dedicated church building, they would lease buildings or meet on the beach. Ideologically, the Vineyard Fellowship was Bible-based, taking a fairly strong line on drugs, excessive drinking, and adultery.
Pastor Kenn says Mary Alice Artes approached him one Sunday in January 1979 after a service in a rented church building in Reseda and said she wanted somebody to speak with her boyfriend at home. Two of Pastor Kenn's colleagues, Paul Edmond and Larry Myers, duly went with Artes to an apartment in the West Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood. It was here that they met Bob. According to Pastor Kenn, who received a report back, Bob told them his life was empty. The pastors replied that God was the "only ultimate success" and Bob indicated that he wanted what Pastor Kenn calls a "lifestyle relationship" with God. "He was apparently ready to ask for God's forgiveness for sin," says Pastor Kenn. Larry Myers spoke to Bob about Jesus Christ, and talked about the Bible, from Genesis through to the Revelation of St. John the Divine. "Sometime in the next few days, privately and on his own, Bob accepted Christ and believed that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah," says Myers.
Bob later said that Mary Alice Artes was instrumental in his conversion. But she resists suggestions that any one person was responsible. "I cannot lead anyone to the Lord... I could only say that God did what he had to do," she says. "I think that too many people wanna be glorifying themselves in a situation that really should not have any glory at all."
Bob and Mary Alice enrolled in the Vineyard Fellowship's School of Discipleship, attending Bible class most weekday mornings for more than three months at the beginning of 1979. At first Bob thought there was no way that he could devote so much time to the project; he felt he had to get back on the road. Soon, though, he found himself awake at 7 A.M., compelled to get up and drive to the real estate office in Reseda where Bible classes were held. "I couldn't believe I was there," he said.
Assistant Pastor Bill Dwyer, who taught a class on the Sermon on the Mount, recalls Bob as being withdrawn in Bible class and also when he made rare appearances at church. "He probably needs to be," says Pastor Bill. "The few times he would [come] into church people would glom onto him: Oh, it's Bob Dylan!" Indeed, Pastor Bill, who had all Bob's albums, had to restrain himself from doing the same.
It was during this late winter/spring period of 1979 that Mary Alice Ares was baptized in a swimming pool at Pastor Bill's house.
"This was total immersion. Because baptism is a symbol of burial, burying guilt, and then pulling the new man out of the water," says Pastor Kenn. Bob attended the baptism and, not long afterward, Bob was himself baptized, probably in the ocean, which was where the fellowship normally conducted baptisms. By being immersed in water, Bob became, in common parlance, a born-again Christian, though he would later shrink from the term, claiming he had never used it. Yet he was clearly quoted in a 1980 interview with trusted Los Angeles Times journalist Robert Hilburn saying: "I truly has a born-again experience, if you want to call it that. It's an overused term, but it's something that people can relate to."
An element of religiosity had always existed in Bob's work, and it was particularly strong on the album John Wesley Harding. Religion had in fact been with him since childhood when his father instilled a strict moral code in his eldest son and sent him to study with a rabbi for his bar mitzvah. As a songwriter, Bob had always felt himself to be a channel for inspiration. At the start of his career, he told Sing Out! that words just came to him: "The songs are there. They exist all by themselves just waiting for someone to write them down." In this sense, he had a powerful everyday connection with a mysterious source of information and, over the years, he came to think that the songs arose from God. It was a small step, apparently, from this to flinging himself headfirst into orthodox religion. Yet Bob of course was born and raised in the Jewish faith, and it is fundamentally wrong to most Jews to think of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. "For a person to be a 'completed Jew' is very offensive to them," admits Pastor Kenn. "They think that is an oxymoron, where as I see it, Christians see it, and Jewish Christians see it at the [truth]." Indeed, Bob's embracing of Christianity caused consternation, and some offense, among his Jewish friends and family. "I think it was for publicity, that's what I think. Because he is Jewish-minded, plenty Jewish-minded. He was brought up that way. He was bar mitzvahed," says Bob's aunt, Ethel Crystal.
Bob's conversion to Christianity also caused considerable upset to his own children, who had been raised in the Jewish faith. Suddenly, packs of journalists were following their father to the Vineyard Fellowship in the hope of getting pictures of him going to a Christian church, and then staking out his home. The children saw this commotion when they visited their father. It was embarrassing and one of the few times when his celebrity was a problem in their lives.