About a year ago I did something I rarely ever do. I went to the mall at night! There are certain places I avoid simply because of previous experiences. I do not go to the teacher’s lounge because I do not like to listen to teachers grumble about students. I do not go to festivals because I dislike loud and rowdy drunks. And I do not like the mall because I dislike strangers questioning my life choices.
I had to go to the mall because I had to pick up my new eyeglasses. Unlike other stores I frequent, I have to park at the end of the mall and work my way toward the middle. Now, every time (it seems) I go to this particular mall, I get approached by someone who wants to tell me about his version of Jesus.
In this particular mall, I usually get confronted with the most standard evangelical question of all time – “Have you been saved?”
Now, I must admit there are those times when I just play dumb. “From What?” I will ask them incredulously, looking around as if the ovens in the Mrs. Fields Cookies are about to explode or a group of angry mall walkers are about to attack!
I then listen patiently as he explains his version of the Gospel. I nod my head in all the right parts and affirm him with body language. Then, when he invites me to his church, I respectfully decline due to the fact that I will be at my church at that time.
When I am in a hurry, I will just answer “Yes” and try to keep moving. Most will accept the answer as if they are relieved of the fact they do not have to talk to me but some will press on.
“How do you know?” This was the answer that night that stopped me in my tracks. He seemed unsatisfied with my answers and informed me that I was not saved fully. According to him, you are only saved if you can speak in tounges! I tried to tell him that I have been accused of that since I mumble due to my Cerebral Palsy but he ignored my attempt at humor and began attacking me with his words. Speaking in tounges is the only way the spirit of God will manifest, according to him. He started pulling out Bible verses completely out of context.
And this is why I avoid the mall.
The man had the right intentions, but (in my eyes) he made three crucial mistakes.
First, he judged me on his interpretation of scripture! He had learned to focus on certain parts of the Bible and created a hierarchy in his mind of what parts are more important than others. I call this the SALAD BAR approach. We take the bits that are palatable and leave the parts that do not agree with us. This is dangerous because it not only causes division and arrogance, it also paints an incomplete picture of how God really views us! This is similar to watching only one Star Wars movie and disregarding the others.
Second, he wasted his time. As soon as someone states that he follows Jesus Christ, that should be the end of the discussion. In the New Testament, Paul writes Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord!” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord!” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3
When one says “Jesus is my Lord!” they are saved and do not require resaving!
Third, and this is probably the most important, stop attacking your brothers! I have heard it said once that the Christian church is the only army that shoots the wounded! Our job is to spread the message of Jesus! That’s it! We need to tell others that Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, lived a perfect life that we can never even get close to, died a horrible death that our sins deserved, rose again after three days and promises to be with those who call Him Lord always, in this present and temporary life as well as all eternity! God wants all to be saved!
I have been interacting with a number of Facebook groups with Christians around the world. Many of them are posting conversation starters like “Does the Bible say women cannot wear pants?”, “Can Women be preachers?”, “Should Christians invest in the Stock Market?”, “Was Paul the Antichrist?”. I admit I engaged in some of these and those conversations always ended up with the person calling me ignorant, stupid or evil. Most commonly, they ended with the assertion that I am not a “true” Christian when I do not accept another’s point of view.
This is the Devil’s greatest tactic! “Did God really say…?” He used this on Eve and it still works today. You can justify anything in your life by nitpicking the Bible. Slavery, government corruption, abortion, and other heinous acts have been supported by Bible Verses. Our enemies know scripture better than we do!
I love the quote by John Kador that says, “You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand. You just have to want to go in the same direction.” We are the church, the body of Christ! We are divided by denominations, factions and other things that just do not make any sense in the long run! Why do humans need to overcomplicate simple ideas?
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” – St. Francis
I’ve always liked the following story:
A man gets a huge promotion at work and decides to celebrate with his friends and family. One evening he invites them all to the best restaurant in town, his treat! Many show up and the party is in full swing.
Shortly, the man begins to realize that he has overestimated his situation and cannot possibly cover the bill that his guests are accumulating! He begins to become anxious, mentally adding up everything people have ordered. He regrets his generosity and starts to think to himself about how these so-called friends are taking advantage of him. His anger swells as plates of food lay about uneaten and expensive bottles of spirits are opened and spilled carelessly. He becomes despondent about how he can pay for all of this.
The manager, sensing the man’s anxiety, moves alongside him. He simply places his hand on the man’s shoulder and tells him “Do not worry about the bill! This is all on the house!”
The man is dumbfounded but believes in the manager. His anxiety lifts, his attitude changes. He converses with his guests, samples the food and drink and thoroughly enjoys himself for the remaining of the evening.
The party comes to a close and, in a moment of doubt, the man approaches the manager, head down. He knew that he had run up a huge bill. A staggering amount that no one could possibly waive. He crafted in his mind excuses and plans for repayment as he found the manager.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” The manager simply asked. The man stated that he and his guests were treated far better than they deserved.
The man, still unsure if he was off the hook, asked the manager if there was any way he could repay him.
The manager smiled and simply said, “Yes, please tell everyone you meet about my restaurant and the service you received!”
When you become a Christian, the bill that you have been running up is paid in full by Jesus! All he asks in return is to tell others of his generosity.
The man who had his bill paid in full was very grateful and spent the rest of his life telling others about his experience at the restaurant. Although he loved the manager and what he did, he didn’t have to get a degree in Hospitality Management to understand the gift he received. While telling others, he never criticized or put down another’s favorite place to eat. He never condemned people for not visiting the restaurant or dismissing his recommendation. He simply told of his experience that wonderful night and left the decision up to others.
The biggest mistake that my mall evangelist made is that you can NEVER argue someone into heaven! Your knowledge of the Bible and the beliefs of your denomination mean very little to others. Your actions are the only means of influence you have. No one can argue your testimony!
People look more at what you do than what you say. I love Jesus but not enough to become a mall preacher. God uses people in their everyday situations to win people to his kingdom. My ministry field is simply anywhere I go on any given day. I am meant to affect those around me so they approach me and ask.
“There is something different about you. What is it?”
Then I simply smile and tell them –
JESUS IS MY LORD!
Prayer: Father God! You are LORD! You have redeemed me not with gold or silver, but by the precious blood of your son, Jesus. Help me to share this simple truth with all I encounter until you return or call me home.