Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2010 > Summer > What to Do With a Stranger
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

He came to our church one Sunday morning accompanied by his wife and children. A friend had recommended us, and they'd come for a visit. Since I'd never seen him before, I moved quickly to introduce myself and make sure they met several other people who could make them comfortable. • First impression: late thirties, a bit reserved, comfortable in his own skin, at ease when meeting new people. • Over the next few weeks, our paths crossed several times. He and his wife not only came to worship services, but they lingered in the Commons where people drank coffee and enjoyed extended conversation. It was clear that they were soon making friends. • Where were they in terms of faith? I had no idea, so I decided to find out by inviting him to breakfast at the Egg Shell Restaurant, my usual meeting place.

When we met there, I started with my favorite question. "Would you tell me the main events in your life story in three minutes?" The crazy question always elicits laughter, but is followed by a serious attempt to do just that: summarize life's highs and lows.

In this case, the lows involved a horrific childhood only barely survived. Highs: a wise decision in finding a good wife and a business that was doing quite well.

Spiritually, the present moment was one where there were questions about life's future direction. Thus the decision to try church for the first time.

Then he turned the question on me. "So what's your life story … in three minutes?" I swallowed my own medicine and offered it. He asked me about my job, and I described what was important to me and why I liked what I did. He appeared interested in everything I was saying, and I felt that he was measuring everything I said to see if it could fit into his experience.

There were one or two further breakfasts. I came to see him as a Nicodemus: a good man looking for a better grasp of what it means to have God in his life.

My early training in evangelism—had I applied it—would have led me to immediately ask my new friend "to accept Christ." As a college student, I had been one of those many who often fanned out across the campus using clever methods to pull people into a conversation intended to culminate in their saying a prayer that led to the promise of eternal life.

In those early days, I'd seen many pray the prayer, but I'd not seen many people stick with the implications of the prayer. When told afterwards that some form of church might be involved, that Bible study might come into play, that relationships of one kind or another might be expected, they tended to drift away. Free pass to heaven, no strings attached, was one thing; this version of eternal life with all its fine print was too costly. They said, in effect, you should have told me that stuff before.

So I didn't follow this protocol at the Egg Shell Restaurant. I chose another way. One morning I said to my stranger-become-friend: "I have a thought for you. Since you're so interested in what I do, I want ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Gordon MacDonald is chancellor of Denver Seminary and editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. He is author of numerous books, including Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence.

From Issue:Justice & Evangelism, Summer 2010 | Posted: July 26, 2010

Also in this Issue: Summer 2010

Our Calling, Our SpheresSubscriber Access Only

Calling involves everything we are and everything we do.

Growing a Child's FaithSubscriber Access Only

Some churches do ministry to children, others do it with them.

One Pastor's Quest

The price of getting personally involved in justice.
Leading a Church in Prayer ...

Leading a Church in Prayer ...Subscriber Access Only

... deserves thoughtful preparation.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–1 of 1 comments

CHARLES BENNY

December 31, 2011  1:17am

What to Do With a Stranger?? PRAISE THE LORD Really moving and very much inspired me. All the praise and glory to our lord jesus christ amen. Loving Bro in Christ Bro.Charles

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

What can we learn from the collapse of Mark Driscoll's church?
Sister Sites
Leading the Elder BoardBuilding Church Leaders

Leading the Elder Board