Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The art of pressing

We had just finished eating lunch on Sunday when the doorbell rang. It was a gentleman who sold us firewood last year. He lives several counties away and was trying to sell the last of his firewood.

We told him we'd buy it all. So my husband went down to witness to this man. My husband has been faithful to evangelize many times. He picks up strangers or talks to the people he meets every day in the course of his job. He is learning how to be more deliberate in his evangelistic encounters. Since evangelism teaching which might mention the words "hell" and/or "sin" was largely abandoned at the beginning of the last century, we have been hard pressed to find resources to know how to evangelize.

In the past, when witnessing to people, I'd ask, "So do you know Jesus?" or the even more generic, "Are you a Christian?" They would reply, "Yes." After their answer, I would believe my job was done. What I did not know is that these two questions are only a starting point. They are never to be the only questions asked. My friend Anita in California, has absolutely perfected the technique for "pressing" people.

When I witnessed at Huntington Beach with her in August she demonstrated this incredible ability to keep pressing people for more information based on their answers. In this photo, she demonstrated this during a one-on-one conversation with a man at the beach. She was kind and sensitive, but had a single-minded focus: to share the Gospel completely until she got a response. I didn't say a conversion or a decision, just a thoroughly explored response.

We witnessed to one man on the concrete bleacher area. He said he didn't want to talk. He also said that he had already made millions and lost millions of dollars. Finally he said, "I already said I didn't want to talk." I jumped in and said, "OK, thanks for your time." Anita said she really wished she could have pressed him further. I asked, "Why would you ask someone more questions when they said they weren't interested?" From her answer, I learned one of the most valuable lessons about sharing the Gospel that day.

She explained that almost 10 years ago she was a false convert. She knew God was real, believed Jesus died for us but she didn't want anything to do with him since her family life was falling apart.

At a particularly low point, she decided to go on a drive to clear her head, grab a Starbuck's coffee, have a cigarette and think. Two college age girls walked out of Starbuck's and saw her. She didn't want to be bothered or talk to anyone. She tried to ignore them. She just wanted to be alone.

Before she knew it, they were standing in front of her. They asked her if they could sit with her. She wasn't in the mood and mumbled, "Whatever." She quickly thought, "How can I get out of here and have them leave me alone?" She was in no mood for conversation and just hoped that they would leave. She doesn't know why, but she stayed anyway.

When asked if she believed in God, that was the LAST thing she wanted to talk about. Sure, she couldn't deny His existence, but she just managed to say, "Uhh...yeah." Excited by her answer, they said, "Oh, you do?! Great! Do you go to church? Do you believe in His Son, Jesus?"

Anita still wasn't in a mood to talk because of the weight of her problems and the feeling that she was utterly alone.

The next question just broke the barrier in her heart she was hiding behind for safety. The girl asked, "So do you have a relationship with Him today? Are you living for Him?" Anita was fed up. On the verge of tears, she said, "Look, I'm not stupid. I know that there is a God and I know that He sent His Son to die on the cross, but my life sucks right now!" She went on to share about the situation in her family and how it was tearing them apart, coupled with the financial burden that was taking a toll on the family. As a result of this, she had to fly home from school because her family could no longer afford her college expenses. She then challenged them with, "... and now you expect me to believe that God loves me?! If He does then why is all this junk happening in my life?"

"Wow. It sounds like you're going through a lot of stuff," said one of them. They went on to talk for about an hour. She was able to understand that being a Christian doesn't mean your life is going to be without trial. But God, in his goodness and mercy did NOT give us what we deserve which was certain death. It turns out that those two girls attended a local Christian University nearby and that their dorm-floor go out and do street evangelism every Friday night.

Anita says she remembers the events of that night so clearly, because when they were done talking, as she was walking to her car, she felt like the Lord was saying to her, "You see, all this time you've been pushing me away; hating Me. But I'm going to come after you. I love you."

She repented and her life has never been the same since. She says, "I guess I like to press people to see how far I can get because I'm reminded of when those two girls pressed me. If they didn't press, I might of just gotten up, walked away, and only the Lord knows what I would have done next. Funny thing is, I don't even know where those girls are at today. We didn't exchange information or anything. They won't be able to see the fruit of their labors until we get to heaven. And it won't be until we get to heaven that I'll be able to thank them for their faithfulness to the Lord."

She admits that sometimes pressing people does push them too far, but either way, she leaves the outcome to the Lord and asks Him to give her wisdom when she goes out to share the Gospel.

It's so important to know that we will not always see the results of our efforts. God never promised us that. But, we are to walk in obedience and share the Gospel. You never know when you might be the very means by which He chooses to bring someone into an eternal relationship with Him by your faithfulness.

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