Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jake and Nicholas

I had a visit from two young guys on Friday afternoon. Jake and Nicholas. They wore crisp white shirts, black pants, ties, and name tags. It was easy to see they were Mormons before they announced their affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They asked if I would consider myself a spiritual person and through my doorway, I said yes. After a brief exchange, I joined them outside on the porch. Then I asked them a bit about themselves. They were both from Utah, on a 2 year mission to do good works and talk about their faith. I then asked Jake what his experience was with Jesus. He paused for a minute, so I offered them a drink and they gratefully accepted. We all went inside, sat down in the living room, and drank water. Jake said no one had ever asked him that question before. I listened as he told me a bit about what he believed was important in his life and faith. I don't know that he really answered my question, but that's okay, I was listening to him and I got the feeling not many people had.

Then Nicholas piped in and started to talk about reading something in the Book of Mormon that changed his life. He read a verse to me (which was all about seeking for truth and having God reveal it to you) and then told me how he had prayed for God to show him what was true and it changed his life when he read the Book of Mormon. I was mesmerised by Nicholas' eyes when he spoke about pursuing truth: they practically sparkled. He was so sincere and passionate about his quest that I had to admire his hunger. Then he turned the question back to me and I spoke briefly about my journey with Jesus: from growing up in a conservative Christian culture where doing right and being a good person were emphasized. "But," I said, "there is so much more than that." The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I discover that he wants me, the real me, the raw me, the all of me. He has grace enough to cover the mistakes, no worries there, and he prefers that I come to him all messy, in the middle of my struggles, in honesty, instead of not coming near at all because I want to get myself together first. There is NO together apart from him.

They expressed appreciation for the time I took to listen and talk to them because not many people did. I then asked them if there was anything they were having a hard time with because I would like to pray for them. They said, "Sure!" Jake said he wanted more faith because it was hard not having people respond positively to his message time after time. Nicholas asked for prayer for his younger brother at home. I asked if it was okay if we prayed right then and they were fine with that. I prayed for Jake, that Jesus would be his protection from rejection, his strength when things got tough. I prayed for Nicholas' brother, that God would be a Father to him and Jesus his big brother like no one else could, and that the relationship between the two brothers would grow closer. I loved praying for those boys.

I read something today that reminded me of the salesman approach to faith that many use, including the LDS and many Christians.

They don't listen to what's already been said; They don't sit on the sidelines catching the drift of the arguments; they just assume that the world is waiting to hear what they have to say. - Steve Turner

I have seen this principle at work many times and have even taken part in some very well meaning but ultimately limited efforts of evangelism that I believe literally have dishonored the very people I was trying to reach.... I honestly wanted to bring Jesus into dark places. What I didn't understand was, first, he was already there, and second, I needed to see what he was already doing and co-labor with him in the process. Instead, I assumed that I had all the answers and that I needed to deliver those answers (all of them) in one moment. - Norm Strauss

Sometimes the best way to connect people with the Truth is to listen to them and honor their story.

These are Dean's ipod earbuds on my copy of The Message, open to John 15.


shane magee said...

great approach matte. well done. i've neve really understood why evangelism gets bracketed off as a separate (difficult, weird) endeavour to normal caring conversation.

Thaddeus said...

I agree. Talking to people as people, rather than potential 'customers' is always the better approach. Have you heard anything back from them?

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