Have you ever set up a friend on a blind date? You probably didn’t do it this way: “Josh, meet Sandra. Sandra is amazing. I know you’ll love her. In fact, you should just marry her tomorrow.”

Sounds crazy, right? Even if you were sure your friends were a perfect fit, you’d expect them to get to know each other before diving into a lifelong commitment. The same principle applies to introducing our friends to Jesus.  

We shouldn’t expect people to be ready to commit to Jesus overnight. Any meaningful relationship takes time to develop. A relationship with Christ is no different. Most people need to move through stages or “spiritual thresholds” on their way to committing to Jesus.

Here’s the journey typical not-yet-Christians will take:

  1. Trusts a Christian. This is where your friend gets to know you, finds out you’re believer, and learns to trust you anyway (no matter what they’ve heard about Christians).
  2. Becomes curious. As your friendship deepens, your friend may become curious about Jesus and interested – at least on an intellectual level – in your faith.
  3. Opens up to change. At some point, your friend will realize that something’s missing from their life and start to wonder whether that something might be Jesus.
  4. Seeks after God. When your friend realizes a relationship with Jesus could be what they’re missing, they’ll start to seek him more intentionally – reading the Bible, asking questions, getting involved with a Christian community.
  5. Steps into the Kingdom. This is it! This is where your friend decides to give their to Christ.*

In the past, sharing the Gospel often meant focusing on the last step – encouraging people to commit their lives to Jesus. These days, few people have even a basic grasp of Jesus’ story, so your first job is to focus on finding out where they are on the journey. Then you can ask God to use you to help them move closer to Jesus, one step at a time.

Practice applying the thresholds perspective to help someone move closer to Jesus. Come up with a list of “spiritual clues” about a friend you’d like to share Jesus with. What do you already know about your friend’s spiritual background? Can you guess which spiritual threshold your friend might be at?

You can learn more about the spiritual thresholds by purchasing a copy of I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp.

The term “Spiritual Thresholds” and their labels taken from I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. Copyright 2008 by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press.
updated August 2019

Photo Credit: William Stitt