Pathway to Genuine Conversion
How do people become Christians in today’s world? Has the conversion process changed as our culture has become less Christian?
The pathway to conversion over the last 50 years has often included the following steps:
•A person raised in a church is either approached by a Christian or attends an evangelistic meeting.
•The gospel is shared and it makes sense because of a shared Christian background/worldview.
•The person hearing the gospel prays to invite Jesus into their lives.
•They join a church and learn how to live as a Christian.
This conversion process was possible because most people shared a common Christian background/worldview. After hearing the gospel proclaimed, many would be surprised that they had never heard this message before in their church. Others respond positively to the gospel because the message was presented in a fresh way.
Today’s pathway to conversion is much different because more and more people today have no Christian background and have already rejected Christianity based on what the culture says about Christianity. Doug Schaupp and Don Everts interviewed hundreds of new Christians before writing their book, I Once was Lost. They were looking for common themes or experiences in the conversion stories of new followers of Jesus. They discovered that people today follow a different pathway to conversion from the past. People today need to cross five thresholds before becoming a Christian.
The Five Thresholds on the Pathway to Conversion
1. Trusting a Christian - Moving from distrust of Christians to trusting you as a Christian.
Action Steps: Christians can build trust by prayer, bonding, affirming and welcoming.
2. Wondering about Jesus - Moving from apathy about Jesus to curiosity about Jesus and Christians.
Action Steps: Christians can build curiosity by focusing on Jesus and living curiously, i.e. hear their stories, tell your own story, and make connections between their story, your story and God’s story.
3. Opening up to Change - Moving from being closed to being open to change. Action Steps: Christians must be patient with their unbelieving friends and family, and expect their spiritual journey to be uneven. Challenge them to take small steps of faith and help them interpret results. Also help them to face their personal barriers to change, i.e. pain, fear, confusion, complacency.
4. Seeking after God - Move from meandering spiritually to seeking Jesus. Action Steps: Christians live out the Kingdom in front of them (community, scripture, prayer, model seeking, invite to seeking). Create safe places for them to seek, e.g., Alpha. Give them an opportunity to declare themselves as a seeker. Ask them what would be helpful on this phase of their spiritual journey.
5. Entering the Kingdom - Moving from being lost to being saved.
Action Steps: Christians must be appropriately urgent, and clear, but not oversimplify. Invite them to make a decision, pray with and for them. Give appropriate next steps.
This is important information for us as we seek to reach out to our neighbors because if we can identify their place in the conversion process we can plan activities that help them move toward the next threshold in their faith journey.