I Once Was Lost is the name of a short read by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp which provides an insight into what postmodern skeptics report about their path to Jesus. Notice I don’t say pathway to church or to Christianity. In general, skeptics find the person of Jesus to be a lot more appealing than the confusion and distraction both the church and Christianity sometimes present. This little book has some valuable points to make about the dreaded process of evangelism. The term evangelism by itself is enough to tie most of us in knots of anxiety. It’s a command we prefer to view as an idea. Never mind that it was one of Jesus’ imperatives before he exited planet earth.
When I was living for myself and not tuned in to a walk of faith, I never liked being referred to as “lost”. I’d venture to say many “non-followers” of Jesus find the reference to “lostness” to be a pejorative term. It doesn’t feel like “lostness” to them. So why allow a Christianese term to be a hurdle along the spiritual “road to find out?” As Christians, we tend to see people who are far from God to be on a wandering spiritual track. Some of these are rebellious inside and out and others are passively indifferent. It doesn’t matter. God wants em’. And God wants to use us to reach em’.
Let me share from this book five thresholds many postmoderns cross moving from no faith to saving faith in Jesus. Believe it or not, the compelling force which enables these non-believers to cross these thresholds is you and me. The thresholds may look a little different from person to person, and each person has their own pace, but consider where you might fit within these thresholds in enabling your non-believing friend to move towards Jesus.
First, our friends move from distrust to trust. Somewhere along the line, they trust us. They may not trust Christians, but we have earned their trust. In their complacency they have no spiritual faith, no real curiosity about Jesus, but something begins to nourish their curiosity. Perhaps it’s something about us. Perhaps even questioning if there is something to “faith.” The 3rd step, a difficult one, is moving from being closed to being open to change in their life. This may take some time to approach and it’s really more up to their discovery than it is to our influence. It can’t be rushed because it grows slowly. It comes from seeing us serious about our relationship with them and living our lives with peace, integrity and consistency. No hypocrisy. Our honesty and transparency weigh heavily here.
The fourth threshold is the move from meandering to seeking. Even though our friends may be curious about Jesus and open to change, it doesn’t automatically follow that they are purposely seeking God. This may be an extended time of processing for them. Not necessarily a time where conclusions are reached, but certainly a season of heightened awareness and interest in checking things out. Crossing the last threshold where our friend comes to faith in Christ is a delicate and often difficult one. Repenting of a life led by self and placing trust in our unseen God can be quite a leap for many. After all, this is not about just praying a prayer of some kind. This is offering control of one’s life – – – a very foreign experience.
Where on the path is my friend? It’s not always clear. There may not be a line of demarcation to distinguish one threshold clearly from the next, especially at first. This is the Spirit’s realm of operation. The better we listen and listen patiently, the better we can serve those who allow us to accompany them on the journey. Most often it’s thimbles full of input and not dump truck loads. Evidence That Demands a Verdict and books of the Bible do not come into play early on and the tracts by the bedside and bathroom are an irritant. Our love, patience and compassion for the process make the difference. Think About It.