10/5/16 Don about 45
A Chicago CTA bus driver named Don and I had a lengthy and positive Gospel conversation at a coffeeshop. I had asked him for his beliefs about eternity, and he was very interested in talking. But instead of telling about him, I'll tell about the guy I approached before I reached Don’s table, the one who told me, when he found out the nature of my question, that he was not interested in talking about it, even though he clearly had time to talk.
For many years of my Christian life, I had seen this sort of lack of interest as my excuse not to take the initiative in reaching out with the Gospel. In fact, I repeatedly told myself that to reach out to strangers in this way would likely do more harm than good, giving Christians a bad reputation as meddlers and causing unbelievers to be closed completely to ever hearing the Gospel. I repeated excuses like this to myself so often and for so long that they flooded my mind like a recording loop every time I had a Gospel-sharing opportunity, even long after I decided to intentionally and regularly share the Gospel regardless. The excuses dominated my thinking so much that I even criticized other believers who were trying to share their faith in this way. I didn't encourage them, and I certainly didn't pray for them. I have no right to be critical of Christians who don’t share their faith because I was the same way for most of my Christian life. But I have decided to share these stories in order to encourage other believers in that direction.
But is it really true that, if we reach out in a respectful and winsome way, we will turn people off to the Gospel? Or could it be just the opposite – that many people don’t take the Gospel seriously because Christians don’t take the time or the risk to share it with them? The guy still sitting at his table near us knew I had gone over to Don to ask the same question I had asked him, and that it had resulted in a long, positive, engaging conversation. He saw me listening and responding to Don's questions and comments, and the respect and appreciation we both had for each other when it was time to go our separate ways. I hope he heard some of what we said, and realized that he had missed out as he sat alone at his table. Maybe he will be more open the next time someone approaches him hoping to talk about spiritual things. But will there be another opportunity for him? Not if we keep making the same excuses I made for so many years.