3/9/12 Mike, about 30
I walked into a laundromat and started giving people some "million dollar" gospel tracts as conversation starters. I got one man's attention as he waited for his clothes to dry, his ear buds on and playing a game on his iPad. He took off an ear bud, looked at the the tract and said "Been there, done that. ..not interested" "Do you even know what this is about?" I asked. "Of course. It's a Bible tract. I used to hand those out myself and witness to people. I even preached a few times, but I was never really happy. I'm very happy now without religion, thank you very much." I knew at this point that if we were going to have a helpful conversation, it would mean that I would need to be ready to listen a lot and speak very little. "So you've had a pretty bad church experience...I'd like to hear about it if you don't mind." His name was Mike and he soon warmed up to the conversation and shared a lot about his experiences. I would nod and affirm him a lot as he talked, though I reminded him clearly that this didn't mean that I necessarily agreed with what he was saying.
Mike had grown up in a very legalistic Baptist church and as a young man had done all the "Christian" things that he thought were supposed to make him happy. He soon realized, however, that he was only going through the motions of looking like a committed Christian. Late in his teens his father was found to be caught up in the sin of homosexuality and divorced his mother, causing Mike great shame and embarrassment at church. He began to experiment with other religions, but has really settled on mind-altering drugs in place of spirituality and the pursuit of hedonistic happiness as his purpose in life. He says he no longer believes in God and kept saying that Christianity "just didn't make me happy" as if that was it's main goal. I asked how he used to present the Gospel to others, but he confessed he has really forgotten it. "Do you think you would be saved if you found out Christianity is in fact, true and you will really be accountable to God on judgment day?". "Well, yes, I think so, because even though I no longer believe in God I did accept Jesus as my savior years ago. I might be a little ashamed on judgment day, but once I'm saved I'll always be saved. Isn't that what the Bible teaches?" he asked. "Yes," ,I said, "but it also teaches that those who have saving faith will persevere in their faith. From what you've told me, I really don't believe you were saved in the first place." I hadn't said much, but I really think this may have been what God wanted Mike to hear. Mike thanked me as it was time to go, even though he was still sceptical. As we parted he said "I really haven't talked to anyone about this in a long time. Thank you - I hope you find your happiness in life."