I Once Was Lost

Our regional team is gathering in Nashville this week for our annual staff conference. Each year we select a topic or theme that touches on one of the core animating values of our ministry with graduate students and faculty. Last year we explored the integration of faith, learning practice through the lens of redeeming the university as an institution. In 2011 we are considering the topic of evangelism. Our speaker will be Doug Schaupp co-author of I Once Was Lost (with Don Everts)

Evangelism is central to the identity and mission of the church and of individual followers of Christ. Along with discipleship, evangelism stands at the heart of the mission of InterVarsity as an inter-denominational evangelical mission on college campuses. As a result I know that each of the staff I work with long to see more graduate students and faculty become devoted followers of Christ.

I Once Was Lost will serve as the foundation for a multi-day discussion of what effective evangelism looks like in the context of working with two populations that differ significantly from undergraduate students, InterVarsity’s traditional emphasis. I it will do the job nicely and will be complemented by Doug’s creativity and openness in shaping our time together around serving the mission of reaching graduate students and faculty.

Here’s a quick summary of the book, in case you’re interested in ordering a copy. I Once Was Lost makes a unique contribution to popular literature concerning evangelism in that it is descriptive. The book discerns and describes five thresholds on the path to faith in Christ on the basis of hundreds of conversations with college students who have become disciples. This is an important contribution because it manages to provide a healthy balance between the “ought” and the “is” of evangelism.

Critical to the evangelistic task, according to Schaupp and Everts, is the consideration of two important questions:

  1. What is it like for those who are lost to take steps toward Jesus?
  2. How can we be helpful for them on that journey?
These questions help us to be sensitive to the needs of those who are not yet believers and moves the center of concern away from us (as in: “am I doing evangelism rightly?”) to our not yet Christian friend. Of course healthy engagement with these questions takes place in the context of a Scripture-formed understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Schaupp and Everts (and their interviewees) discerned five thresholds in the path to faith. Here they are:
  • From distrust to trust
  • From complacent to curious
  • From being closed to being open
  • From meandering to seeking
  • Into the kingdom
Interestingly these thresholds correspond to the metaphor of the seed (Gospel) in the Parable of the Seed and Sower (Mt 428ff.):
  • Seed
  • Stalk
  • Head
  • Full grain
  • Ripe
In the next couple of posts we’ll look at and describe each of these thresholds in more detail. I hope you’ll join me in praying for our team as we get together to discuss this book in light of our mission to the campus.