A Story of Conversation, Witnessing and Theology

In light of my recent post on contextualization, I wanted to share something interesting that happened on the way to work last week. I got to talk to an unbeliever where I interjected theology into our conversation.  This opened the door to witnessing.  OF course, theology and witnessing should go hand in hand, but I’m making distinctions to remind folks to not be afraid of theology.  Don’t be afraid to think about it nor speak about it.

The Scene

As I pulled out to drive to work I saw a man leaving my neighborhood. It looked like the same man I saw the previous day who was further along in his walking.  On neither day was he dressed for jogging or anything of the like. I wondered where he might be going as I drove past.  I ended up turning around, driving back to him and asking if he needed a ride. I was just too convicted not to at least go back and ask. The long and short is that he recently lost his car in an accident and he will soon get another one.  He needed a ride so I drove him to work.

We introduced ourselves and started down the road. He started off really talking a lot so I just listened. I’m not particularly good at listening as my wife can attest, but I’m learning as I grow I grace. I had no idea if he was a Christian or not, but I wanted to find out so that I could witness to him or we could talk about our faith. As my new passenger talked I said a prayer that God would open up a way to dialogue about Jesus and that he would give me the boldness to speak up.

Almost right away the Lord did just that. We quickly found that both of our teens go to the same school. He was telling me to keep my daughter away from his son since he’d recently been in trouble at school. This is when a light went off. I said – you never know…my daughter might just invite him to youth group. Bingo! I was thankful God had given me such an easy in. I was then told that his son goes to Young Life. Great, I thought. And before I could ask what church they attended, he told me a little more about himself.

He thought it was a good influence on his son to go to Young Life. Good for his values and morals. As for my himself, he grew up Roman Catholic. They don’t attend church or anything like that. He seemed basically hooked on the idea that it’s good for people to “go to church.”  I suppose it’s better than not going, but without Jesus and His Gospel the merciless fires are just as hot.

It became clear to me that he was not a Christian. Though he has thought about “going to church” he has not yet started that process. As we talked, within the first several minutes he asked if I were a pastor. I told him no and that I was a youth minister in the past. I explained that now I’m just involved in my local church and how I hoped that the Lord would put me back into the ministry one day.

Theology Matters

My new friend said many things as I listened. He made comments from asking how long it would take to read the whole Bible, keeping prayer in school, the goodness of most people, evolutionary skipping, being mad at God and God not being able to see and handle everything in the world at once. I was able to interject Christian theology of sorts as the conversation moved along. Rather than trying to correct his theology, I was trying to get to know him as much as I could in our short time together. I will do my best to summarize the places where I was able to speak biblically and theologically.

One of the things he mentioned was about not being mad at God anymore. He stopped blaming God for the bad things that happened to him. His resolve was basically that God didn’t really have the ability to oversee everything going on in everyones lives. My thought food for him was that often times we have a backwards view of God. We expect God to conform to us rather than the other way around. In our confusion about God, we may not always understand why He allows certain things to happen the way they do.  I explained that the only way we can really understand this is through Jesus Christ.  And that even if we have a right relationship with God we still have consequences for our actions. Although, these consequences are only temporary for those who embrace Christ.

Another point was the general goodness of most people. As he’s been walking to work and getting rides he’s seen the goodness in people starting to come out as evidenced by how they’ve helped him.  He thought that maybe the current tough times bring out the goodness in people and they really want to help.  I mentioned that this could be so, but it’s often hard to know the motivations of people.  They might feel guilty or may be doing things  hoping to get something back as in “what goes around comes around.”  He also spoke to me about the terrorists in the middle east and how there must have been an evolutionary skip over them.  Since the rest of the world seemed “good” to him those folks must have missed something in the gene pool.  Then, I pointed something out.  A key doctrine.  I said to him, “We are much worse than we think we are.”  He asked what I meant.  I then asked if there are things he gets mad about that he imagines doing and saying to people that would be considered very bad, yet never materialize.  “You have those thoughts and such, right?” I asked.  He looked a little shocked like a light bulb lit up over his head and admitted he had thought in said manner.  I then pointed out that despite all we do that it’s only by God’s grace that He lets us breathe another breath and live another day.

I moved the conversation to 9-11.  We talked about how people had “gone to church” during this time.  And then, a couple months later everyone was back to normal.  Talking about 9-11 allowed me to bring up Jesus and the tower of Siloam in Luke 13.  Telling my passenger what Jesus said about they people who had been killed by the tower of Siloam falling on them.  The very people we consider victims in a terrible accident like this were, in reference to everyone else, no better and no worse.  I further made my point about the depravity of people and our need for a Savior.  I glossed on how unpopular a sermon like would be today using a national tragedy to do so.

As the ride came to an end I explained how only in Jesus Christ is there true freedom from guilt and sins and a true, clear understanding of the world.  He asked about reading the Bible from cover to cover.  I encouraged him for now to read John’s Gospel and gave him a copy of John Piper’s booklet For Your Joy.  Of course, I also invited he and his son to church in the future.

Takeaways

We don’t have to be afraid to speak theologically to unbelievers.  More importantly, within the theology in the conversation we do not have to be afraid to talk about Jesus.  The theological concepts are all ready there just not properly formed.  Christians can pull the conversation into a biblical frame work and use the other person’s language.  Depending on how the other person receives your positions could drive the conversation further into talking about Jesus.  Even though my passenger said something about how we should not push our views on others, I kept talking about the subjects through the Christian worldview.  I was essentially putting his worldview to an internal test without necessarily a direct challenge.  Then, I was offering the Christian alternative in a way that would make sense of his observations.

Pray for these types of situations so you can share Christ.  Be aware of the opportunities you may have right in front of you.  Cease those opportunities.  Be Kingdom minded with the Gospel on the forefront of your mind.  Let Jesus be your motivation.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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tagged as , in Culture,Evangelism,Gospel,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Howard February 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm

It is a great way to open the door.

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