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Inner~View #45: Sharing the Gospel; from Four Laws to Five Thresholds

I Once Was Lost

What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus

By Don Everts and Doug Schaupp

book cover

Phil~ The subtitle of your book captured my attention: What postmodern skeptics taught us about their path to Jesus ... Are you proposing we listen to not-yet-believers about how to do evangelism?

Don ~ Many of the folks we and our friends talked with had already become Christians. Thereīs a guy who used to hate Christianity... who is now a believer doing missions work! So weīd ask him: "What happened!?"
InterVarsity staff and students in southern California got into the habit of not only listening to not-yet-believers (which, yes, is very instructive) but also of hearing the stories of new believers to find out how they came to become Christians.It was their stories (not theories developed by Christians sitting
alone in a room somewhere) that led to the profound evangelism insights that are the foundation of our book. They are the real experts!

Doug ~ We should certainly listen thoughtfully to our context and to not-yet-believers. God will speak to us through our secular context, if we listen. On the one hand, I remember vividly my first time watching "Good Will Hunting." God rocked me through that movie. I learned that true friends will speak honest, even painful truth to each other in order to help each other grow. I need friends like that, and I need to be a friend like that. God spoke to me through that movie to shape how I think about evangelism. On the other hand, our listening
to not-yet-believers must be discerning. One of my friends on Facebook says, "Whatever works for you...leave people alone." I donīt think I will base my evangelism on that perspective.



Phil~ What would you say to those who remind us that the Gospel has not changed, even though our culture has undergone seismic shifts in world- view and value-system?

Don ~ Weīd totally agree! We didnīt start asking questions about the content of the gospel - we started asking questions about how people these days come to believe in that gospel.

Doug ~ You have just articulated our dilemma, the tension of our lives. On the one hand, the Gospel never changes. On the other hand, the Gospel contextualizes into different cultures in different ways. Somehow, in faith, we hold this tension in our beings and in our churches. We must not ignore either side of this.



Phil~ Explain the difference between a "four spiritual laws" approach and the "five thresholds" understanding of postmodern conversion ... and hep us identify the implications to traditional or typical evangelism

Don ~ The four laws are a handy summary of the content of the gospel weīve received. The five thresholds is an overview of how people come to believe of that gospel. Do people just read the four laws and confess faith on the spot. Not usually. Our work tries to outline just how people tend to walk from disbelief and cynicism to a place of confessing faith in Jesus.

Doug ~ A summary of the gospel (like the four spiritual laws) is one small, but helpful part of the evangelism process. (Personally, I prefer James Choungīs 4 circles diagram of the gospel found in True Story.) For example, in my wedding, my vows were one small but important part of the ceremony. My marriage is far more than just my vows, but the vows put things into clear focus for us. Similarly, we Followers of Jesus need a way to summarize the good news, but also must realize that servant evangelism is far more than just a mere summary.


Phil~ Help us understand the not-yet-believer's journey from:

  1. Distrust to trust - Don ~ Most folks these days are starting not on level ground, but in a hole. They greatly distrust Christianity and Christians. Most of our friends whoīve become believers tell us that their journey to faith began when they started trusting one Christian. A small step - that begins a wonderful journey.
  2. Complacent to curious - Just because someone begins trusting a Christian it does not necessary follow that they will become interested in Jesus. This is the second step - when someone becomes curious about Jesus. This doesnīt mean they completely understand him or believe in him - it just means that, often for the first time, they become curious about him, they find him a bit fascinating.
  3. Being closed to being open - Being open-minded is one of the most cherished virtues today. However, many people are not yet open- minded about Jesus. We want to help our friends see that being open- minded also includes being open to exploring Jesus. When people are biased against Jesus and wonīt investigate him for themselves, it can be helpful to encourage them to become more open-minded.
  4. Meandering to seeking - Once our friends are open to exploring God and Jesus, it is helpful for them to clarify their questions and their quest. If they know what they need answered, they can seek with purpose and clarity ... crossing the final threshold: Entering the Kingdom. Once they get their questions answered and they have seen what Jesus is like, it is good to help our friends see that a decision is ahead, a choice to embrace Jesus. What a joy it is to see them embrace Jesus and his Kingdom!

Note>>> The Five Thresholds:

  1. Trusting a Christian
  2. Becoming Curious
  3. Opening Up to Change
  4. Seeking After God
  5. Entering the Kingsom



Phil~ Your use a set of different terms for familiar topics - Does that indicate we must think differently about, well, everything related to witnessing and evangelism?

Don ~ Language is powerful, thereīs no doubt about it. Even just mention the "e-word" and many people get weird. Christians have images of awkward but forceful encounters with strangers trying to "win them for Christ!" Mention "conversion" and many nonChristians have scary images from the crusades pop into their
heads.

  • Why do you use: Journey?
  • Jesus is more concerned about which direction we are headed than if we can verbalize a certain set of answers. "Journey" language helps our friends grow toward Jesus at their own speed.
  • Why do you use: Mysterious?
  • We use this word because the blossoming of faith is often beyond our control and beyond even our understanding. (The parable of the growing seed has been very instructive for us in this -Mark 4.26-29) What word do you use to describe something thatīs beyond our tight control and careful analysis - mystery.
  • Why do you use: Curiosity?
  • Jesus used parables and lived intriguingly in order to provoke questions and new thinking. We need new eyes to see this in Jesus and to live it ourselves.
  • Why do you use: Kingdom?
  • This is the word Jesus, himself, used most often when talking about his good news and what he came to advance here on earth. And since a word like "Christian" tends to conjure up such distorted connotations these days (and since it isnīt necessarily an overly biblical word!) we find ourselves using kingdom language question often.


Phil~ What is the role of prayer; during the journey, then after?

Don ~ Prayer is huge, of course. Itīs important for the Christian witness who is seeking the character and wisdom to love their nonChristian friends well. Itīs essential to look toward God who is sovereign over conversion, to intercede for our friends who are battling not only their own sinfulness but also our very real enemy, and it is essential for everyone involved (whether the Christian witness, the seeker, or the dripping wet new believer) to be talking with God - this is all about God and people getting together!

Doug ~ The process of conversion can be short or long. Prayer is the secret to endurance. If we donīt labor in prayer, we can lose heart and give up hope. Prayer also awakens our discernment. We miss out on seeing what God is doing in our friends if we donīt pray for them.

Note>>> In the book, the authors suggest we open our prayer life to those on the path: "It is not only OK to allow our non-Christian friends to see our 'public displays of affection' with God; it is actually quite helpful. Inviting folks into that kind of conversation makes lots more sense when they have seen what praying is like."



Phil~ How would you coach a pastor who recognizes the need to transform the culture inside the church in order to become a transforming agent in the community?

Doug ~
1.First, the pastor must model Servant Evangelism himself/herself. S/he needs to go make friends with non- Christians, ask questions, learn, and grow. Start a God- Investigation-Group.Then from the pulpit, share these stories of risk and adventure.
2.Then highlight from the pulpit the yearnings of the generation. Point to yearnings for meaning and for the divine in secular culture.
3.Find the few in the church who are most open and able to take the evangelism lead with you. Ask them to model with you and to start shaping culture inside the church.
4.Call for a culture of welcome within the church, and for loving initiative to be taken outside the church walls.


Phil~ Don, Doug, please write a prayer for leaders who recognize the challenge and need courage to take the first step ...

Doug ~ "Jesus, thank you for coming into our world and being God-with-us. Thank you for being the worldīs best evangelist by stirring intrigue and by pointing boldly to yourself.Thank you for your heart for those who are far from you. As your Spirit lives in me, help me to be like you. To love like you do. To talk dynamically about Godīs work in my life today. To point to you as the source. Give me the courage to take one concrete risk this week. What one thing would you have me do? I am listening..."

===>Click headline to access information or purchase this book . . . And . . .

Download a supplementary article (PDF) on "Thresholds of Conversion" along with a worksheet (PDF or Word) to print and use as often as you like!

 

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