“I’m not a church going man, and I’m really not interested.”
While our team was sharing the Gospel using The Exchange at our county fair, this was the response that I received from one man. During that day, I had already had the opportunity to give all or parts of the Gospel of Christ to many people. Since I didn’t think that anyone had shared Christ with this man at a nearby booth, I asked the Lord to help me speak to him.
Our booth at the fair is a lively, exciting event: making balloon animals and balloon hats, stringing “wordless” bracelets, carpet ball, popcorn, bottles of water, and This Is My Story tracts that our folks have written. We have also designed thought-provoking banners based on The Exchange. One of those asks, “What are the words that God never wants anyone to hear?” It is not an overstatement to say that the booth captured the attention of most of the people who passed by. It was hot and sweaty work, but the children and their parents were enthralled!
The people at nearby booths were especially attentive. As I observed them watching our people at the booth, I realized that those booth workers were watching our people happily and joyously serve others with the Good News of Christ. As I watched them watching us, I thought of Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” When do lost people usually see people who are this happy? Unfortunately, many people have only seen people this happy at bars or parties where alcohol was being served. These people were watching folks who wanted to serve others by letting God’s Spirit overflow through them. Our people were breaking down barriers just by the way that they were serving!
That’s what was happening as I began the conversation with this gentleman. Yet, he said, “I’m not a church going man, and I’m really not interested.”
I nodded and said, “That’s o.k.” and decided that I would “hang out” with this guy for a while. I asked him how his booth worked and he began to tell me about the way his boss had trained him. So, to show him that I was concerned about his concerns, I started introducing people to his booth and signed them up for his free service.
When he saw what I was doing, he laughed and said, “So now I guess that I should step over to work at your booth!”
I smiled and said, “Well, if you want to work at our booth, what would you say?”
He replied, “I guess I would say, ‘Are you happy with your present religion?!”
I laughed, and pointed to the large banner on the back of our booth with the opening question from The Exchange: “How would you describe your relationship with God?”
“That’s where we would begin,” I said. “Or here is another place where we would begin,” I pointed to the badge on the lanyard around my neck. “Have you ever heard the words that God never wants anyone to hear?”
My new friend asked, “What is that all about?”
I replied, “Those words are found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 and verse 41: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
I paused. “And we follow up that verse with a question: ‘Would you like to know how to escape so that you never have to hear those words?” I could sense that my friend was intrigued, so we continued to talk about things in general and the Gospel in particular.
I was astounded to hear him make this statement to me a few minutes later: “You know, I really like talking to you because you are not one of those “fire and brimstone types.” This was all the more remarkable, because I had just shared one of the strongest condemnations of sinners in Scripture! This is a prophecy from Jesus Christ about what He will say at the judgment to those who are lost. But the Gospel shows men how to escape from that condemnation. His comment brought Acts 16:14 to my mind: “. . . whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” It was a great encouragement to me to remember that we are “laborers together with God,” and that He was opening up this gentleman’s heart.
We parted as friends, and agreed to meet a few days later. When we met again, I couldn’t resist the temptation to tease him, to see if he had really grasped the meaning of Scripture.
I said, “You really cracked me up the other day when you said something to me.”
He replied, “Yeah, I think I know where this is going.”
I said, “ I quoted to you one of the strongest condemnations in Scripture: ‘Depart from me, you cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!’”
And he responded, “And I said to you, ‘You’re not one of those fire and brimstone types.’”
We both laughed at the irony of what had happened.
He said, “What I meant was that you are different from the others who have tried to share this same message with me.”
I asked, “Can I tell you why that is?
He said, “Sure.”
I replied, “I just love your soul. I’m not trying to get anything from you. I don’t want your money or anything else that you have. I’m just trying to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and might, and I’m trying to love my neighbor as myself. I just love your soul and want to see you reconciled to God.”
He said, “It shows, and I’d like to talk some more.”
That day, he willingly received a number of tracts, including The Exchange tract, “God’s Exchange for You.”
Please pray for my new friend and for me as I continue to reach out to him.