Please don’t knock on my door to ask me if I know Jesus. Gone pretty much are the days of door-to-door salesmen, with the exception, I suppose, of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our walkways lead to our fortresses, and for mostly reasons of fear strangers are not welcome at our doors. When it comes to methods of reaching people to begin an introduction to Christ, in most of America, things have changed significantly. As well-meaning as it might be, having a stranger knock at my door during dinner time with the intent of evangelizing me is not a welcome event. To be honest, it wasn’t welcome for me even 40 years ago. Maybe that’s just me.
Times change as people change, and as I think about the door-to-door “evangelism” of past years where a tract with “4 Spiritual Laws” was the roadmap for conversation or the question asked “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity,” it really is amazing that those openings worked at all. All credit is due, as always, to the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for all you lead to Jesus! But is it any wonder of the shortcomings of these approaches? Although an innocent non-believer may not have been even capable to grasp what eternity represents or the enormity of the issue of one’s soul in balance, a perfect stranger is asking you to commit your life to the will of an invisible God, not to mention a Dead Man who walked again. Doesn’t this seem like quite a reach to you? It sure did to me.
People today are barraged by a variety of faith options and there no longer is a spiritual heritage within families, generations or culture for us to draw from. God has indeed been pretty much uninvited from his creation and those He has created and intended for an enjoyable and fulfilling relationship with Him.People are confused as well as infused with second hand bits and pieces about “religion,” with an increasing “lessening” of interest to dig for themselves into the fabric of faith. They know a little surface information about faith and religion. They are much shaped by their experiences and that of others they know. And they often embrace error and half-truths as their “gospel.”
The postmodern pathway to faith is much more “organic” than ever. This places a much greater responsibility on us as individual Christians to obey the command/commission of Christ to GO and make disciples. Not just GO make converts, but invest sacrificially in people, taking the time to walk with them along their personal faith continuum to become a disciple. We must first be willing to meet them on their “ground” and begin where they are. We need to find out what they need in order to make a step towards faith in Jesus. Rarely will there be a “one-step” leap of faith. There are thresholds to cross, and the first threshold is that of friendship. Our friends must move from distrust to trust . . . in us! Convincing them we care by authentic love and sacrifice, not suckering them with a bait and switch tactic that might keep them from faith forever.
In our friendship and our openness about life and faith, a second threshold is their move from complacency to a curiosity. Just because our friends grow to trust us doesn’t mean they all at once are curious about Jesus. Our lifestyle, our choices, and how we engage with them sincerely will show them we are not cut out of the mold of the world. What is it that makes us tick? The third threshold is probably the most difficult. It is moving from being closed to change to being open to change in their life. Their curiosity will begin to open them to the possibility and a growing hope that there is something better for them than what they are experiencing, that there may indeed be a God and that He is favorably disposed towards them. That possibly their life can become less burdened, more fulfilling and content. This is a challenging threshold to cross so remember, it is openness, not conviction.
The fourth threshold is movement from meandering to seeking. Here is where gentle discipleship is at its best. Giving them just enough of what they seek to keep them hungry, not dumping all of your theological wonder upon them. Fill a cup with a cup, don’t overflow it with a gallon. There is a lot of discovery, confusion and questions in this leg of the journey. It can be and should be a wonderful adventure. There may not yet be conclusions, but hopefully there is a quest for truth and well-informed answers.
The final threshold is the decision to cross the threshold into the kingdom itself. Many people will connect with a friend they grow to trust, move towards curiosity, consider the prospect of change a new faith would bring and honestly be seeking, yet they may never become a Christian, or at least this may not happen during your engagement with them. Emotionally this can be discouraging for you and me. The path to faith, despite these recognizable thresholds, is still a mystery. A wonderful mystery. Consider Jesus’ parable in Mark 4:26-27. “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Be of good cheer. God honors all our efforts to draw people a step closer to Him. The end result, just as the beginning, is the work of His Spirit. Think About It.