Do you find it difficult to bring up Jesus, the gospel or spirituality in your conversations? I believe that which is difficult now, could become addictive soon (addictive in a good way of course)!
Launching Youthmark a few years ago was truly an answer to a prayer I had prayed for several months, I was asking God to “free me up to do the things I am most passionate about and the things He had most gifted me to do.”
As a Youth Pastor I was very passionate about students being equipped/empowered to share the Gospel on their campus, in their club, within their communities and with the non-believers who show up at their church. I wanted the end-result of our (parents, leaders and my) shepherding to be a young-beleiever actively pursuing the lost with the rescuing message of the gospel.
This is what I get to do more on the macro-level now through Youthmark. Working with Youth Pastors, Christian schools and para-church organizations I get to write and speak about these things… but the macro must translate to micro, even in (or especially in) my life!
I am not an evangelist when it comes to giftedness, however, I am because of calling. And if you are a follower of Christ, you are to be an evangelist as well (“do the work of an evangelist”… “make disciples”… “be my witness”… “pass on to others what you have heard from me”…etc.).
From time to time I’ll post an adaptation of a conversation I (or others) have had to give you an idea of how a regular conversation can become a gospel conversation. If nothing else may it serve as a prayer-request to pray for the person who heard the good news. The following conversation had some interjected “small talk” throughout the conversation, but I removed these for the sake of space, but please understand the “small talk” only helped establish the relationship/understanding more!
Setting: Starbucks Coffee in Colorado (I was speaking at a camp and had gone off-campus to get to some emails and do some last minute tweaking of notes). I was on my macbook pro and a 20-something young-man was three of four seat away pounding away on his.
Young Man: Do you know much about Firefox, Explorer or Safari?
Me: I pretty much use Safari, simply because it was built by Apple so I think it has Apple security in mind and I’ve heard that the others are a little less safe, but no, I don’t now much about the differences.
Young Man: Cool, thanks man, I am pretty new to mac, but I have found some limitations with Safari, and used Firefox on my PC before, so I’ll probably stick with that.
Me: Yeah, thus far I have found only one glitch with Safari and my website, it won’t let our teams post pictures for their mission blogs with Safari without crashing, so we suggest they use a different browser for those posts. But that’s the only problem I’ve had to date.
Young Man: Missions? Do you travel a lot for missions?
Me: Well, sort of, I train students not just for missions, but for what we call Mission51, the 51 weeks beyond the mission trip. But yes, I get to travel some, but my biggest goal is to see students able to share about Jesus in their home-setting too.
Young Man: Do you train teams who just want to do the mission work but not the spiritual stuff?… I mean, can people use your organization to go on help-oriented trips to help people in need just because? I ask because I have done that sort of stuff in the Gulf after the Hurricanes?
Me: Well, Youthmark, my organization, has done relief work there too, we go in wanting to help in ANY practical way we can, but we also want our students to be prepared to share about the Lord as well. What motivated you to go to the Gulf?
Young Man: Oh, I got paid. But I’m interested in helping people… it was a good experience, but I want to volunteer somewhere here in Colorado, just to help people… ya know? Soup kitchens or helping teens with stuff, that sort of stuff makes me feel good.
Me: There are some great opportunities to volunteer I am sure. My organization mainly works with churches though because I want to see it be more than just the physical help, I want people to know about God’s love too! Have you done any of your volunteer work through a church?
Young Man: Well, I was raised in a strict home, so I had to do stuff when I was younger, but now that I’m out of the house, I can choose to do stuff, but I don’t want it to be with the church.
Me: You feel like spreading your wings and discovering things on your own?
Young Man: Well, don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, but I just don’t like the… I forget the word… here’s how God wants you to be so you can go to Heaven. I just don’t think that’s how it should be, I mean, maybe later in life I’ll want that sort of thing for my kids, but now that I can choose, I want to live how I want to live.
Me: Legalism? That’s the word I think of… like, it’s following rules that get you to heaven. I don’t believe that at all. I think it is only grace that gets me to heaven. Legalism sucks the life out of people, I think.
Young Man: You seriously believe you get to Heaven by grace, not by works? (I couldn’t believe he asked me that).
Me: Absolutely I do! But more than that, it’s what the Bible itself says… my name is Brian by-the-way (I approach him and shake his hand).
Andrew: Hi, I’m Andrew… dude, I just don’t see how it can be all about grace and not the stuff you do? I mean, I think I’d probably go to hell right now because of the stuff I am doing, but I also believe that I can change that and do better later and still get to heaven.
Me: But we don’t know if we have “later…” But I do understand your thinking, I think a lot of people think that same way. I know I did until I heard about God’s love and desire.
Me: When I was 17 I heard the whole story of Jesus. The gospel is what it’s called, I’m sure you’ve heard that term (he nodded and said, “yeah, Sunday school stuff”)… It comes down to this Andrew. I believe that God created us to be in relationship with Him. But He also gave us choice, free will, to choose to live in relationship with Him or to reject that. I chose to go my own way, make my own choices, just as you describe yourself right now. My sin, my choosing to go my own way, has separated me from that relationship. The Bible describes the only way to heaven is to be in relationship with God, but because of my sin that was impossible. There is nothing I could do to remove my own sins. I can’t do things to get to Heaven on my own… my good works cannot be good enough, because my sin has marred anything I did. But God knew that and provided a way back through Jesus. The Bible describes the Messiah coming to live a perfect life, die on a tree (tree) and prove that He is God by rising from the dead. Jesus did that. Scripture goes on to say that if you trust in Jesus, and Him alone, you can have that relationship with God again and live eternally with Him and for Him. So, when I heard this at age 17, it made sense. Everything about my life was about acceptance of others and though I had a loving family and great friends, I didn’t know the security of God’s acceptance until I trusted in Jesus. Now I want others to know this! I want you to know this Andrew!
Because I was already late for dinner and about to speak I had to leave the coffee shop, but was able to invite Andrew to the camp to hear me speak that evening. He didn’t show up, but I am trusting that he heard the good news. He was VERY attentive, respectful and literally gave me a hug at the end of the conversation. Please pray for this 21 year-old young man, Andrew. I was able to name a couple great churches in the area I trust he’d find relationship with strong believers and the answers to the questions he has!
I look forward to sharing more Gospel Conversations soon. I am hoping to hear Gospel Conversations others are having even more. Even now as I finish this post, I am about to go back up to a Starbucks register and feed my addiction… I’m getting a refill of coffee, but hoping that even the refill will continue the conversation started with a barista-friend months ago!