4/23/12 Alberto, about 35
I came to faith in Christ through Young Life, a Christian ministry committed to relational outreach to teenagers, and I've worked for many years in that ministry, "winning the right to be heard" through friendship evangelism. I still understand and believe in the importance of relationships in sharing the gospel, so why am I now committed to initiating evangelistic conversations daily with complete strangers? I have many reasons, and I explain these elsewhere, but one was illustrated in a conversation I had yesterday at the park with a man named Alberto. Alberto's faith journey has taken him from a Catholic church in Mexico to a Baptist church in Chicago, to a Jehovah's Witness congregation, back to the Baptist church, to a Pentecostal church, and now to the idea that he doesn't need church to be a Christian, having fallen away from church after a divorce and an ungodly relationship with his girlfriend. He has recently been hoping to get involved in church again, and feels attracted to the Jehovah Witness' teachings that there is no such thing as hell, but also attracted to orthodox Christian teachings that Jesus is God incarnate. After sharing all this, Alberto did what many people I've talked to have done; he turned to me and asked "So what do you believe?" He had shared much about his life and beliefs in response to my active listening and key questions, and now he was ready to hear my point of view. I had given him my full attention and hadn't responded with judgmental comments or allowed myself to debate side issues. I clearly had a purpose for our conversation - I hadn't begun by pretending to be only interested in small talk- and now Alberto gave me his attention in return. I feel I had, in a small way, "earned the right to be heard", and I have to believe that's something God can use in Alberto's life.