3/5/11 Mike, about 55
I was on an elevator with a group of strangers when an older African-American man – Mike – got on at another floor. He livened up the atmosphere with some funny comments and after we got off I found we were walking the same direction so I handed him a trillion dollar bill gospel tract. After a few laughs and an explanation of what it was I asked about his spiritual beliefs. “Oh, sure, I believe in God. Have you ever heard of Joel Olsteen? What do you think of him?” he asked me. I told him Joel Olsteen is very positive and encouraging, but that the good news of the gospel that he shares doesn’t make much sense without the bad news of our sin and the punishment we deserve. Mike agreed but it was more for the sake of being friendly and agreeable. Further conversation showed that he views his own sin as something from the past – in his rebellious 20’s – and he has now settled into being a better person. He said “After all, Jesus didn’t begin his ministry until He was 30” Mike based his current good standing with God on his own positive attitude, his ability to brighten up other people, and his regular confession of sin. He mentioned past involvement in the Bahai religion, which I know to be a universalist, “all religion is the same” belief, so I talked some about the importance of faith in Christ, not our own goodness, as our basis for salvation.