“Why in the world would I want to talk to anyone about my faith?” In my line of work, believe it or not, I have heard that question many times. It is usually followed up with, “I would have no idea what to say” or “I don’t have the Bible memorized” or “I don’t know the Scriptures that well.” Many excuses are used. And yes, they are excuses. Hi, I’m Bob Hickling and I’m blunt. But please read on.
Having been an ordained pastor for nearly 30 years, I have had many wonderful experiences in the churches I have served. One that I treasure above the rest involved playing a role in leading a man to Christ and watching him change in front of me. But I almost missed the opportunity because my first response was to reject him rather than convert him. I believe the Holy Spirit stayed my hand so that the Spirit could work on him and bring him to the Truth. Here is how it happened.
Several years ago a Pastor friend of mine by the name of Mark Jordon challenged me to accompany him on a mission trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I have to admit the thought of going to Mardi Gras to share Christ with others was well outside my comfort zone. After learning what would be required of me on the trip, it only got worse. Activities included; dressing up as a clown and walking along parade routes handing candy and tracts to people, performing a salvation skit along the parade route, street preaching, dragging a twelve foot wooden cross down Bourbon Street at the height of the party and generally walking up to strangers and sharing the gospel. Frankly, I was and remain skeptical about the effectiveness of this type of evangelism. However, after substantial prayer I felt the Lord wanted me to go, face my fears and trust in Him. Many of the stereotypes I imagined encountering on such a trip came true. I encountered individuals who in my opinion were more interested in getting people to simply say the salvation prayer words rather than truly understand the commitment being made. In fact, many nights on the bus returning from the days events some of the men would be comparing notes on how many individuals they got to say the words. It seemed very disingenuous to me and made me wonder if we were doing more damage than good. I was wondering if I had made a mistake. I was wondering why the Lord had encouraged me to take the trip. I was worried that I had misheard the Lord. The last night of the trip three hundred men walked in a line, two by two, and took turns dragging a wooden cross down the middle of Bourbon Street. Some people yelled at us. Others ignored us. Few greeted us. Eventually we placed the cross at one of the main intersections and surrounded it handing out tracts and talking with people. I was on a sidewalk when four male college students came around the corner ready to join the party. One of the young men looked directly at me and said without prompting, “I know what you are going to tell me.” I responded by saying, “Okay tell me what I am going to say.” He said, “you are going to tell me that I should not be down here partying tonight.” Instead I told him that had it been a few years earlier I probably would have been down here partying with him. My comment surprised him, broke the ice and after a long conversation the young man chose to pray with my partner and I and accept the Lord as his Savior – right there on Bourbon Street. So what did I learn on my trip to Mardi Gras… - Being obedient, no matter how uncomfortable, is good. God is faithful. - The Lord can do amazing work even in places where I doubt the effectiveness of our methods. - Sometimes sharing our faith is the beginning of the process – planting seeds. This young man had interacted with a number of faithful individuals who planted the seeds of faith well before I met him on Bourbon Street. - Sometimes we are blessed to be part of the process when others chose to accept Jesus and changes the course of their life for eternity. - The Holy Spirit is the one who brings people to faith – we just need to be ready to do play our part in the process. I am convinced the Holy Spirit convicted this young man when he turned the corner and saw us. All the seeds that had been planted came rushing forward and we were blessed to be there and share in the moment. I am not asking you to go to Mardi Gras, or dress as a clown, or street preach or even drag a cross down Bourbon Street. I am asking you to be obedient. Listen. Try to hear the Lord. Look for opportunities to faithfully be part of the process. Even, perhaps even especially, if its uncomfortable. Either by planting seeds of faith or being prepared to help someone respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and make a commitment of faith. Sometimes its as easy as being willing to be at the right place at the right time Brian Baylor