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 … http://evangelism.intervarsity.org/resource/5-thresholds-postmodern-conversion-overview

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DE-CONVERSION & Why ministers abandon the Christian faith #BGCE

by Michael Hakmin Lee Ph.D., Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, Fellows colloquium, 12/18/17.

25 pastors who had been in ministry for 2+ years and who mostly came from a fundamentalist background were interviewed. To agree on terminology Dr. Lee used Paul Hiebert’s definition: a Christian is a person seeking “to follow Christ to the extent they know him.” [Paul G.Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985] p. 127.)

Insights:

  • Most who reconverted saw their Christianity as a “half-way” house that was a viable solution at the time that dissolved some of their problems and angst.
  • They saw their deconversion as a pursuit of truth.
  • There was an accumulation of doubt.

Major themes:

  1. Loss of confidence in biblical authority, in order:
    • Bible criticism,
    • Ethics in the bible,
    • Theological and hermeneutical divergence.
  2. Dissent from Christian teaching and values:
    • Hell and Christianity exclusivity
    • Science and Faith
  3. Disappointment with God and the Christian Experience
    • Efficacy of prayer and spiritual resources
    • The problem of evil
    • Provoking life struggles
    • Christian behavior
  4. Personal predisposition with characteristics of “openness to experience:”
    • Imaginativeness,
    • Sensitivity to inner feelings,
    • Perusal of new experiences,
    • Intellectual curiosity and
    • Readiness to reevaluate values.

See Kenneth Daniels book, Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary.

Also see Lewis Ray Rambo,

LEE, M. H. (0ADAD). Assessment Of Paul Hiebert’s Centered-Set Approach To The Category ‘Christian’. https://doi.org/10.2986/TREN.001-1127

SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS & A Review by Dr. Kwasi Kena, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church

A Review of “Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey” by Bob Whitesel, reviewed by Dr. Kwasi Kena, Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.


Journey
— from time immemorial writers have employed this metaphor to bear the weight of meaning for their ideas. From Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” to Scott and Russell’s song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” journey has found constant employment. To the phrase, “life is a journey,” auto-makers and airline companies place their taglines: “travel it well” (United) or “enjoy the ride” (Nissan). Isaac Asimov wrote one of my favorite twists on the journey metaphor “Life is a journey, but don’t worry, you’ll find a parking spot at the end.”

But what of the Christian journey. Who provides aid in navigating its path? We’ve borrowed the phrase “life’s a journey not a destination” from the lyrics to Aerosmith’s song “Amazing” to describe the Christian experience, but can’t we do more than borrow catch-phrases and the latest slogans for our service?

At least one author has responded to these questions, Bob Whitesel. In his book Spiritual Waypoints, Whitesel highlights key markers or waypoints located at strategic points of one’s journey toward and with Jesus Christ. Whitesel points out the advantage of using waypoints while journeying to a destination.

A waypoint is a position, not a phase or a frozen marker. It tells where a traveler is in relation to other features on the road. He also points out that a waypoint may be different for each trekker. He offers no single, canned approach to relating to people on the journey. Instead, Whitesel provides a variety of options that may be adapted by individual churches.

The Engle and Clinton Models

In the past, many clergy were exposed to the Engle scale when introduced to evangelism methodology. The Engle scale is a model that visualizes a spiritual journey along a continuum. This continuum begins with the negative number eight and ends with the positive number five. Each number represents a stage of spiritual decision. For example a negative eight(-8) represents “Awareness of a supreme being, no knowledge of gospel.” A -1 represents “Repentance and faith in Christ.” Some traditional approaches to evangelism emphasized focusing more attention on people closer to the repentance stage to maximize the probability of evangelistic “success.” Sadly, people on the extreme negative side of the Engle scale were routinely avoided. It is this type of short-sighted approach to evangelism that Spiritual Waypoints corrects.

A second model used to chart spiritual maturation is Robert Clinton’s “Six Phases of Leadership Development.” In each of these six phases, Clinton describes the “what” and “how” of spiritual development in an individual.

A Synthesized Model

Whitesel combines Engle’s Eight Stages of Spiritual Decision and Robert Clinton’s Six Phases of Leadership Development to produce his synthesized Spiritual Waypoints Model. This model provides sixteen distinct waypoints that guide the reader in determining the spiritual location of an individual. At each point, Whitesel shares practical suggestions about how to recognize and assist travelers on their spiritual journey.

In a lecture on his book, Whitesel noted that while many highly evangelistic churches have typically shied away from a “negative eight” on the Engle scale, there are ways to get the attention of such individuals. Surprisingly, he pointed to the efforts of “community outreach churches” that participated in social outreach. Through their charitable acts, these churches introduced God’s grace to people who were most antagonistic toward God. Despite initial antagonism, even the most hardened soul may take notice of kindness. This experience will pave the way for later receptivity of God’s grace in that individual.

By providing insights into what spiritual travelers are experiencing at each waypoint, churches can help such people negotiate their way toward Christ. The sixteen-point continuum provides a visual for churches to consult and assess how well they are doing to relate to people at all points of their spiritual journey. Many find that their church focuses on people only at certain points of the spiritual journey, but neglects people at other points. That occurs, says Whitesel, “because church leaders are largely unaware of the next phase of the spiritual traveler’s spiritual development.”

The Perils of Narrow Band Ministry

The neglect of the next phase in a spiritual traveler’s journey causes gaps. It means that a church is offering only a narrow band of ministry. When churches offer a narrow band of ministry, Whitesel notes “they can force the spiritual traveler to sever fellowship with one faith community in search of another that will take them to the next stage of spiritual development.”

Pastors and laity who are serious about developing a church culture that excels at evangelism and discipleship will benefit from reading this book. Pastors and laity alike would be well-served to become familiar with the descriptions and accompanying ministry strategies contained in the Spiritual Waypoints model. I agree with what one reviewer says about Spiritual Waypoints: “It will forever change the way you go about fulfilling the great commission.”

Download the review here: Review of ‘Spiritual Waypoints – Helping Others Navigate the Journey’ by Bob Whitesel

Read more here … https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/review-of-spiritual-waypoints-helping-others-navigate-the-journey-by-bob-wh

Related Resources:

Spiritual Waypoints

Engle Scale Explained

The Making of a Leader by Robert Clinton

The Making of a Leader Review PDF

 

SPIRITUAL WAYPOINT 6 & The Post-conversion Evaluation of Lecrae: What I Wish Christians Had Told Me

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my book Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Wesleyan Publishing House) I describe “Waypoint 6” as the customary “post-conversion evaluation” that new Christians often undergo after accepting Christ.  Not recognizing this stage can lead mature Christians to ignore the spiritual questions and struggles of their younger counterparts . Here’s a good reminder from Lacrae’s new book.

by Lacrae, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 5/3/16.

When I decided to follow Jesus one night at a Christian conference in Atlanta, I assumed becoming a Christian would make life easier. I thought the rest of my life would be smiling and smooth sailing.

I assumed I wouldn’t be tempted by women and partying and acceptance and all the things that I’d been a slave to for so many years. I thought I would walk around with a continual inner peace and serenity like Gandhi or something.

This turns out to be a lie that too many people believe. You’ll actually experience more temptation, not less, after you become a Christian. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll start living perfectly overnight. It certainly doesn’t mean your problems will disappear.

Rather than ridding you of problems or temptations, following Jesus means you have a place—no, a person—to run to when they come. And the power to overcome them.

Unashamed LecraeI wish someone had told me this after that night in Atlanta. Because when I started stumbling and faltering after I became a Christian, I hid my struggles. Why? Because I didn’t think it was supposed to go down like that. And because too many Christians I know lived by the same lie and condemned, shamed, and rejected other Christians who messed up.

Since I thought I was supposed to be instantly sinless and my Christian friends did too, I lived a double life. I acted like a Christian around other Christians, but I let loose whenever I wasn’t.

I can’t tell you where we got the idea that following Jesus is some kind of quick fix for all of our struggles, but it wasn’t from the Bible. No, the Scripture is like one big, unbroken story about people who decided to follow God and ended up failing almost as much as they succeeded.

Excerpted from Unashamed. Used by permission of B&H PublishingRead more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/05/03/lecrae-what-i-wish-christians-had-told-me/#.V7QXgMT3aJI

WAYPOINTS & 16 Waypoints in a Spiritual Journey

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

A New Roadmap for a New Era

Engel’s and Clinton’s scales provide helpful visual reminders in a world increasingly comfortable and dependent upon symbols and icons.[i] But both Engel and Clinton are still rooted in a modernist world where inflexible stages and lock-step phases rob the journey of outreach of its elastic and local flavor. Who would want to blindly follow someone else’s travelogue, and not experience surprises, scenic byways and flexibility in route?

A new postmodern era is emphasizing the importance of learning through experience, not just from books.[ii] These are people who want to experience the journey, not just live vicariously through someone else’s diary. For these people a new roadmap is needed, a map that draws from the best of Engel and Clinton, but also emphasizes how each traveler experiences the journey uniquely. This new map must emphasize that there are common waypoints that each traveler will encounter though at different times and with different facets. Our new map must focus less on stages and phases, and instead concentrate on the natural experiences that the traveler will encounter on the journey.

To begin to chart this new route, let us see how (in Figure 3) both Engel and Clinton contribute insights, but on different segments of the journey.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS A.3 Engel & Clinton p. 231.jpg As seen in Figure 3, both scales have their strong points. By combining the two, taking out some overlap, updating terminology, and focusing on the process rather than static stages/phases, a new roadmap can emerge that is more attune to today’s traveler. Therefore to provide a more elastic and organic alternative, I suggest that the stages and phases become less prominent, and they be replaced with moveable waypoints that give a general understanding of where one is within a certain segment of their journey. Figure 4 then is a new scale, born from the above,[i] but with emphasis upon indigenous waypoints for tracking the traveler’s progress.

FIGURE ©Whitesel SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS Map A.4 p. 232.jpg

[i] For examples of the widespread use of icons in contemporary communication, see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon Press, 2006).

[ii] See also the author’s analysis of postmodernal church patterns in Inside the Organic Church and Preparing for Change Reaction. Especially note Chapter 3 on change and culture in the latter volume.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 231-232.

WESLEY & A Comparison of His 3 Types of Existance

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/5/15.

John Wesley noted that people generally existed in a journey through three waypoints (or stages): natural existence, legal existence and evangelical existence.  Put forth most famously in Wesley’s “The Spirit of Bondage and the Spirit of Adoption” (1746), Thomas Oden’s helpful introduction prepares the reader to understand these important waypoints in spiritual discovery.

These categories are not too dissimilar to my friend and colleague Ed Stetzer’s categories of “cultural Christians” (somewhere between Wesley’s natural-legal continuum) and “conversion Christians.”  In Stetzer’s typology, Wesley’s conversion took place at Aldersgate. But since in Wesley’s day “evangelical” did not have today’s negative media connotation (and hence perhaps Stetzer’s aversion to its use), I believe that if Wesley lived today, due to his emphasis upon conversion, he would embrace Stetzer’s designation of “conversion Christian.” Wesley certainly after his Aldersgate experience places conversion as the fulcrum upon which his methodology and theology would emerge.

Here is a screenshot of Oden’s helpful introduction to the idea:

oden-on-wesley-on-conversion

Buy the book at … https://books.google.com/books?id=8qqtss5N6cYC&pg=PA277&dq=John+wesley+natural+legal+evangelical&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipxrLx_MTJAhUF6CYKHSUsDTYQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=John%20wesley%20natural%20legal%20evangelical&f=false

Hear more about John Wesley’s conversion and his experience of the interplay of these three existences at …http://livestre.am/5fQ0e

OUTREACH & Santa Cruz, CA motto: “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” inspires Dan Kimball.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.

A former student joined an elective course I taught with Dan Kimball in Santa Crux, CA.  And the student made the following insightful analysis of how Dan stays connected with the libertine lifestyles of Santa Cruz.  In fact, Santa Cruz is very proud of their oddness and eccentricity (there is a popular bumper sticker they sell in Santa Cruz that states “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”). The student wrote:

Dr. Whitesel,  One of the most impacting methods of understanding Santa Cruz that Dan mentioned were the relationships he maintained with the “weird” citizens of Santa Cruz.  He mentioned having coffee with a man who vehemently resisted and rejected Dan’s stance online concerning homosexuality.  We also met Susan Harding, a unbelieving professor at UCSC who studies churches simply from a sociological perspective.

Dan regularly meets with people who do not hold to the same tenets of reality or religion.  In doing so, he is constantly giving himself exposure to different worldviews, to different ways of thinking, to different perspectives and to different cultures.  In doing so, he is able to identify that culture’s needs, its language, and its symbols.  This enables him to effectively create a church that is unique, maintains its faithfulness to the Gospel, while still communicating in a language and through symbols that reach out to other cultures.

When Dan asked in class, “How many of you regularly meet with non-Christians” I could not raise my hand.  It is my goal now to find a few to hang out with!  Thanks Dan.  Thanks Dr. Whitesel!  – Joel L.


Here is how I responded:

Glad to help.

During that course we also had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Susan Harding: http://anthro.ucsc.edu/directory/details.php?id=28 .  One of her research foci is “born-again Christianity” (ibid.) and she has penned a book titled “The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics” (Princeton University Press, 2000). It looks at the philosophical outlook and influence of Jerry Falwell.  To have a person volunteering with Vintage Faith Church on her faith journey was remarkable (but it shouldn’t be 🙂

What I found equally powerful, was that she said the love and community she found at Vintage Faith Church had changed her perspective of where she was in her own spiritual journey.  As a result, she helped others get in touch with their spiritual side by serving at Vintage Faith Church. Thus, while she was not leading persons across the waypoint of conversion, she was leading people further along their spiritual journey (across more waypoints) to connect with their spiritual side.  A student in the class made this point, saying “Dr. Harding is actually helping spiritual travelers cross Waypoints 16, 15 and maybe even 14.”  This is why looking at the spiritual journey as a series of waypoints is helpful.  We can see that many people are helping people move along the journey, and that just because they are not helping people cross the “conversion” waypoint, doesn’t mean they are still not helping people with their spiritual quest.  I look at such guides as helpers for a part of the journey. And, I hope that as they travel more on their own personal journey, they will be helped by others further along the trek, to see that the ultimate designation in my view is a return to fellowship with God made possible only by Jesus Christ.  Spiritual Waypoints help us visualize better the process the Holy Spirit is using.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS Map