Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Unexpected Joy

Last night, my older son needed to go to Wal-Mart at about 10:30 to get a part for his computer. Knowing that this time of the year is gang initiation season in Memphis, I decided to go with him, since two are better than one in terms of safety. (Do I sound over-protective?) Anyway, after we parked the truck close to the entry doors in a well-lit area, we were approached by a guy. He said, “Can I talk to you guys? I’m not going to kill you.” I had a split second to size up the situation: We were near the doors to Wal-Mart, and there were other folks around us. I didn’t see any weapons, and he didn’t have any friends with him. So, I decided to engage him in conversation. He said, “I need to buy some baby food for my infant. If you’ll give me some cash, I’ll write you a check.” I gave him six bucks—all the cash I had in my wallet, and I refused to take his check. I did, however, ask him the two diagnostic questions from EE. He answered the first question by saying that he thought he was saved. In answer to the second question, he said that he was basing his salvation on good works. I explained the plan of salvation to him, and he agreed to surrender his life to Christ in repentance and faith. He didn’t wait for me to lead him in the sinner’s prayer; rather, he started by himself. I helped him after his good start. After we prayed, he was full of joy and said that he really needed what he had just experienced. He showed us a photo of his wife and talked about how fortunate he was to have her. Another neat thing about this whole experience is that my older son was there to see the conversion. I have wanted to train him in witnessing, and this was truly a teachable moment.

Unfortunately, we cannot depend on such unexpected encounters to provide all the needed witnessing opportunities. I believe that we should engage in regular, purposeful witnessing events. Such events don’t always bear a lot of fruit; nevertheless, they are needful. About a week ago, I went door to door in an area near Memphis where many homes are being built. It was part of the survey work being used to start a new Baptist church in the area. For three hours, two of us went door to door. Only one man was ready and willing to hear the gospel. I didn’t need to ask the two diagnostic questions; he blurted out that he was lost. I shared the plan of salvation with him, but unfortunately he was not yet ready to surrender his life to Christ in repentance and faith. He apparently had some “issues” that needed to be settled first. For example, he had wandered away from the church of his youth (where he thought he had been saved), and when he tried to come back to that church, someone at the church told him that he had crucified Christ again and that there no longer was a sacrifice remaining for his sins. He believed that he had committed the unpardonable sin. I told him that God loves him and that we love him, but he needed to work through all that false programming. There were other such issues, and I feel that I and other folks need to help him work through those things. Nevertheless, I thought that our visit to him was a divine appointment and that some good seeds were planted. Not every witnessing encounter results in a conversion, but that doesn’t mean that such encounters are not fruitful.