And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
ROMANS 10:14 NLT
Eugene lived about eight houses up the street. We saw each other at church, but he wanted more of a conversation. He sensed he was missing something, but he didn’t know what.
We scheduled lunch.
As we talked about our families, he mentioned his wife’s faith.
He saw a vibrancy there that was attractive. He was also intrigued by what he saw in me, but he had doubts about God. The personal nature of his faith seemed to be missing. He considered making a commitment, but he wasn’t sure he should. What if the others around him were just manufacturing their feelings and fooling themselves?
We were meeting at Zio’s, an Italian restaurant, known for its lasagna. We talked for a long time, long after the dishes were cleared away. I decided it might help if I asked some questions. Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive him and lead him? He said no. Did he ever pray? He said sometimes, but he wasn’t sure it went anywhere. Did he want to know the path that led to God, as the Bible described it? He said he did.
Zio’s is also known for the brown paper that covers its tables. They give you a couple of crayons when you sit down. I grabbed one and drew a picture: God on one side, humans on the other, with a gaping cavern in between called sin. Then I drew a bridge in the shape of the cross. “Jesus is the bridge,” I explained.
I went on: “Jesus came to earth to lead us back to the Father. To complete his mission, he took on our sin and died on the cross to satisfy the penalty of sin. Because the life inside him was greater than the power of sin, death and the devil, death could not hold him and he rose from the dead. Now he offers us his victory.”
After a pause, I asked, “Is this something you want?”
He wasn’t sure.
I gave him the crayon and asked, “If you were to put yourself on this diagram, where would you be?”
He thought for a time and said, “I’d be right here,” marking a place on the bridge but not across it. “I think I believe in Jesus, but I have a lot of doubts about so many things.”
“Doubts don’t discourage God,” I said. “He doesn’t think any less of you because you doubt. Doubts are the starting place for most of us.” I shared some of the doubts I’d had and offered to talk through Eugene’s issues with him. “I’m interested and I’ll walk with you, but I have another question for you. Is any one of those doubts big enough to keep you from the love that Jesus has for you, if this is true?”
Eugene was clearly thinking about this, so I went on: “I’m going to ask you to doubt your doubts. What if your doubts are deceiving you? What if the story of Jesus is true? What are you missing out on? You know, whatever you believe, it is going to require faith. You can have faith in your doubts or you can have faith in Jesus. So I guess my ultimate question is, ‘Do you want to live the rest of your life doubting or would you rather place your faith in Jesus and receive his love?’”
I let the question hang in the air. The silence seemed endless, but I was determined not to answer for him. I would be with him no matter what he answered. Either answer was a further piece of clarity for his spiritual journey.
Finally he said, “I want to receive Jesus. We can talk about my doubts later.”
We prayed right there at the table with the crayon drawings on brown paper, and Eugene began a personal relationship with Jesus. The light came on in his eyes when he invited Jesus to lead him. His smile was big and real. He could hardly wait to tell his wife.
Later, it was my privilege to lead a small community group in his home. I got to watch him grow and claim his faith. He grew daily as a disciple. The funny thing about his doubts is that they didn’t seem so big anymore, and we never had to talk about them.
How to Share
Jesus told his disciples they were salt and light in their world. Everywhere we go, we bring light and flavor to our world. It’s as if the world has the sin virus and we have the antidote. Will you share it? We can’t relegate sharing the Good News to the pastor, a TV evangelist, or grandma. If our world is going to find Jesus, we each have a role to play.
Here are some tips about sharing with those who need to hear:
- Be open and transparent about your failings and your seeking. You don’t have to have it all together.
- Aim at a dialog. I think about these life-giving conversations like tennis. If the other person stops sending the conversation back, stop talking.
- Be a good listener. Be interested before you attempt to be interesting. Don’t rush.
- Ask good, open-ended questions. If you want to be better at sharing your faith, spend time preparing good questions.
- Look for a moment of illumination. Trust that the Spirit is working within the other person. See how the other person might be moving from A to B in their spiritual journey.
- Don’t feel like you have to fill up every empty moment. LetGod work in the silence.
- Embrace awkwardness with grace. There is no way to avoid awkwardness. It will happen; expect it. Don’t feel you are failing. Smile, relax, God is in control, so you don’t have to be.
Remember you are introducing one good friend to another good friend. And you are certain that, once they know each other, they will love the relationship.
It may sound contradictory to say, after providing all these tips, but there is no formula to this. Let the Spirit lead you.
Leading to Prayer
When we share with someone, what exactly are we sharing? The gospel, the good news that God loves this person and longs for a relationship with him or her. It makes sense to begin that relationship with a conversation—a prayer. So often, after I’ve shared with people and I sense they’re responding well, I ask if they’d like to talk with God about it. Since many haven’t prayed in a long time, if ever, I try to help them realize that talking with God can be simple and natural. You can use three of the first words every child learns to say.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry I sinned. I realize I need a Savior. I can’t save myself.
Thank you for loving me from the beginning. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. Thank you for offering me forgiveness. I receive it.
Please lead my life in the way you want me to go. Help me be the person you want me to be.
If they are afraid they will say it wrong, I offer to say it one line at a time and ask them to pray after me. If this is acceptable, I always clarify that God already knows what’s in their heart, but it often helps us to put it into words. Often I add, “Make this your prayer. Don’t say anything you don’t mean. If at any point you want to go off on your own, that would be great.”
Don’t feel you need to pray a scripted prayer. If they don’t want to pray out loud, don’t force it. Let it be personal and real for them.
Think of coming to Jesus more like a spiritual journey than a one- time event. People usually take baby steps. If your presence with them is that of a friend, they are more open to your spiritual guid- ance. People fear a salesman, but they love the shelter of a friend.
Use Scripture to give them assurance of God’s favor and for- giveness. Have verses like 1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:16; Romans 10:9; and Psalm 103:8-14 at the ready.
After someone makes a decision to follow Christ, stay in touch. Be available personally to provide guidance or answer questions, but also try to connect the person with a small group and a church. Be aware that these are baby steps as well. Someone who has made a personal commitment of faith might still balk at joining a larger group, but continue to surround that person with prayer and care as they grow.