Seeking to know
We all know people who do not go to church or even believe in God. They could be our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, friends, and even family members.
We often think that someone is either a Christian or they are not. But the reality is different stages form the path from unbeliever to full discipleship. Sherry A. Weddell develops this idea in her book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. She describes five “thresholds” people move through on their way to being an intentional disciple of Jesus:
Initial Trust: This person is able to trust or has a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a Christian believer, or something identifiably Christian.
Spiritual Curiosity: This person is intrigued by or desires to know more about Jesus, His life, His teachings, or some aspect of the Christian faith.
Spiritual Openness: This person has acknowledged to himself/ herself and to God that he/she is open to the possibility of personal and spiritual change.
Spiritual Seeking: This person is moving from being essentially passive to actively seeking to know the God who is calling him/her and is engaged in an urgent spiritual quest, seeking to know whether he/she can commit to Christ and His Church.
Intentional Discipleship: This is the decision to “drop one’s nets,” to make a conscious commitment to follow Jesus in the midst of His Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly.
Even with these abbreviated explanations, it is important to think deeply about our own relationship with Jesus and see which threshold best describes where we are with Jesus and the Church.
There is no shame in realizing you are not where you thought you were. In fact, throughout life we may meander in and out of various thresholds. But the goal is to reach intentional discipleship. It is not enough to simply believe Jesus exists; even the devil is at this level. We are called into a deep, loving, life-changing relationship with the living God.
Being an intentional disciple is not the end goal. Far too many Christians are content in their own relationship with Jesus. But this is not what Jesus means when he tells us to go out to all the world making disciples (Matt: 28:19).
The thresholds are a great place to start in evangelizing. Ask yourself: who in my life is at the stage of initial trust? If you think of someone, invite them to coffee and develop your love for this person. You can be the bridge of trust they need to move to the next threshold.
Maybe you know someone who has shown curiosity about the faith. You can help them direct this curiosity toward the person of Jesus Christ by telling stories about Jesus’ life and your own relationship with Him. This is not a time for deep theological answers; rather, help Jesus become real for this person.
If you know someone at the threshold of spiritual openness, share how God has impacted your life. Also, you can help them see that God has already been active in their life by helping them look back on their life and see how, in hindsight, God has always been there.
If you happen to know someone who is spiritually seeking, you might introduce this person to the works of mercy and teach them about different prayer experiences like the Rosary or lectio divina. Lastly, if you know them well enough, help them confront and wrestle with personal sin and embrace Jesus’ forgiveness.
If you know someone ready to “drop their nets” and follow Jesus fully, remind them that this is not the end, rather it is the beginning of a long and fruitful journey toward heaven. Now they need to seek knowledge, healing, holiness, and deep connection to community.
I encourage you to read Forming Intentional Disciples to better understand thresholds and better equip you for personal growth and your foray into the mission field.