Delightful. That’s my one word review of the book by Presbyterian pastor Don Everts and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship coordinator, Doug Schaupp (IVP Books). The two have extensive experience in leading college-age postmodern skeptics to faith in Christ; more than two thousand of them, in fact.
Their book is based on a great deal of listening to those who have come to Christ, about how their journey to faith actually proceeded. The authors don’t try to plumb the depths of the mysterious theological realities of election, calling, conviction, regeneration, etc. It, admittedly, deals more with the human, cognitive journey of conversion – among the young and skeptical, and it is very revealing and very encouraging.
Here are some highlights from this great read, which is worth the attention and discussion of Christians and Christian ministry leaders everywhere:
- Those interviewed had to step over five thresholds to come to faith in Christ. They reported that they would have been thoroughly turned off by “one-trick evangelism” methods. Knowing where an individual is on their journey allows us to deal with them with sensitivity and wisdom.
- The first threshold was simply learning to trust a Christian. There’s no point in trying to convince this individual to step across the line or even getting into a Bible study. Job one is to give your friend reasons to actually trust you.
- The second threshold was moving from complacent to curious.
“Before crossing this threshold, our lost friends may seem apathetic to us, but to them it might feel more like contentment…Curiosity tends to blossom over time.”
- The third threshold was moving from being closed to change in their lives to being open to change.
“…becoming open to change is much harder than it may seem on the surface. It is actually a heroic, mysterious, deep thing…Many of our friends told us how they danced back and forth between wanting change and being terrified and strongly opposed to change.”
- The fourth threshold was going from meandering to actually seeking.
“This is part of how you tell the difference between a ‘phantom seeker’ and a true spiritual seeker. Phantom seekers do lots of the same things that seekers do: they ask questions, discuss issues, even attend a Bible study or event. But their posture lacks urgency…They may be using questions as a way to deflect conversation from something deeper and, perhaps, more vulnerable for them.”
- The fifth threshold was the step of faith into the kingdom of God itself.
“…a truly open-ended, pressure-free process…isn’t as helpful here at threshold five. Letting people just slide casually and vaguely across the line sounds very postmodern-sensitive, but with such a laissez-faire approach we keep people from knowing that there is even a line to cross.”
Those who long to be used by God to help young skeptics come to Christ will do well to read – with joy – I Once Was Lost.