I was reminded of many things as I witnessed to Amanda. The first is that God is always sovereign in providing opportunities for us to proclaim His name. The second is that those opportunities can come in unexpected places. The third is that sometimes sharing the gospel is especially easy- and sometimes the people that God chooses to sovereignly place in our paths are the ones that we are the easiest for us to evangelize.
I was sitting by the wave pool at the local water park watching my family’s pile of towels. The only available chairs were sandwiched between a few chair occupied by other people’s things. I sat down to get started on my sunburn (another story for another time) when 15-year-old Amanda plopped down next to me. She was a tomboy to say the least. We started chatting, and it turned out that she races dirt bikes. I could tell she was a tough country girl.
We chatted about racing (well- I asked questions- I didn’t know the first thing about racing). We also chatted about the brown recluse bite that was bandaged over on her leg. Of course, her somewhat daring lifestyle was the slightly cracked window that I worked open to turn the conversation towards matters of eternity.
Amanda was very open. She believed in heaven and hell and seemed interested in the questions I was asking her about eternity. Her thought was that though she has broken God’s law (by her own admission), God would forgive her. We talked about how a Just Judge (Psalms 7) cannot forgive people for free. When I gave her the courtroom analogy, she was quick to say she wouldn’t let someone pay her fine. I told her that was ok in a human court, but that the debt we owe because of sin is not a debt we can pay. It took a perfect sacrifice- Jesus.
I gave her a tract to take home and pray that she takes the time to read it. I want her to understand God’s forgiveness, but I first hope she begins to understand repentance and faith in Jesus alone.
This situation was a reminder that God will use us anywhere. If we live our lives viewing each person as either saved or lost, we will never be at a loss for someone to evangelize. I am so thankful that God let me talk to Amanda. I did not have to go looking. In His sovereignty, He took a country girl three hours from her house and placed her in the chair next to me.
We were having a spontaneous yard sale a few weeks ago. A few people stopped to take a look at our wares. I noticed an older gentleman pull up in a battered truck. As he stepped out of the vehicle, he stuffed some papers into his pocket. I did not think much about it until he handed one to me and one to my sister. It was a tract he had written.
I was so excited. Here was a man living out his faith. He said it took nine months of prayer to put the tract together. It was not beautiful. It was not particularly eye-catching. But he wanted me to know where I spend eternity.
I want people to evangelize me. I want to hear the gospel. I want to pass street preachers resounding forth the truth on the corner of my city. I want to not be able to walk through the grocery store without someone handing a tract to me. And if that is the kind of Christianity I want to see, that is the kind of Christianity I must live.
True Christianity does not look like the world. There is no in between type of life where one is a Christian but is living like the world. Our faith requires action.
I never realized when I opened my own business that it would be such a fertile ground for ministry. From making classes accessible through low tuition rates and scholarship opportunities to providing a healthy environment for kids, there is something special happening at this place God has given to me.
Opportunities also come up to talk about faith. Just this week I dealt with a set of cousins that are dear girls but both struggle with their own personal issues relating to family. They have been spending a bit too much time together and are starting to get on each other’s nerves. In her frustration, one cousin made some very embarrassment comments about the other in front of the group of kids. A lesson in reconciliation was in order. Though the conversation was directive in nature, I could see both girls soften as they apologized and offered forgiveness to one another. Even more than what was happening between them was the seeming relief of having a mediator. They both felt loved. After a few minutes of conversation, one of the girls said she wished I would come live with them.
The conversation was such a reminder that kids thrive within good boundaries. This same little girl lied to me earlier in the week telling me she had not brought a drink with the hope that I would give her soda. I corrected her and gave instruction for how she should have handled the situation. She apologized, and today when she wanted soda, she politely followed the instructions, “Miss Jenny, I brought water, but I would still like something else to drink. May I have some soda?”
I am entrusted with my business, with the families, and the students. The best part of this week was not the new enrollment numbers, the mostly-well-behaved kids, or the much needed rent money that came in. The best part of this week was getting to talk about Jesus with a couple of the students and getting to shower some love on kids. Praise God that He has entrusted me with my business.
As I sit down to write this story, I am reminded of my own shortcomings. One important aspect of evangelism is that it will keep the evangelist humble. Every time there is a conversation, it is an opportunity to be reminded that the Holy Spirit is the one that leads people to faith in Jesus. We are so incapable on our own of any good that even trying to make a clear presentation of the gospel without the Holy Spirit working both in us and in the hearer is futile.
I was walking out of the grocery store when a friendly officer took a look in my cart and made some jesting comment about the lack of steaks. We walked on, and I began to ask him some questions about his gun. (Note: I have several friends that are interested in target shooting, and they have helped awaken in me a general interst in firearms.) I asked him how long he had been on the police force, and it turns out he is relatively new to the job. However, he spent years as a fireman and prison guard. Anytime someone works in a more high risk position, I think it is pretty easy to transition into an eternal conversation. This officer has seen death more than one time. He may have even been in situations where his own life was in danger. So I simply asked him, “What do you think happens after we die?”
I do think this officer was a Christian, but he was surprised by my question. It is funny how the toughest guys are a little startled by questions about eternity. The bottom line is that maybe he needed to think about his beliefs again. Maybe he knows someone who also sees death as part of their job but does not know what will happen when they die. Sometimes, maybe most times, we do not get to find out the reason why God gave us someone who needed a conversation about eternity. Our responsibility is not knowing the reason but rather being faithful to the task.
The deeper one gets to the heart of evangelism, the less intimidating it is to talk to people about the Gospel. My mechanic has quite a presence. Ok, he is huge. At six and a half feet tall, he just does not quite come across as a teddy bear. But he does like to talk.
So as he ranted about politics and the economy, I could tell he is a thinker. I used this as the lead in, “It is obvious that you think through things. So what do you think happens after we die?” It turns out he is a non-practicing Catholic with a lot of new age philosophy in the mix. He talked about his concept of old souls and his personal experience with memories from a time past. Everything was very general because if he were to get too specific, he knows it would not make sense.
So I asked him the question I now like to ask Catholics. I draw on whatever language they have used and form it into a question. “So Catholics believe in the Scriptures plus the Apocrypha. If you believe that those who do well in this life get a straight pass to heaven and those that do not do well get a second chance in purgatory, then why did Jesus come to die?”
He responded with a casual “to pay for our sins” said with a degree of hesitancy that tells me he does not really believe that. “That’s a good question though,” he said in a pondering tone. He followed up with questioning Scripture saying that He does not believe it is all true. Ultimately, he demonstrated to me just how confused he is. He is a big talker and did not let me get too many words in, but I do think he was encouraged to examine his own beliefs. I made sure to mention the reality of hell and the importance of being sure we have found the truth.
Talking to my mechanic was a reminder to me how there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sharing the Gospel. There are methods that work a lot of the time in a street evangelism setting. But ultimately, sharing the Gospel is an art. And as with any art, we will only get better with practice.
May I just start by saying God is SO good! It has been several weeks since I have hit the streets in my city. Not from lack of desire, but a variety of things came up. A last minute phone call from a friend this weekend led to four of us hitting the streets at a huge festival in uptown. We huddled in prayer, looked around at the crowd, and were a little overwhelmed not knowing quite where to begin.
I started talking to a guy who had been sitting for a while smoking a cigarette. I gave him a tract and asked him the eternal question. It was not a great conversation from my perspective. He was quick to agree to disagree with me about how he thought he would get to heaven. The thing that I have to keep in mind is that the Holy Spirit is not daunted by what seems like a dead-end conversation. I pray that God uses the tract and the message of truth to lead the man to repentence and faith in Jesus.
Another conversation with a cell phone sales guy named Mbye was drawn out by his circular reasoning. He went round, and round, and round… He feels that all paths lead to heaven. He said his Muslim grandfather and Christian grandmother are in the same place now that they have passed away. His arguement is that mathmatics is the only absolute.
We talked about the possibility that he could be wrong. And he said he was fine if he goes before God and is told he chose the wrong path. Mbye has no fear of hell but more importantly no fear of God. Pray for his soul as he is searching for truth.
Handing out tracts is a bit like sprinkling seeds. Some will be thrown away. Some will be forgotten until a much later time. Some will be read. Tracts open doors for future encounters, for conversion, for salvation. Do not underestimate what God can do through a piece of paper with the message of truth.
God is so faithful to bring people in our lives that need to hear the gospel. My last witnessing encounter could not have been more brought into my path if the kid had skateboarded right in front of my car… oh wait, that is what happened! I parked, grabbed tracts, and went to talk to the kids.
Skater kids are almost always open to talking. They are usually running in a small pack of other like kids. And they have time on their hands. So we started talking.
I gave them tracts and asked about their eternal destination. One kid skated off to try out another trick. Another kid was in and out of the conversation, but his first question for me was, “What if I’m going to hell?” He informed me he had been arrested several times. The guy that was most willing to talk informed me he was Mormon. But then he changed his story a bit to tell me that he did not believe in religion. I always love to run with that line- because I am not into religion either! I am about Jesus.
I gave them a quick gospel presentation and encouraged them to read the tracts later. It was an encounter that I wished I had handled better, but I know God can work, even through my unclear speech. I know those skater boys will think about the conversation. It is not every day that one is asked to think about what comes next. If nothing else, their thoughts were turned towards eternity.
I had the privilege of talking to one of my students yesterday who is a Catholic. I must admit that I have been rather naive about Catholic’s beliefs. I have assumed that they are basically all Christians with some different/incorrect theology. In the ten minute conversation I had with her, I realized that she is lost, despite her sixteen years in the Catholic church.
I am now starting to understand that while some Catholics are Christians, there are many who are not. They are following a different set of Scriptures (including the Apocrypha as inspired) as well as following the doctrines of their Catechism. A great starting resource for understanding the differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs is Mark Cahill’s talk: Roman Catholicism vs. The Bible
As I talked with this student, I asked her about some of her beliefs. She told me about purgatory, but ironically enough couldn’t really tell me what it was. This is significant as this is a place she plans to spend some time after she dies. I personally would want to know what it is like!
I also asked her about confession and the process of getting out of purgatory. I asked her, “If Catholics believe that all these things must be done by us to eventually get to heaven, why did Jesus come to die?” She was really confused and said she had never thought about it before. I did a quick presentation of the fact that we have broken God’s law and that is why Jesus came to die- to pay for our sins. I explained that there is no way for us to be good enough on our own; we need a Savior. She really was thinking about it by the time we parted ways. She was confused and said nobody had ever asked her that question.
I know that the Lord is using conversations like this to open my eyes to the lost all around me. I do not want to ever assume that someone has heard the gospel, knows the gospel, or is saved based on a religious affiliation, church attendance, or any other potential indications of a belief system. Religious zeal is giving many people a false security about their eternal state. True salvation is found only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross including His death, burial, and resurrection.
I know that the Holy Spirit goes before and behind us in our evangelistic efforts. It is such a comfort to know that we do not witness alone.
I travelled out of town this weekend for a family wedding. It was the typical story- drive to the hotel, check in, etc. With nineteen family members staying on one floor of the Fairfield Inn, we had created a bit of interaction with the gentleman at the front desk. Joe was his name.
After we had completed check in, I began to witness to him. “Joe,” I said. “I want to ask you the most important question anyone can ask you. If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?”
His initial response question was about his physical body or his spirit. It was a valid question, and I told him I wanted to know about his soul. He said he was going to float around in the clouds and hang out with some people. Needless to say, the answer did not suffice. I talked to him about the two options: heaven or hell. I asked him by what means he thought he was going to heaven. With every question, he danced around every answer and accused me of not asking the right questions. It turned out his mother was a reverend, but his inability to directly tell me the gospel was alarming. I laid it out in a straightforward manner.
Meanwhile, another guy, Chris, walked up and asked what we were talking about. I handed him a tract too. He said he had been saved for eight years, but in the next breath got onto me for supposed solicitation and handed me back the tract. It is always interesting to see how offended certain people that claim to be Christians are at hearing the gospel. It’s a strong reminder how much we need to preach the gospel to ourselves and how much we need to thank those who preach it to us.
I only hope that Christ was glorified as His message was spread. May those seeds of truth be carried before and behind by the work of the Holy Spirit.
I was praying for boldness. I had wimped out on sharing the Gospel a few too many times. God loves to answer the prayer for boldness.
A week or so ago I awoke to the following thought: God cares more about the spread of the Gospel than we do. And apparently God wanted a few guys at the Waterless Car Wash sales table at the gas station to hear what He did for them.
I pulled up to the pump and set the auto fill lever. With a handful of tracts, I went to see their product demonstration. It was impressive.
After they finished, I told them I had a question for them. I passed out tracts to the six guys standing around.
“If you died today, would you go to heaven or hell?”
One guy told me heaven and gave the right reason. Another guy said he was Catholic and would go to purgatory. I told him that wasn’t in the Scriptures.
I turned my attention to the other guys and proceeded to go through the Ten Commandments. I made it through three of the ten, and by that point they understood that they had broken God’s law. We talked about what Jesus did for them. The whole conversation lasted minutes. The implications of it will last for eternity.
Seeds were planted. Praying for the Holy Spirit to do His work.