Inviting Strangers

Inviting Strangers

The amount of 2% Milk our family goes through in a week is amazing. I work out at the gym twice a week and each time I go, I stop by Braums on the way home to pick up two gallons of milk. It has become part of my twice a week routine. Most of the time, there is a black lady who checks me out.

The first few times she helped me, I noticed she didn’t speak a lot. I thought, “Maybe english isn’t her first language”. On subsequent visits, I started to make small talk and ask her something about the weather or holiday plans.  Eventually, I asked her if she was planning to be in church somewhere for Easter.  She said, “I’m not from around here. I don’t have a church.”

I told her about Woodland Acres Baptist Church and how to get there. I think the five miles distance was a bit far for her. It could be that she walks to work. What struck me the most, was her asking questions! She wanted to know how to get there? Do we offer communion? What time was the service? So I gave her my business card and tried to help her visualize where 55th and Harvard was located. 

So far, I haven’t seen her at church, but I keep an eye out and still see her at Braums from time to time. The point is, sometimes we make assumptions that people aren’t friendly when we haven’t yet offered friendship. Sometimes we fail to invite people because we assume they wouldn’t want to go!

Tulsa is full of visitors to our great nation. Let’s make sure that each one we meet receives a welcome invite to our friendly church, and if they don’t speak english, then at least they will have experienced the love of Jesus within us!

Who Desires To See People Saved?

     For many years, I struggled with a desire to witness and see people getting saved and not feeling it happened often enough.  I took a seminary course where the professor talked about how he ‘won’ people to Jesus nearly every day.  He proudly declared that he had ‘led’ as many as 30 people per week!  I hope that is true but I have some doubt. 

   “Getting Saved” should be the same point as when a person becomes a new creation in Christ.  Jesus called it, “Being born again”. While the seminary professor is certain about his evangelism, I’m not convinced those professing Christ have led to a changed life.  The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t yet grow on a sprout. It takes time, watering, and patience. 

   Saul was on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of “The Way”.  Jesus appeared to Saul in such a way that there could be no doubt that Jesus was God.  In that moment, everything Saul thought he was doing for God, was shown to be selfish pride and arrogance.  Jesus told Saul to,  “get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:6).  Jesus desired to see Saul saved, but in faith, Saul obeyed.  

   This leaves a little speculation about when Saul was actuallyborn again’Was He saved the moment he believed Jesus? Was He saved when he took the hand of his assistant to walk toward Damascus instead of turning tail and going home blind?  Only God really knows.  What we see however is that God doesn’t just save people and then leave them on their own. He had a plan for Saul to encounter Ananias.  Then Saul was healed of his blindness and filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then Saul immediately began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”(v20) and “Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah”(v22).

   As a good Southern Baptist I would say, Saul was saved when the Holy Spirit entered him.  However, I would argue, didn’t God know He was planning to save Saul all along?  Wasn’t it God’s plan to save?  

   God wants to save people even more than we want to see them saved. After all, God endured watching His only begotten Son crushed and bled out upon a cursed tree, wouldn’t He want every last bit of Jesus suffering to cover as much sin as possible?  

   But we, the redeemed, don’t get to decide when a person is saved because we don’t do the saving. Jesus does. He’s the righteous judge. All we are is obedient servants. We choose whether we take the hand we are offered and follow where He leads. This is faith and this is observable.

   The only way an evangelist can really know a person has been saved is if they see observable faith.  It may be that speaking the sinners prayer out loud is observable, but it may be said without faith. However, when a person has been truly born again or saved, they are going to be obedient to Jesus.  It will be observable. This person, like Saul, needs a chance to learn and grow in their newfound faith.  Like the parable of the vine and branches, they are being pruned to bear fruit but the fruit takes time to grow. Fruit is observable. 

   So, I do want to see people saved, but it takes time to bring a person from salvation to bearing fruit.  I am not satisfied in only doing half the job for Jesus. 

   In conclusion, the mission of evangelism is best served through multiplication, not addition.  If I tell one person about Jesus, and they tell one person, and they tell one person, there will be a singular line of people getting saved. But, if just one person (in this example) fails to do their job, the line will be broken. 

   However, if I tell two people about Jesus, or even better, teach them how to win others to Jesus, then some day, when I enter heaven, I will likely be greeted by hundreds or maybe thousands who have come to faith because of the work done here on earth. 

   Jesus said we are to “Go and make disciples” and remember, Jesus wants to see them saved more than you do.

Always A Witness

     Yesterday as I was leaving the church parking lot, I saw a neighbor to the church working on his car. I have been praying that God would give me more opportunities to witness and I felt the Holy Spirit suggest I go talk to him. I walked over, said “Hey buddy!” He looked at me a little stand-offish. I said, “Hey I’ve seen you and your family out enjoying the fresh air a few times lately and wanted to give you my card. I’m the new Pastor of Family and Worship here and if you ever have need of a Pastor, I’d be honored to help.” He responded with a thank you, gave the card a quick look, then put it away. I made it clear that I didn’t want to interrupt him while he was working so I headed back out to my car.

     The back of my card says-

Imagine: Today is your last day on earth and you now stand before God. If He should ask, “My heaven is perfect, why should I let you in?” What would you say?  Let’s talk about that.

     I prayed for him and hope to see him again soon however the Lord arranges it.  I know this story doesn’t have a fantastic ending… yet. But rarely does a witness story begin at the end. It takes around 14 touches of the gospel, on average, before a new believer comes to faith in Jesus.  Today, I haven’t even learned his name yet. But I was aware when the Lord prompted and I have faith that He will work things out in the future. Maybe I’ll write about the next chapter when it does.

     You know, there is really only one fantastic ending to any story that really matters. That’s one that ends in a happy meeting with Jesus.  I know that passing a card or a tract to someone seems to fall short of the traditional Baptist way of witnessing. However, to be faithful to Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” requires more than a careless passing of business cards. It requires respect and relationship. The very thing Jesus desires with us. All first meetings should be handled with compassion and respect. Then pray that God will open the door for you to build on that relationship and share your faith.

     You and I are to live as a witness and not just to ‘go witnessing’. Everyone we meet and everyone whom observes us from afar, is potentially someone that God is drawing into our lives so we might be a living testimony. Our lives are to be different from the world. We dress differently, have fun differently, and most importantly, talk differently.  If someone is sizing you up to possibly be a Christian, then they may be expecting you to say something Christ-like. So, will you? Because you are always a witness.

Business Traveler

A few years ago, I was sent to Dallas for new employee training.  I was working for a global corporation so people flew in from all over the USA for a 4 day workshop.  Spouses were not invited so upon arrival, everyone was trying to make friends as quickly as possible.  On a side note, that is a skill I developed by attending many summer camps during my childhood.

There was one individual that I kept running into on the elevator or at nearby tables. Adrian. He was doing the same stuff as everyone else, making friends, first contacts, and networking.  My mode of operating in these environments is to be a little quiet and listen to what is going on around me. Adrian’s mode was very extraverted and boisterous.  After a couple days of overhearing his conversations, it became clear that he was having some trouble with his relationships at home. He was married with kids but he said he and his wife fought a lot and, while he loved his kids, he didn’t have a great relationship with them. 

I would like to add here that Adrian didn’t have the cleanest language.  For many Christians, this can be very off-putting.  However, if we are going to find an opportunity to witness, we must be patient with bad behavior until the Holy Spirit has an opportunity to change the heart.

About the 4th day, I found myself alone in the elevator with Adrian. We hadn’t really spoken yet and I’m not certain we liked each other that much.  But I spoke up and broke the silence with something like, “I’m sorry to hear about your situation with your wife.” Adrian began to tell me the details. He clearly wanted to talk it out, so I got off on his floor and listened attentively.  Finally, he had made his case, which had some pretty good points.  Then it was my turn.

I said, “Adrian, do you go to church?” He said, “Well, I used to, my grandmother raised me and took me occasionally, but I haven’t been in a really long time.” 

I said, “Then here’s what I think. Adrian, it’s time for you to Man-up.  God made you to be the spiritual leader in your family.  If you don’t take the lead in your family, then you can’t expect God to do anything about it.  You know, God loves you Adrian, and He wants a relationship with you.  I suggest that when you get to your room, you take a minute to tell God about your problems and confess your sins to Jesus.  Jesus died so that your sins can be forgiven but you have to ask Him.  The Bible says the Holy Spirit will change your heart of stone to one of flesh and that Jesus will never leave you.  He can help you change the culture in your home.  Often when the man of the house surrenders to Jesus, the Bible says that “He and His whole house-hold were saved”. 

I asked to pray for Adrian and he agreed.  We parted company and I started packing in my room to leave in the morning.  Then next day, I was pulling my luggage down the hall when Adrian came running down behind me. He said, “John, wait a minute!” Then he continued, “I just wanted you to know that last night, I did just what you said. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins.  I’m going to go home and tell my wife what has happened to me and that we are going to church Sunday.  I just wanted you to know and thank you for what you said.” 

With a big smile on both our faces, I said, “I’ll be praying for you Adrian.”  And you know what?  I still do.  Wherever you are Adrian, I pray that God is blessing your family and I hope you tell me all about it when I see you again.  Be it this life or in the next.

Workplace Evengelism

Sharing Your Faith in the Office

Sharing your faith in the office place can be scary.  It is very comparable to sharing your faith with your next door neighbor.  Our mind argues, “If this goes badly, it will be awkward working/living with them in the future.” Sometimes we argue with ourselves, “I’ll just try to be really nice to them and they will see Jesus in me”. I would like to help you set the bar higher.

If you haven’t ever used the name of Jesus in the office, except as a curse (heaven forbid), then start there.  Ask yourself, “Have I ever used the name “Jesus” in a conversation at work?” This can be a little baby step for you to become more use to talking about spiritual things in the office. 

Have you ever asked someone else not to use Jesus’ name as a curse in the office place? I have. I was really nervous about doing so, but I asked to speak with the person privately and said, “Mr. ***, I really like working with you, and hope this conversation won’t change that, but I would appreciate it if we could refrain from using Jesus’ name in the office that way. It bothers me, and it might be overheard by a customer.” To my surprise, Mr. *** apologized and over the next few months, it seemed that his esteem for me grew! 

God blessed that moment, and I admit things could have gone very differently. However, isn’t what Jesus has done for us worthy of defending His name?  

Luke taught that the Pharisees discouraged the Disciples from using the name of Jesus. “So they called for them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”  (Acts 4:18 CSB17)  

But the Disciples of Jesus never stopped. Good thing too because we know about Jesus today because of them!

I agree that we need to be careful to always be loving and always be kind in the office. However, we love our Lord and we love feeling the Holy Spirit prompting us to take action. I encourage you, my dear brother or sister, to pray about how you can elevate the way in which people talk about Jesus in your circles of influence. You will be doing service for your Lord that the Holy Spirit can use, and your peers may respect you for it.

First Impressions

Woodland Acres Baptist Church on 5511 S Harvard Avenue has extended the hand of fellowship and invited me to serve as their new Pastor of Family and Worship. 

This means you can see me leading the music programs and also working to build relationships with grandparents, parents, and their children. 

WABC is a warm family oriented church with a desire to grow and make an impact for Jesus in our community. They give to missions locally, regionally, and globally. 

What a wonderful place to worship. Please accept my invitation to come visit us. You can watch online, but you can't appreciate the church without experiencing it.  PEOPLE are the church, and at this place, the people worship Jesus.