CONVERSION & The 5 Thresholds of Postmodern Conversion Overview

By Tamice Hasty, Black Campus Ministries staff at Emory University

The five thresholds of postmodern conversion are concepts developed by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp in their book, I Once Was Lost. The thresholds were derived from the stories of postmodern skeptics who shared their stories of coming to faith. All of them seemed to pass through the same five distinct stages: from distrust to trust, from complacent to curious, from being closed to change in their lives to being open, from meandering to seeking, and entering into the Kingdom…

THRESHOLD 1: Trusting a Christian

The postmodern journey of conversion usually takes place when a skeptic begins to significantly trust a Christian. Today, Christianity and religion are suspect and distrust has become the norm. This hurts and is unpleasant for believers and can result in any number of the following five knee-jerk reactions.

Five Knee-Jerk Reactions from Christians:

1. Defend

We begin to close our hearts to non-Christians and treat them with contempt. We begin to point fingers and judge.

A better response is to pray. As we pray for the person, God will give us his heart for them. We can also intercede on this person’s behalf. Read “11 Prayers for Your Friends to Know Christ.”

2. Bruise

We become personally offended and feel a sense of shame and despair. Often, we retreat and decide never to try taking a risk again.

A better reaction is to learn. Try and understand where the person is coming from. Ask questions about why they feel distrust. Read “Answering the Question Behind the Question.”

3. Avoid

We distance ourselves from people and decide not to go near their circles. This results in an “us and them” mentality, and keeps Christians huddled together in a “Christian bubble.”

A better reaction is to bond. This is an opportunity to find common ground and meet them on their own turf. Sometimes a shared experience can break down walls of distrust.

4. Judge

We can often feel the temptation to write off non-Christians because they are not following Christ and use their shortcomings as a reason to treat them rudely.

A better reaction is to affirm. Seek to find good and truth in whatever is upsetting them, and affirm those things.

5. Argue

We engage in unhelpful and fruitless debates where the goal is to win an argument rather than win the person. Apologetics are not often helpful at this stage.

A better reaction is to welcome. Inviting someone into your space to see you walk out your faith in community is very disarming.

Three Common Pitfalls to Avoid:

1. Avoid Relativism: Be honest about the uniqueness of Christ.

2. Be with Them, but Don’t Sin: It’s okay to be on their turf as long as you don’t partake in things that compromise your character and integrity.

3. Don’t Walk Unwisely into Temptation: Know your weaknesses and don’t put yourself in situations that may cause you to compromise.

THRESHOLD 2: Becoming Curious

The stage of curiosity tends to blossom over time and usually has three levels of intensity. It’s a subtle shift from being passive to being provoked to think differently.

Levels of Curiosity:

1. Awareness

This is when the person becomes aware of options they never considered, and they become open to other possibilities than their own reality.

2. Engagement

This is when the person actually begins to seek answers and affirmations to their currently reality, i.e., researching religion and so on.

3. Exchange

This is a more vocal stage when the person begins to invite others into their curiosity and reasoning.

How to Provoke Curiosity:

1. Ask Questions

Jesus was asked 107 questions in the gospels and he only answered three of them! Yet, he asked 307 questions back to the people who questioned him.

Questions have a way of getting to the heart of the matter and that is one of the main places a decision to follow Christ takes place. Read “Why You Should Ask More Questions in Spiritual Conversations.”

2. Use Parables

Pay attention to the world around you and use everyday reality and circumstances to communicate deeper truths. Jesus used this method to draw out hunger in listeners.

3. Live Curiously

Live a life that causes people around you to ask questions. This cannot be faked. The way that we live in secret will affect the way we are perceived in public.

Christian community is essential at this stage since it gives the person a picture of what it looks like to live and relate as Christ followers.

THRESHOLD 3: Opening to Change

This is the hardest threshold to cross and where a lot of people turn back or stay where they are without moving forward. However, this is the stage where the Holy Spirit is especially at work, and when a person can finally become willing to make changes in their lifestyle.

How to Encourage Openness:

1. Be Patient

Choosing to make Christ the Lord of your life is a really big decision and the person is more than likely considering the cost.

2. Pray

This is a very vulnerable and scary place to be; it involves dying to oneself. The secret prayers of friends like you matter immensely at this threshold.

3. Challenge Like Jesus Did

Affirm with Gentle Honesty: “You are right in saying…you have had five husbands.” (John 4:18)

Give an Empowering Nudge: “Take up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)

Be a Mirror for Their Logic: “You are a teacher of Israel, yet you do not understand.” (John 3:10)

Connect the Dots: “Truly, truly I say to you…” (John 12:24)

THRESHOLD 4: Seeking After God

This threshold is about coming to a conclusion. There may not be a lot of behavioral change here because they are just about to make a decision about Jesus. There is urgency and purpose to their seeking, and they have decided it’s time to make up their minds.

Characteristics of Seekers:

1. Seeking Jesus Specifically

They seek Jesus not just “God,” and thus have a clear object of intrigue.

2. Counting the Cost

They have been around enough to know the implications of becoming a believer.

3. Spending Time in Community

They spend time with Christians and at Christian events and services. Even if they are not fully aware of what is going on, they still feel it is worth going.

During this time, we can live out the Kingdom before their eyes by showing them how to build our lives around Jesus’ words, opening up our prayer life to them, providing answers to questions (using personal apologetics as opposed to philosophical apologetics), and modeling a life of seeking.

THRESHOLD 5: Entering the Kingdom

This is the point when the person decides to repent and follow Jesus! They have decided they want to cross a real and eternally significant line. They go from flirting to commitment. They look Jesus in the face and say “I do.”

During this phase, we want to be appropriately urgent; no one stays in seeking mode forever. We want to walk closely with them into this phase and thereafter.

We can find creative ways to communicate the gospel clearly, being careful to not oversimplify. However, we can invite them in ways they can understand:

  1. The Big Story
  2. The Wedding Vows
  3. The Sport Team
  4. The Revolution

We must also make sure to celebrate this step the right way! God is throwing a big ol’ party in heaven, so throw one on earth too!

After we lead someone to Christ, our work is not done. We have to commit to help them begin well. This is usually a 6-8 week process where we want to establish key spiritual disciplines in their lives like prayer, Bible study, community, evangelism, and service. We should seek to do these things with them.

One option is to use Launch to help new Christians learn how to follow Jesus. It is a website with 10 sessions focused on the top 10 questions new Christians in university settings have about growing their relationship with Jesus. Each session also includes supplemental exercises and resources for new Christians to check out on their own time and at their own pace. Plus, new Christians will find more advice and stories from mature Christians on the Launch blog.

Read more at …

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 LEAD 565 spiritual transformation

POST-CHRISTIAN & A working definition by The Barna Group

It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have all been dropping for decades. By consequence, the role of religion in public life has been slowly diminishing, and the church no longer functions with the cultural authority it held in times past. These are unique days for the church in America as it learns what it means to flourish in a new “Post-Christian” era.

Barna has developed a metric to measure the changing religious landscape of American culture. We call this the “post-Christian” metric. To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week.

These kinds of questions—compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census—get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation) and to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief and unbelief in America…

Post-Christian Metrics

To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors . “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
  • Not Born Again

The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017,” The Barna Group, 7/11/17. Read more at …

CHURCH PLANTING & It’s not for the faint-hearted: New England dominates list of post-Christian cities

“New England dominates list of post-Christian cities,” by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 9/21/17.

…Research from Barna ranks 100 American metro areas by the percentage of the population it classifies as “post-Christian.” Boston and New Bedford, Massachusetts, are both in the top five.

To be considered post-Christian by Barna, a person had to meet at least nine qualifications, including things like not believing in God, having not prayed or read the Bible in the last week, and having never made a commitment to Jesus…

Here are the top 10 with the percentage of residents who are classified as post-Christian.

  1. Portland/Auburn, Maine (57%)
  2. Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire (56%)
  3. Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York (54%)
  4. Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts (53%)
  5. Burlington, Vermont/Plattsburgh, New York (53%)
  6. Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut (52%)
  7. New York, New York (51%)
  8. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, California (50%)
  9. Seattle/Tacoma, Washington (50%)
  10. Buffalo, New York (50%)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the list of post-Christian cities is almost the exact opposite of other Barna lists like most churched cities and most Bible-minded cities.

Seven of the top 10 post-Christian cities are in the bottom 10 of most Bible-minded, while five are part of the 10 most unchurched cities.

Three metro areas—San Francisco, Boston, and Albany, New York—rank in the top 10 of most post-Christian and most unchurched and in the bottom 10 of most Bible-minded.

Read more at …

POSTMODERNITY & How the Experiential Art Movement DADA Lit the Flame

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Postmodernity, as I have emphasized in my books (ORGANIX, 2011; Inside the Organic Church, 2006) is a philosophy that emphasizes experience as the best teacher. Of course, this has good and bad influences upon society. The “collage” metaphor is also used to describe postmodernity (Mary Jo Hatch, 1997) because it combines many artistic mediums to communicate it’s message. That is a good lesson for those trying to communicate to today’s increasingly postmodern culture: use the spoken, written, acted, painted, sculpted along with musical arts to create a collage or “new synthesis of art” to communicate your message. Christian churches today primarily limit the musical arts as their primary avenue for Christians to express their love for Christ. So, read this story from the BBC to experience the “collage of hearts” that helped spark the rise of postmodernity.

Cabaret Voltare: A night out at history’s wildest nightclub
by Alastair Sooke, BBC, The British Broadcasting Company, 20 July 2016.

In 1916, a young Romanian artist called Marcel Janco produced a painting depicting an evening in a Zurich nightclub. Now lost, but known through a photographic reproduction on a postcard, the picture presents a riotous scene in the fractured style of early Cubism.

A group of performers, centre-stage, make strange, unnaturally angular shapes with their bodies. They seem to be responding to the music of a nearby pianist, who tips back his chair, while remaining hunched over his keyboard. The audience, meanwhile, is a raucous, drunken mob. Sitting at tables scattered around the auditorium, they laugh, yell, point, and jabber. Above them, over the stage, an ominous, skull-like visage – a mask possibly inspired by African tribal art – keeps watch. Next to it, like a banner placed prominently above the pianist, a single word – “Dada” – is legible in the gloom.

Cabaret Voltaire

Marcel Janco’s painting of a night in the Cabaret Voltaire from 1916 now survives only in a reproduction on a postcard (Credit: Marcel Janko)

This, of course, is the name of the revolutionary cultural movement that electrified Europe a century ago. And it all began in this cramped nightclub, which hosted an ‘entertainment’ that lent its name to Janco’s painting – the Cabaret Voltaire…

The culmination of the Cabaret Voltaire was an infamous performance that took place on 23 June 1916. Ball appeared onstage wearing a fantastical cardboard outfit. He then proceeded to intone gibberish in the manner of a priest. Eventually, bathed in sweat, he was carried down from the stage like, as he put it, “a magical bishop”. A celebrated photograph documenting Ball in his absurd costume has survived…

What united all this feverish, anarchic activity? On one level, the Dadaists simply wanted to attack bourgeois customs and conventions, which they believed were responsible for the catastrophe of the Great War. “While the thunder of the batteries rumbled in the distance, we pasted, we recited, we versified, we sang with all our soul,” wrote Arp. Shock and provocation were Dada’s radical tools. So were parody, buffoonery, and vaudevillian excess…

The art historian Dieter Buchhart, who has curated Hauser & Wirth’s comprehensive exhibition of more than 100 artworks, agrees. “I would not talk about a Dada aesthetic, because Dada is very diverse,” he says. But he continues: “One of the unifying elements in visual art and poetry is the collage.”

Collage by Kurt Schwitters

Collage is a defining feature of Dada – as in this work by Kurt Schwitters – but it is best understood as an attitude rather than an aesthetic (Credit: VG Bild Kunst/ProLitteris)

Read more at …

POSTMODERNITY & An Exercise to Discover Which Generation Falls in the Middle

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/9/15.

I have noticed a subtle, but marked difference between older Generation Xers and younger Xers.  And, the rise of postmodernity may give us a clue regarding why this happens.

In Preparing for Change Reaction, I divided Generation X into two sub-groups based upon how they fall along the dividing line between Modernity and Postmodernity.  My conclusion is that modernity exalts knowledge, while postmodernity lauds experience.

A Leadership Exercise.

Now, here is the query for this exercise.  List some characteristics that distinguish older Xers (whom I call Leading-edge Xers) and their younger Postmodernal counterparts (whom I call Postmodern Xers)?  Have each leader list 2 – 3 differences that they have observed between these age groupings (see the bulleted points below for the age ranges).

  • Leading Edge Gen. X (ages in 2017 = 43-52),
  • And Postmodern Xers, (ages in 2017 = 35-42).

Though we can divide the generations into smaller and smaller groupings, oftentimes this just makes our missional task more arduous.  But, when a generation, such as Generation X, lands smack in the middle between Modernism and Postmodernism, some important further delineations are needed.  Thus, describing some of the differences in behavior, language, aesthetics, etc. that we have observed between these following age groupings can enhance our leadership of them.

POSTMODERNS & Do They Have To Experience It – To Believe It? A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/2/15.

A student once remarked that is was difficult to get younger generations to give.  He stated, “I find the challenge today is to get the younger generations to also find the value of supporting the ministries of the church with tithes and offerings.  Longevity will also depend on this aspect of financial health.”

Here are my thoughts on this.

Regrettably, younger generations usually do not give until they have been touched themselves by the ministry of the church.  This is because Postmodern-influenced young people gain knowledge through experience.  Thus, telling them (via preaching, Bible studies, etc.) that tithing will help the needy will not affect them very much, until they have been needy and the church helped.  Thus, I often encourage less preaching on the topic of giving, and more fostering of giving experiences.

Postmoderns recognize the validity of knowledge, by experiencing it themselves. This is because they have heard the Boomers say something is good and to take the Boomers’ word on it.  Subsequently, Postmoderns (Postmodern Xers and Gen. Y) often want Boomers (and others) to prove what they say is true by helping them experience it.

A Leadership Exercise:

To begin your leadership exercise, share a story where an experience has helped you understand the validity of a Bible principle?

Here is an example. A student responded with a question.  He said, “Yes it’s makes sense.  Could you provide an example of “fostering giving opportunities” to make sure I’m clear on what you’re saying?  I appreciate it.”

Here are my thoughts that I replied to this student.  By “fostering of giving experiences” I mean having more local ministry to the needy, so people can be personally helped by the church and thus see its veracity and validity.  In many Postmoderns’ minds this local expression of concern substantiates a ministry.

For instance, if a church has a program to help people write their resume, or find a new job; a Postmodern might in turn be helped by this.  Subsequently, the PM might feel that giving to the church had a higher priority, for they have felt their needs met by the church directly.  This however, is not like  some Boomers who might selfishly want something before they give. PMs are very different.  They look out and see so many good giving opportunities, that before they give their hard-earned money away they want to know that our charitable programs really are really working.  In addition, it wouldn’t necessarily have to happen to a PM themselves.  They might witness a friend being helped.  The key in the PM mind is that the church acts locally so the veracity can be assessed, and globally so the world can be helped.  The PM will not just take a Boomer’s (or expert’s) word that a program is working and meets people’s needs.  They want to personally verify this, before giving to it.

Many churches today focus on compassion ministry far away.  Nothing wrong with this, it is just that local ministry is needed too.  And, local ministry will validate and explain what is going on “over there.”

Finally one last illustration.  Rather than preaching about how hard the missionary life is in the field, the PMer wants to experience it themselves. That is why short-term missionary programs can be so powerful.

My friend Elmer Towns quoted his seminary’s president as saying it this way: “The light that shines the furthest, shines the brightest at home.”

Now, to continue the leadership exercise, answer the following question: “Is your church shining its light bright enough at home?  If so, how? And, is that sufficient?  And if not, what will you do about it?”

THEOLOGY & Scot McKnight on Thomas Oden’s “A Change of Heart”

By Carl Trueman, Jan. 28, 2015, Postcards From Palookaville

As readers will know, this week MoS is focusing on Thomas Oden’s autobiography, A Change of Heart. As I have reviewed it for the January edition of First Things, I asked Scot McKnight, as a friend and representative of another stream of evangelical life, to offer his thoughts on the volume, an invitation he kindly accepted. To coincide with today’s podcast on the book, I post Scot’s review here, replete with quotations which give the reader a real taste of the book as a whole.

Thomas C. Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014). 382 pp. with index.

The tension in Thomas C. Oden’s memoir, tension between a socialist-absorbing and avant garde theology and established reputation among America’s academic elites and (his now well-known) paleo-orthodoxy and refusal to say anything new in theology and disestablishment in the same academic community mirrors the history of the American church in the 20th Century. One might sketch that history with varying trajectories – from orthodox evangelicalism into liberalism in all its forms is a stereotyped story of a slide – but Oden’s story turns that story around for he moved against the grain into a robust embrace of orthodox Christianity.

I first became aware of Oden in the mid-90s when I read both After Modernity … What? (1992) and Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements (1995). Oden tells his story of participation in the two ends of America’s theological spectrum with candor, humility – confessions about his own culpability for his previous beliefs and teachings and wishes that he had been more firm in rearing his children – and restraint, but nonetheless a baring of his soul:

My past visions of vast plans for social change had irreparably harmed many innocents, especially the unborn. The sexually permissive lifestyle, which I had not joined but failed to critique, led to a generation of fatherless children. The political policies I had promoted were intended to increase justice by political means but ended in diminishing personal responsibility and freedom. Many of the seemingly humane psychological therapies I had supported may have made people more miserable, less able to choose wisely or to seek the virtues required for happiness (145).

Read more at …–F3Yhz88

GENERATIONS & Young People Moving Away From Religion? Not really. Meet the Post-Seculars.

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religious News Service, 1/28/15.

(RNS) Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who seem to have gone unnoticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion.

They’re more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans), and more scientifically knowledgeable than “Moderns” (36 percent) who stand on science alone, according to two sociologists’ findings in a new study.

“We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories,” said Timothy O’Brien, co-author of the research study, released Thursday (Jan. 29) in the American Sociological Review…

Many findings fit the usual way the science-religion divide is viewed:

— Moderns, who stand on reason, scored high on scientific knowledge and scored lowest on religion questions regarding biblical authority and the strength of their religious ties.

— Traditionals, who lean toward religion, scored lower on science facts and were least likely to agree that “the benefits of scientific research outweigh the harmful results.”

However, the data turned up a third perspective – people who defied the familiar breakdown. The authors dubbed them “Post-Secular” to jump past a popular theory that Americans are moving way from religion to become more secular, O’Brien said.

Post-Seculars — about half of whom identify as conservative Protestants — know facts such as how lasers work, what antibiotics do and the way genetics affects inherited illnesses.

But when it comes to three main areas where science and Christian-centric religious views conflict — on human evolution, the Big Bang origin of the universe and the age of the Earth — Post-Seculars break away from the pack with significantly different views from Traditionals and Moderns.

Areas where the factions are clear:

RNS science graphic by Tiffany McCallen; click to view full size

Read more at …

PREACHING & A4 (or AAAA): My Structure for Effective Preaching in a Postmodern World = Adversity – Answer – Adventure – Action

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/28/14, 7/24/19.

Part of my study of today’s culture, which some call a post-modern culture, is to understand how we can effectively communicate with people the life-transforming truths of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  Here are the elements I have developed and practiced to communicate the Biblical message in an increasingly skeptical world.

ADVERSITY.  State a problem with which people struggle …

1.1 Ask the congregation a “question” that illustrates the adversity.

1.2 The Serendipity Bible is a great source of these questions.

1.3  Wesley’s questions are also great sources for these questions.  You can find them adapted for today in …

1.3.1  Cure for the Common Church by Bob Whitesel (2012) and

1.3.2  The Healthy Church by Bob Whitesel (2013)

ANSWER biblically the problem (the more people who can relate to this problem the better).

ADVENTURE through a “passage” from a biblical story.  Choose a Bible passage that gives the answer to the problem…

3.1  Start with something like Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible to get the basic historical background,

3.2  Then two good commentaries on the passage,

3.3  Then consult two more books that deal with the problem you are addressing,

3.4 FILL your mind up with this background information until you think you can learn no more – then add a little bit more. Then see what the Holy Spirit brings up from your consciousness during the sermon.

ACTION, give them actions they can do in the next 24 hours to apply the biblical answer to the problem …

5.1  Give just two (2) ways to act on the problem that are based in the story (Adventure) you just described.

5.2  In the next 24 hours (e.g. before noon on Monday).


Notes:  I formerly developed this in the more unwieldy acronym ASJAA for Ask, State (the problem), Journey through the Bible with them, State the problem again and Act on the biblical answer.  This of course was difficult to remember and therefore I have replaced it with the A4, A-4, AAAA or the “A to-the-forth-power approach.”  I utilize this in preaching seminars and in communication consultations for my coaching firm

#CommunicationConsultation #Preaching #PreachingConsultation #Communication

A video of Bob Whitesel: OUTREACH & Get Radical by Asking Your Community About Their Needs

Bob Whitesel, Oct. 2012, Conference, Nashville, TN

Professor Whitesel summarizes a simple “need-based” strategy for growing your church through outreach. (From Church Central’s Turnaround 20/20 summit in 2012.)


bookjacketMistrust of the Church:  RT @warrenbird: Trend: growing dissatisfaction w/ US religious leaders says book by scholar Mark Chaves

“Mark Chaves … finds that American religious life has seen much continuity in recent decades, but also much change. He challenges the popular notion that religion is witnessing a resurgence in the United States–in fact, traditional belief and practice is either stable or declining. Chaves examines why the decline in liberal Protestant denominations has been accompanied by the spread of liberal Protestant attitudes about religious and social tolerance, how confidence in religious institutions has declined more than confidence in secular institutions, and a host of other crucial trends.”