6/10/16 Steve, Lex, Shaun about 45, 22, 28
I was looking to initiate Gospel conversations, so I walked into a Starbucks. I saw too guys at opposite corners of a big table, working intently on laptops, one with big old-fashioned headphones on. I asked the other guy if I may bother him with an unusual question, “What happens after we die?” His name is Lex and he said he is a Christian, but went into a long explanation about all the alternative non-Christian possibilities, I guess to show me he has an open mind.
After ten minutes Lex was joined by Steve, whom I found out is a pastor at his large non-denominational church. I explained what I was doing, and that when I meet believers I love to hear their stories of how they came to faith. Steve told of hearing a visiting evangelist in his youth who scared him with God’s wrath over his sin, which led to his faith in Christ. Lex grew up in a Christian household, but went on and on about his present concern over the issue of homosexuality and his concern that he not be seen as a homophobic Christian.
I asked them both how they share their faith. Steve said he prefers to follow the Spirit’s lead, which usually means he waits a long time in a new relationship before discussing spiritual things. He believes his childhood church was too focused on God’s wrath and condemnation rather than His love and grace. He was very concerned that he not scare unbelievers away from God so that he can eventually win them over to faith.
Steve had to leave Lex and I about this time, and as soon as he left the other guy at the table, Shaun, the one with the big headphones, broke into our conversation. He had been listening all along. He grew up Buddhist but was recruited into a Christian church by some high school friends. He left, however, after he came out there as gay and didn’t feel totally accepted.
Now he has returned to a more Buddhist approach to spirituality in which he denies God and absolute truth and sees life as circular rather than linear. He congratulated Lex for his questions and concern about not offending gay people as a Christian. Though he claims an open mind, he went on to strongly expound his beliefs as established fact.
So should have followed Steve’s advice and wait weeks and months to share the Gospel until the Spirit leads? Should I take Lex’s approach and just accept Shaun’s assertions without any sort of pushback? Fortunately, since Shaun had forced his way into the conversation I felt every right to question him, and I did. It was a long conversation, and I had no need to focus on the homosexual issue. Bottom line, 1.) Were he to discover that God actually does exist, Shaun would reject any possibility of obedience or devotion to God, and 2.) He really never understood the Christian faith he has rejected. He had become involved in his former church because of the relationship with his friends and it seemed cool at the time, not because he knew he was a sinner in need of salvation. He had been reached out to through relationship, and when those relationships were strained because of his homosexuality, he had abandoned ship.
I believe Shaun needed to hear the Gospel clearly, both the bad news of our sin and condemnation and the good news of God’s love and mercy. He needed to hear from someone willing to risk relationship and rejection in order to share the Gospel, and that’s what I gave him. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he listened, and so did Lex. 2 Timothy 4 says “Tell everyone God’s message. Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed. Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them. Do this with great patience and careful teaching.” (ERV) Did I follow Pastor Steve’s advice to wait to share the Gospel until led by the Spirit? I believe I did.