Talking About Jesus: A Young Believer Outshines His Teacher
A few years ago, I was a professor of at a small Christian liberal arts school in Minnesota. As an elective course, I would train students in Christian evangelism.
On one occasion, we did a survey at the University of Minnesota, where my students started conversations with other students and professors and asked questions like: “Do you believe that truth is absolute or relative?” “Do you believe that there is a God?” and “Does science answer everything?” I do not think anyone was converted on our first outreach, but I remember many of my students who were not by nature outgoing, came back excited because of the meaningful conversations.
On another occasion, our students went out to the Mall of America and talked with Somali Muslim young adults who seemed open-minded to talk about Jesus. The experience was so positive that two of my students, Liam and Corbin, were persistent in asking me to take them out again to share the Gospel across the twin cities.
They were not my two top students academically, but they both loved the Lord and wanted to make a difference. I challenged them that after they completed their homework, I’d take a group of students and another professor out to share the Gospel.
“Please Say a Prayer for Me”
It was a cold snowy evening in downtown St. Paul, and I was there with Liam and Corbin and a handful of other students and adults. After we parked and were standing outside a bus stop, Corbin suggested that we say a prayer. I was little hesitant to make a scene, but I thought it was great that Corbin was stepping out in faith. So we huddled up beside the bus station and prayed that God would use us as people walked by. As we were praying, a lady spoke up, “If you are praying, please said a prayer for me.” “Sure,” I responded. “How can I pray for you?”
“I am an alcoholic,” she said. “And I have been in and out of rehab. But Child Protection Services is going to take my baby if I do not quit drinking. I desperately need God’s help.” Then she started crying. I have met a lot of drunk people, but few are so willing to admit their problem so soon. So we prayed that God would do a miracle, as tears ran down her face and asked for the power of the Holy Spirit to fill her and take away the desire to get drunk.
When we finished praying, she never asked for money (which is a common request from drunk people). Our group thought it would be good to get to know her better and hear about her church experience, so we invited her to walk to McDonald’s with us to grab a bite to eat. If Corbin would not have suggested praying, she would never have talked with us.
A Bold Faith that Would Not Be Intimidated
As we walked up, I struck up a conversation with a well-built professional man named Anthony and asked him if he had a faith. He told me, “Not really.” “Is there anything that interests you spiritually or do you have a church home?” I asked. “Nope” he replied. After asking a few questions, I felt like I was getting nowhere with Anthony and continued to walk with our group. It seemed to me that Anthony was spiritually “cold” and not at all interested in having a spiritual conversation.
I gave up and pleasantly thanked him for taking the time to talk with me. But, Liam was more persistent than me and was not going to allow cultural differences to stop him. Liam spoke up to Anthony and started asking very bold questions, “If you were to die tonight, how sure are you on a scale from 1 to 10, you would go to Heaven?” I was thinking to myself that these questions might not be the best timing because Anthony had already implied that he was not interested.
Truthfully, I started feeling a little ashamed. Obviously, this man was not interested in the Gospel and Liam would not stop talking. Liam continued, “If you died tonight, and God was to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my kingdom?’, what would you tell God?” To keep things lighthearted, I spoke up, “Anthony, join us for McDonald’s. I’m buying.” To my astonishment, he said, “Yes, I’ll join.”
As we entered McDonald’s, I was talking to the whole group and making sure everyone was taking care of. After everyone had ordered, I look and to my astonishment, I see Liam and Anthony praying together! Then they were laughing together. As I walked up, I could hear Liam talking clearly about the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
If You Wait Till You Feel Ready, Will You Ever Be Ready?
Even though I was the professor and more well-trained with degrees in religion, God chose to use Liam, a home-schooled farm boy from North Dakota, in his obedience to lead Anthony closer to Jesus. I guess I was feeling somewhat timid, but young Liam had a bold faith that would not be intimidated by an initial refusal.
Like my students Liam and Corbin, I want you to be encouraged that God can use you to take risks and initiate conversations with people about Jesus.
Jesus said the greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30).
Do not think that you have to wait until you have all the answers and conversational tactics down to get started talking about Jesus. And, you don’t have to worry about becoming some preacher type of person or developing a weird personality that is not your own.
If you’re willing to be used by God, he can take you — even with all your deficiencies — and make you an effective ambassador of good news. However, if we want to play it safe, or wait until we feel adequate enough, it is unlikely we will ever accomplish much for God’s kingdom.
Dave Sterrett founded Disruptive Truth, a non-profit organization that is training Christians in evangelism and cultural engagement. He is the author/co-author of several books, including Why Trust Jesus, We Choose Life and I Am Second. Dave works as an account executive in oncology biotechnology and is passionate about helping cancer patients.