Monday, February 09, 2009

a coward's guide to witnessing

I've always had a hard time sharing my faith. After being totally traumatized by an evangelism program in our first ministry (read Death by Evangelism ), I decided I was not called to be an evangelist. I adopted St. Francis' motto as my own: Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.

Yep, I'd just love on people until they asked why.

The problem was, nobody ever did . . .

Well, every now again again someone asked a question that opened the door for me to share my testimony. And it's never been difficult for me to tell others how Jesus rescued me and completely changed my life (my testimony). But as to sharing with another person the actual steps to salvation . . . I'd get the four spiritual laws confused with the five-finger exercise and then get completely turned around on the Roman Road. I never could bring myself to ask the question, "Do you know where you'd go if you died tonight?" And the thought of leading someone through a formulaic prayer made me shudder.

I'd studied all the salvation passages in the New Testament, and there just didn't seem to be a cut and dried method of making sure another human being connected with Christ.

But I had a very interesting experience this weekend. I went to a Women's retreat at the beach. I don't usually do Women's retreats, but I was asked to share my story and agreed to do it. Four of us shared out stories over the weekend, and I got to go last.

I've given my testimony lots of times, but I really felt the Lord wanted more than that from me. I worked in some jokes, a bit of our spiritual journey thus far, how we came to Cornerstone . . . but I still felt His prodding to keep seeking. There's nothing I love more than a good walk on the beach with Jesus, so I spent a lot of time just walking and seeking His direction.

On Saturday night, during a casual conversation, I spoke with someone who did not seem sure of her salvation. She'd been raised Catholic, and even though she'd been attending evangelical churches for a while, she was obviously missing something. So I shared my testimony with her, prayed for Jesus to come fill her heart, hugged her neck and went to bed pretty satisfied with the way the evening turned out.

The next morning, though, another woman who'd been in on the conversation told me she didn't think our new friend had connected with Jesus, that she was still stumbling around on the perimeters of Christianity, looking for a way to get in.

"Someone needs to close the deal," Kris said. "She doesn't know what to do next."

Kris never mentioned any names, but I got kind of defensive. I'd shared my testimony, I'd prayed a wonderful prayer over my friend, couldn't God take care of the rest?

But as I was getting ready for the morning session, going over my talk in my head, I felt the Lord's prompting to offer an invitation.

You've got a hot tub and the ocean right here, He reminded me. Don't forget the part about being baptized.

To make a long (but cool) story short, I obeyed and, after sharing my spiritual journey, I gave a very shaky invitation to the women to commit (or recommit) their lives to Jesus. I offered a simply explanation of the gospel, then asked them to join me in an impromtu confession of faith. I have no idea what I said, but I felt completely surrounded by His love as I prayed.

My friend did not respond that morning, but told me later she felt Jesus when I prayed. I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but hope to unpack that with her as we journey together on this amazing walk of faith.

As cool as that was, I kind of whined to God while I packed up my things: "Why did you make me do that--even mention the baptism thing? I was kind of bummed that no one responded."

You responded--you obeyed, the Lord reminded me.

Um, good point.
And who are you to judge what happened in their hearts?
Got it--I'm not responsible for the results!

I came home from the retreat actually excited about sharing my faith--and inviting others to join me in that journey. My prayer is to never miss an opportunity again (thanks, Christine!)

Want to come?


Kathryn said...

There are many of us in this boat. Thanks for sharing your experience; I too struggle with the admonition to bring others to Christ; how to do it without feeling forced? I don't think there's an easy answer.

The Miller Family said...

We don't know when and how God will us what He asks us to do, I love that you heard Him say, "You responded, you obayed!" Our job is to pursue and He does the rest!!! Thank you Shawn for your story and for coming. Wish I could have walked on the beach with you. Maybe we can walk on a trail together instead. Love you tons.

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