Where are you in your spiritual journey? Have you written down or shared your story? Many journeys begin in childhood with the religious beliefs and practices introduced by parents or other family members. You may want to map out your journey by drawing a timeline and listing significant events that shaped your path to the point where you are today.
Each person’s journey is unique, but the portion of the story where one is considering following Jesus may include similar steps. The five thresholds, or steps, below can provide a common language when talking about where you are in relation to becoming a follower of Jesus. Their order comes from the path many people take, but it is not identical for everyone. For example, you may have developed curiosity about Christianity in your home country (Step 2), but you may be meeting true Christians for the first time now and still developing trust (Step 1). Which of the five steps below best describes you right now?
Step 1 – Building Trust
Trust takes time. If you’ve had a bad experience with Christians in the past or have heard negative rumors about Christians for years, then that makes building trust harder. Every Christian makes mistakes (only Jesus was perfect), and many of us have done a lot that has hurt others or caused us and others to lose face. This can happen even more when followers of Jesus interact with people from other cultures and religious backgrounds that they are not familiar with. So, the authors do apologize to you on behalf of Christians who have hurt you in the past. Are you ready to include Christians among your friends?
Step 2 – Being Curious
College and graduate school are great times to explore both the world around you and also who you are, especially while studying in another country or culture. Ask questions. Find out why things are done here like they are. Search for the answers to life’s big questions. Why are you here? What is your purpose in life?
Step 3 – Becoming Open
As you better understand yourself and why things work like they do, you realize the way you were taught is not the only way (to cook, to learn, to communicate, etc). Your eyes are opened to new possibilities and you become open to change. This openness to change can impact everything from what brands you buy at the grocery store to your philosophy of life and core beliefs. Are you open to seeing Jesus in a new way?
Step 4 – Seeking Jesus
As you learn about Jesus from the Bible, you may realize that true Christians are not simply following a list of religious rules, they have an actual relationship with God through Jesus. Have you seen God answer prayers made in Jesus’ name? Maybe you’ve felt the gentle promptings and encouragement of the Holy Spirit. Have you asked Jesus to reveal himself to you and answer your prayers?
Step 5 – Following Jesus
People in every culture are invited to follow Jesus as their lord and savior. And you don’t have to make your life right before accepting Jesus’ offer of eternal life. He accepts you as you are. See Section G and Section K - Putting Your Faith in Jesus to learn how to take the step of following Jesus with your life. Have you already committed to following Jesus with your life? Let a true Christian friend know so they can help you grow in your new faith!
To learn more about these steps, see the Starting International Small Groups booklet online or in print.