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I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
For so many of us, sharing our faith is a frustrating exercise. We have the best of intentions, but end up being jerks for Jesus. We avoid non-Christians like the plague for a while. Then some one or some thing convinces us that we really ought to evangelize. So we gear up with self-righteous, fire and brimstone fear of hell for the next round.

And we wonder why Christians have a reputation for being judgmental, close-minded and angry. Why would anyone else want to be a Christian when we make it look so uncomfortable?

If this sounds familiar to you, you are going to love "I Once Was Lost". Get ready to be amazed at how easy sharing Jesus can be. It's a freeing, wonderful book full of insights and practical applications. Not a how-to book on evangelism. More like a how-come what we have been doing hasn't been working. And biblical, helpful ways to see the whole process of coming to Jesus differently than you ever have before.

Emphasizing relationship over religion and loving over lecturing; this book will give you the confidence to share what you love about Jesus and let Him handle the rest. A very special book that every Christian ought to read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was a little worried about the book's approach when it stated it that there are five stages a pre-christian goes through before understanding what it takes to make a commitment to Jesus (as in, "Oh no, not another formula..."). But as I read I saw these stages as not being so much "steps to peace with God" but more like "steps to understanding the journey they are on". It is a book that snaps everything into place in your head if you have ever tried to unsuccessfully (or successfully) lead someone to Jesus. You will say, "Oh, that's why that person reacted the way they did!". Many times we operate on a different level than people are on. Too many times we are too eager to dump all of our knowledge and training on someone who is asking for just a little understanding. Other times people are ready to make the commitment but we are not seeing it and we let the opportunity pass. This book helps you to discern where people are in their quest for Christ as well as letting you know you are not the only one who screws up the evangelism adventure. A must read!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
How can we effectively evangelize non-Christians in a postmodern age?

How are postmodern people coming to Christ?

What lessons can we learn from their spiritual journeys that might help us as we work to fulfill the Great Commission?

In I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taughts us about Their Path to Jesus (IVP, 2008), Don Everts and Doug Schaupp draw on their many years of experience in ministry to postmoderns in order to help answer these questions and more. I Once Was Lost is a book born out of evangelistic efforts in a postmodern setting.

Throughout their ministry among postmoderns, the authors began noticing certain common experiences among their friends' journeys to faith. These experiences led them to some conclusions about evangelism to postmodern people.

Using the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-27) as a foundational guide, the authors describe the postmodern journey to faith as both mysterious and organic. Conversion is mysterious in that it comes only from God:

"There is something spiritually liberating when we admit and declare what is beyond us and where we are powerless. We cannot create life. It is impossible for us to predict why some of our friends will choose Jesus and why others just won't. We don't know how to change hearts... This lesson has freed us from the modern temptation to view conversion as mostly a psychological phenomenon, an inner event that can be controlled and manipulated and triggered if we preach the gospel just right..." (19)

Liberated by the mystery of saving faith, the authors conclude that "the monkey is off our back, and onto God's back, where it belongs. The Scriptures teach us that God is ultimately in control of salvation." (19) God's sovereignty forms the foundation of conversion, but that does not keep the authors from seeking to evangelize effectively. Instead, it lends a certain humility in their efforts.

I Once Was Lost is less a prescription for evangelism to postmoderns as it is a description of how effective evangelism is taking place in certain circles. The authors see five thresholds in the postmodern journey to faith:

From distrust to trust. (Somewhere along the line, they learned to trust a Christian.)

From complacent to curious. (They become curious regarding the Christian faith of their new friend.)

From being closed to change to being open to change in their life. (The hardest threshold to cross.)

From meandering to seeking. (At this stage, they begin actively, purposefully seeking God.)

The Kingdom itself. (Trusting in Christ for salvation and confessing him as Lord.)

The authors then devote a chapter to unpacking each of these thresholds and showing the theological and biblical underpinnings for each one. The first threshold is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus came and became one of us. The authors warn, however, that In our "incarnational" evangelism, we should not succumb to relativism by pretending that all religions are the same.

The second threshold takes place when the non-Christian begins to see the transforming power of Jesus in the life of the believer. Seeing someone follow Jesus naturally leads to the "Why" question and moves the non-Christian from complacency to curiosity. The authors give practical advice in stoking this God-given curiosity (ask good questions and tell parables). One minor quibble here: The authors wrongly interpret Mark 4 regarding the purpose of Jesus' parables [55], but that aside, they put forth many good ideas for evangelism at this stage in the process.

In threshold three, we are encouraged to give non-Christians the gift of space and permission to explore. The authors believe that moving from being closed to change to open to change is the most difficult step to take. That's why they encourage fervent prayer during this stage (73).

In their zeal for helping people "explore" Christianity, however, the authors put forth the idea that Christianity is one option among many to be "tried." I don't like the terminology they use of "giving God a trial run" (71). Such terminology fits fine in our capitalistic, consumerist culture, but not in the biblical worldview of the God who rightfully claims our lives.

Christians should practice "nonjudgmental truthfulness," and "gentle honesty" at this stage (75). How can one engage in this type of dialogue? By taking a conversation deeper. One example the authors give hardly seems like a "deeper" conversation:

"We all need help to get by. We might get our fix at Starbucks, at a party or on the Internet. But we all need a fix. I find my fix in God. What do you think about a spiritual hook-up?" (76)

But despite the trivial, street-talk given in the examples, the authors are right to assert that "sometimes the most loving thing we can do for someone is not to beat around the bush in conversations, but instead to just call them out on how they are afraid to change" (78). They go further in saying, "We underestimate the importance of our role in speaking words of challenge. If you tend to be that way, please don't let your own comfort level guide how much you speak the truth in love, or you may never get around to it" (81). Bold, but helpful advice indeed.

Once the non-Christian reaches threshold four and begins to be more active in their pursuit of God, the authors recommend that Bible study take centerstage. At this stage, "people do not need to know what you think about Jesus near as much as they need to know what the Gospels say about Jesus" (98). I appreciate the centrality of Scripture that forms the heart of this section of the book.

The authors recommend a sense of urgency at the "kingdom" threshold. It is here that Christians should press the claims of Christ upon their friends, encouraging public commitment to Christ upon personal conversion.

I Once Was Lost is a short book that contains a great amount of helpful material for those interested in engaging a postmodern world with the gospel of Christ. I was pleasantly surprised at the emphasis on Scripture, the encouragement to gently confront, and the reliance on the Holy Spirit's power in seeking to effectively evangelize others. Despite a few weak spots, the book contains much to be commended and deserves a wide audience. I Once Was Lost makes me want to roll up my sleeves and get to work as a more passionate evangelist in this postmodern age.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Everts and Schaupp help the reader become sensitive to the typical stages college students move through when they become Christians.

This book would be particularly helpful for those who work with college students or want to better understand college students--as it describes the pressures, thought processes, and friendship dynamics of this age group.

It would also be helpful for those who ask the question, "Does anyone today convert to Christianity as a thinking adult?" Indeed they do. Everts and Schaupp try to find patterns in the journeys of the people they have observed moving through this process.

They identify Trusting a Christian, Becoming Curious, Opening Up to Change, Seeking After God, Entering the Kingdom and Living in the Kingdom as key "thresholds" that people move through.

The book is nice and concise (134 pages) and reads quickly. Everts and Schaupp are not trying to make an argument that these are the thresholds all Christians need to work through. Rather it is sociological or anthropological work--similar to the famous Kubler-Ross stages of loss (denial, anger, acceptance, etc.) or Christian Smith finding the phenomenon of "moralistic therapeutic deism" in teens.

Everts and Schaupp essentially share their experiences and then ask if this resonates with others. This is not to denigrate their experiences--they have done a significant amount of interviews and they are in as good a position as anyone with their experience in college ministry with InterVarsity to make these kind of observations. Does their model have explanatory power? I think it does.

If they are right that college students (and perhaps teenagers and adults as well--who knows?) that become Christians, move through these thresholds well, what are the implications for how college ministry and church ministry should change if they want to see more people become Christians? The unmissable point is that these students who have moved through these thresholds certainly did not do so because of one event or program. Someone needed to listen to them, give them advice, challenge them and encourage them. Though Everts and Schaupp sketch a process, they explode the idea that some specially designed program would be able to mass-produce followers of Jesus. This book is much more about how to do spiritual direction than how to do evangelistic programming.

The book does not contain much formal theological language. In my quick reading, I do not remember a reference for example to the Holy Spirit or to baptism. Their goal is not to reflect theologically on conversion. Similarly they do not engage developmental psychology or other sociological research and draw parallels between that research and their conclusions. An academic researcher would want to do interviews with a representative sample of people who became Christians in college to test Everts and Schaupp's tentative conclusions.

One final note, the book has in its subtitle the controversial word "postmodern"--What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus. I would simply say that this word plays almost no role in the book. It is not a book that views postmodernity positively nor one that views postmodernity negatively. The book describes students at colleges in California and Colorado in the last twenty years--that is all the authors mean by "postmodern."

In conclusion, I would highly recommend the book as insightful, brief, hopeful and stimulating. College students will be loved better by people who read this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Don & Doug,

thank you and IVCF for this resource. With all the postmodern stuff out there I found this book extremely helpful. I appreciate you guys not entering into the whole postmodern church deal and just sticking to ministering to people. The 5 threshholds were helpful with subpoints for each of them.

thank you for your honesty and for listening to your community and to God about turning your experiences into a resource.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
I Once Was Lost offers a great and non-academic introduction to evangelism in a post-modern, Western culture. What I liked about this book most was that it focused on relationships rather than a step by step program on how to "do" evangelism. While it did suggest that there are five general "thresholds" that people go through (or are in) prior to their acceptance of Christ's grace and kingship, the emphasis was on interpersonal dynamics. That is to say that all of the unhelpful, cliche' and stupid "modern" efforts at merely informing people of what the Bible says in a street-corner or door-to-door style presentation was happily absent from this book. To the contrary, all of the examples of postmodern evangelism given by the authors indicated a long-term, traveler oriented relationship between intentional Christians and those who had yet to meet and love the dynamic character of Jesus of Nazareth.

Of course the respective authors intend for their book to be helpful as Christ followers seek to lead others all the way to their King, and they offer a general map of waypoints that have matched their own experiences in the field. Nevertheless, I Once Was Lost clearly indicates that our role as evangelists is to help another person take a step closer to Jesus rather than farther away, regardless of the point when and where our lives intersect or where they depart. Maybe we will be so fortunate as to help a person meet and get lit up by Jesus and accept him all in one phase of life, but it is more likely that we will carry on what the Holy Spirit started with someone who came before us and will continue after we fade from the scene. As the authors pointed out, God is the only one who sees the big picture, and he is the one who uses us for his purposes to save in our pre-Christian relationships. God saves people, not us, but our responsibility (and indeed our honor) is to be a key person in this particular phase of our friends' faith-journeys.

I Once Was Lost helps readers look for and identify patterns that may well help them discern where their friends are at in their own faith-journeys, and then take them to the next level with God. That is a message and a reminder that we can all use.

Thanks for reading me,
-CL
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
An absolute must read book for ministry leaders who want to better understand the process it will take for postmodern people to come to Christ. When I was a teenager, I went through Evangelism Explosion training at my church. Yet Evangelism Explosion doesn't resonate with people today, and unless we try to understand the 21st century mindset of post Christian people, our outdated evangelism efforts will continue to frustrate us. This is a very good book, a quick and very simple and easy to understand read about understanding how to relate and reach postmoderns for Christ
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book looked good, from reading the cover, the back, and the introduction but it did not live up to the packaging. I was expecting actual stories from some of these hordes of people the authors mentioned instead of snippets and accounts retold by the authors. The writing was inconsistent, possibly because it was co-authored, and it was annoying to have the authors continually telling us who was writing (Don). I did find some interesting and useful content here and there, especially in the last third of the book, but for the most part I found it to be too basic and sometimes boring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Allow me to start with respected reviewer who have read the book and made comment.

"What's in the secret sauce? It took two decades of lab work to find out, but two campus ministers working two different kitchens have picked up the five pivotal 'thresholds' that usher postmodernism into faith. This will be high on my list of the most important books on evangelism published so far in the twenty-first century." (Leonard Sweet, Drew Theological School)

That means two authors has done research on how today's POST-MODERNISM culture response to God's Gospel. They never worked together. When they meet, they shared testimonies about what happened. They were shocked about similar experience from two different places and that was amazing work of Kingdom of God in bringing those Post Modernism skeptics to Christ.

The book has been divided into following chapters:
PATH TO JESUS:
STEP ONE: Trusting a Christian
STEP TWO: Becoming Curious
STEP THREE: Opening Up to Change
STEP FOUR: Seeking After God
STEP FIVE: Entering the Kingdom
BEYOND THE STEPS: Living in the Kingdom
CONCLUSION: Servant Evangelism

Notice first step is to TRUST a Christian. WOW... how does that work to have Post modernism skeptics and non-Christians TRUST a Christian? On page 30, it says "Christa doesn't trust Christians because she was once told she's going straight to hell. Julie was invited to a church outing but felt like an outsider the entire time." Those stories tell us how they did not trust Christian at first place. That is why the book is a great resource on how to make Post-Modern Skeptics trust Christian. This is OUR challenge, NOT THEM. If we can't get them to trust us as Christians, then WE HAVE FAILED.

In my opinion, I think Step Three is BIGGEST CHALLENGE for Christians. Which is Opening Up to Change. Common sense about Christianity is all about changing our life style from old life of sinful nature to new life of fruit of spirit.

From I understand from the book is that lots of Skeptics and Non-Christians are not willing to change. If Non-Christians do not see changes in life style of Christians then how will you expect them to change? The report is that they have been observing that Christians do not change even after receiving Jesus Christ as personal savior. I do realize myself I have similar experience, when I first became Christian JUST BECAUSE I did not want to go to hell, I did not change myself. Why should they expect to change their sinful lifestyle if I don't change myself first.
Therefore, the step to bring those Non-Christians and Skeptics to Christ is to let them see OUR CHANGE, not them. Therefore change starts with ME, NOT THEM.

Hence, what I have been noticing, but being HONEST from bottom of my heart is... I notice: Modernist people's theme is: CHANGE THEM NOW and no change in my own life. Post Modernist people's theme based on this book is: CHANGE ME FIRST then make friends with non-Christians and Skeptics and spend time with them like loving neighbors as yourself.
Sigh, For that reason, I wish I had that experience when I was college student back in 1985 but I can't call Michael J Fox for consultant on how to build up a time machine just to change the past for today. Oh well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Good, common sense info to guide one's thinking as they engage today's "nones" along spiritual pathways. The need for patience. The need to understand not all will be interested in committing to Christ even after we have invested much love and time . . . hang in there, knowing not all will become Christ followers. Don't overestimate "curiosity." Understand there are common stages of spiritual interest and spiritual development.
20 years ago those who promoted "relational evangelism" were often poo pooed by more aggressive types - Tuesday PM "door knockers" and those handy with reciting 4 Spiritual "Laws." . Today's culture seems to have reversed the scales, requiring more time to develop relationships, not just "projects," and the need to be unscripted and light on your feet in spiritual conversations. What an exciting time!
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