What’s the worst movie sequel title ever? Everyone agrees that these were some of the worst: 

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
  • Speed Two: Cruise Control
  • I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (and as if it couldn’t get worse. . . .)
  • I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer 
  • Son of the Mask
  • Air Bud: Seventh-Inning Fetch
  • Knack 2: The Knacker

All right, the last one is not a movie sequel. It is the name of this blog series. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure I could have chosen a worse name. In any case, here we are with, “The Knacker.” In case you missed it, this blog series is a sequel to our recent sermon series at River’s Edge, “Developing a Knack to Share.” In this blog series, I hope to add a more practical dimension to our previous conversations and provide some hands-on ideas when it comes to sharing our faith.  Now thankfully, I have some insights to share because, before every sermon series, I try to read whatever I can on the series topic. Oftentimes, however, I don’t get a chance to share all that I’ve read, but not today. This series will feature highlights from eight to ten books on evangelism that I used to prepare for, “The Knack,” highlights that never saw the light of a sermon. In other words, this blog series will be one-part great insight from an expert, one-part my takeaways from what I read, and one-part book overview. I hope you find these posts both helpful, insightful and enjoyable. I also hope this will encourage you to read one or two of the books I have chosen to discuss (never forget Mark Twain’s words: “The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.”). Enough of an introduction, let’s begin.

Today’s book is authored by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp and is entitled: I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About their Path to Jesus (IVP Books, 2008). While it is a little dated now, the value of this book is high. Everts and Schaupp have done exhaustive research with college-aged students and have mapped the path many of those students used to come to faith. In their book they will argue that there are five defining moments that most of these students encountered as they went from skeptic to disciple. Now, of course, each person is different and each situation is unique, but our authors have noted that, generally speaking, many people follow these steps. Moreover, once we understand these five moments, we can focus on how we can prepare for these moments and help them along. Of course, we can’t manufacture these five moments, but we can make sure we don’t sabotage the whole process; and as a result, this book is incredibly helpful. Here are Everts and Schaupp’s five defining moments in bullet-point fashion.

First Defining Moment: Sometime early on, the skeptic will move from distrust of Christ followers to trust. More specifically, somewhere along the line, they will learn to trust you. Now, that’s huge! Why? Because if they don’t trust you, they will never come to the point where they will trust Jesus. And if you are a cheat, a liar and nogoodinski, then they are going to think that Jesus and the church is filled with cheats, liars and nogoodinskies. So, our first takeaway: We need to be trustworthy, honest, and vulnerable so that people will find us easy to trust because if we are easy to trust, they will find it easier to trust in Jesus. However, it would be very easy to sabotage the whole process by being a devious and deceitful jerk. Everts and Schaupp warn us not to be that. Bottom line: Be a friend who is trustworthy through and through.  

Second Defining Moment: The skeptic will move from being complacent to curious. Somewhere along the line, the skeptic will stop being passive and, instead, will earnestly begin to seek to know more about Jesus. Our calling, then, is to help skeptics be more curious about Jesus by doing things that will catch the attention of seekers. And just saying, learning Greek, spending a day in prayer, reading Calvin’s Institutes, no matter how wonderful we may think these things are, are not going to get the skeptic’s pulse beating.  Instead, we need to invest ourselves in worthy causes. We need to be engaged in deeds of compassion. We need to be involved in promoting justice. We need to work to end wrongs, and we need to provide help for the poor and downtrodden. Give yourself over to causes that will make a difference in the world and do so in the name of Jesus so that your life can create a curiosity in the skeptics around you. Bottom line: Do good, give yourself away, change the world and, at the same time, create an inquisitiveness in the hearts of the skeptics around you. 

Third Defining Moment: The skeptic will move from being closed to change to being open to living differently. See, lots of people are curious, but often it is only an intellectual curiosity and has nothing to do with real heart change. But somewhere along the line, that may change and the skeptic may start to think about what it would mean for him or her actually to become a Christ follower. Third takeaway: We need to share honestly about what following Jesus means to us. We need to show the joys and the struggles so that the skeptic can count the cost and see what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. Bottom line: Show your friends what it means to follow Jesus in your life. Be the change you hope to see in them.

Fourth Defining Moment: The skeptic will move from meandering to seeking. See, it’s easy to gather information and to be mildly interested in spiritual things and to dab your toe in the water now and then, but it is another thing to begin to seek after God actively and purposefully. And there lies our calling. Our fourth takeaway: we will need to provide safe places where skeptics can ask questions, express doubts, voice reservations and “wrestle with Jesus” without fear of being judged or criticized for asking. Having a safe place where they can find answers to their most intense questions will encourage the skeptic to leave their meandering days behind. Bottom line: We must provide a setting where the skeptic will feel welcomed, accepted, and encouraged to take the next step by allowing them to ask their most serious questions without fear of reproach.

Fifth Defining Moment: The skeptic will give up his or her excuses and will come to faith. While it would be nice to think that just thinking about coming to faith is enough, there is a line the person must cross; and just thinking doesn’t get them there.  There is a need for repentance. There is a need for the confession of sin. There is a need to say, “I believe.” But to get there, the skeptic needs to give up all their excuses and confess Jesus as Lord and savior. Fifth takeaway: As our friends get close to making a profession of faith, walk with them and show them Jesus in word and in deed. Bottom line: Love your friend into the kingdom.

You might recall the episode in the TV show, The Office, where Michael is so bent on following the instructions on his GPS, he turns right into a lake, shouting all the while, “The machine knows! The machine knows!” Listen, all maps and GPS systems can be confusing at times; and if we follow them too rigidly, we will find ourselves making wrong turns and going up dead ends. But as an overall guide, these five steps are very helpful and help define what our outreach should look like.  

My favorite quote from I Once Was Lost shows up in the last chapter. Everts and Schaupp write: “A servant evangelist washes the feet of the non-Christian in humility and great empathy, rather than just doing evangelism in a way that the evangelist is most comfortable with. We suggest always asking three simple questions before entering into an evangelistic relationship or event: (1) Who is our audience? (2) What do they need at this stage in their journey? (3) How can we help them take the next step toward Jesus? Even with the greatest, most insightful and relevant tools, we each still have a decision to make in witness: will we put our friends’ needs before ours, or will we do what we want?”

I Once Was Lost is well worth reading. In fact, I would give it 9 out of 10 knacks (and knacks are always good!). 

More next time. . . . different book, different ideas, same goal – to show us how to engage others well in some of the most important conversations of our lives. 

Blessings and good reading. . . .