Wednesday, August 09, 2006


This morning a conversation prompted quite a bit of thought about the inability of the modern traditional Western church to effectively engage and infiltrate an increasing secular, self-worshiping culture. Admittedly, these aren't foreign musings, but I'm not accustomed to these kind of mental exercises while on vacation. The more I thought about how antiquated the traditional church paradigm is and how bleak the future looks for those unwilling to change and adapt to our culture with a missional mindset, I was overcome with the creeping sensation of hypocrisy. For all of the failings and weaknesses of the traditional church model, for all of Her ineffectiveness, I am guilty of contributing to her impotency in the culture because I often fail to model the initiative and heart for the perishing that is necessary for the church to begin to make head-way in a world that grows increasingly more hostile to the claims of the gospel everyday.

These are weighty thoughts, much too depressing and convicting for a man on vacation. But I couldn't escape them. Mental fatigue set in the more I tried to run from the obvious. The harder I tried to suppress the Spirit's still small voice today, the more His urging gained traction in my heart. And for this I am thankful, for without it I probably wouldn't have noticed John today.

After playing some tennis this evening with Elizabeth and Rick (father-in-law), Liz and I went to the pool to cool off. I noticed an older gentleman seated by himself as I came in, but I made no effort to speak to him. Not even so much as a "hello". After swimming for a few minutes I decided to leave. As I was about to exit the pool the man gathered up his stuff and headed for the exit. We made eye contact and I said "Hello". I wasn't afraid to say "hello" earlier, I just didn't. It became clear very quickly that this man with a weathered, wrinkled face, frizzy hair and an addiction to Doral cigarettes was eager to talk.

His name is John. He lives about 30 miles from Ft. Walton Beach and is here visiting family in town from Texas. He is 62-years old. He is divorced with 10 grandchildren (7 step-grandchildren and 3 natural). John only had two teeth. He mentioned the deaths of loved ones more than 5 times in our conversation, the most recent death being his brother in February. He said that he had himself escaped death 5 times, flatlining 3 times. We weren't long into our conversation when he said, "I'm not sure why I'm still here. I don't know what my purpose is."

Talk about an open door. John and I talked about Jesus. We talked about what is going to happen to him when he dies. He told me, rather matter-of-factly, that God is sovereign and has the right to do whatever He is pleased to do with him. He's done his fair share of good and bad things and he's got no complaints. I was surprised at how non-chalantly he talked about eternity. I shared the gospel with John. He, like most people, believes that entrance into God's kingdom has to do with his ability to earn his way into heaven. At one point in the conversation John told me that his son committed suicide in 1988. He said that he knew that somewhere in the Bible it teaches that those who take their own life will go to hell. He seemed sad when he said it, as you might imagine. I told him that Scripture didn't teach that suicide is the unpardonable sin, but John was pretty convinced. He told me that he had a 5-inch thick KJV Bible in his closet and he's read some of it. I wanted to play the "I-am-a-Pastor-and-study-the-Bible-all-the-time" card to correct his mistaken doctrine of suicide, but I let it go because he was pretty insistent that he was right. Besides, it detracted from the more pressing matter: John's lack of a relationship with Jesus, an issue he was good at evading.

Again, we talked about Jesus being the only way to be in relationship with the Father. We talked about sin and the penalty for our sin. We talked about Jesus' death, burial and resurrection and how through faith and repentance we can be forgiven and adopted as sons and daughters of God by grace. We talked about how salvation is a gift.

John was a fast talker. He liked to talk a lot. I'm surprised I was able to share as much about Jesus as I was because it was hard to get a word in edge wise. But John was open to talking about Jesus, his sin and need for a Savior. I wish I could tell you that John confessed Jesus today by the pool. As far as I know he didn't. But he did ask me if he would see me tomorrow and we did pray together. Maybe if you read this you'll take some time to pray for John as well.

As I walked away I was reminded at how simple it was to talk to John. I was able to engage an unbeliever in a conversation about Jesus because I was: a) willing to initiate conversation; b) looking for ways to move our rather benign conversation into a Christ-focused exchange; c) open to listening more than talking; d) courageous enough to utter the word "Jesus" in the public square; and e) not distracted by my schedule and agenda. I thank God for placing John in my path today and reminding me that there are people all around us who need Jesus. The harvest is plentiful and God will use the willing, even those on vacation, to speak about Jesus and His kingdom if we will just open our eyes, ears and mouths and obey the Spirit's initiation and prompting in our lives.


At 1:53 AM , Blogger r a i n e r said...

John Aaron - thanks for posting this - I hope to be in prayer for John.

At 4:55 PM , Blogger Ashley said...

exciting and encouraging. thanks.


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