It was cold; I was tired; so I gave in and jumped on a bus. It was packed (clearly everyone else had the same idea). Standing room only. Most were glued to their phones—texting, tweeting, surfing and occasionally even phoning. But then I tuned in to a conversation behind me. Someone was witnessing to the stranger beside him. Brave.
I couldn’t see either of them, so drew a picture in my mind as I listened.
- Him: young, earnest, determined, committed and 19 years old (he told her)
- Her: older, chatty, sceptical, probing
- Most of his sentences started with “I believe…”, “I know in my heart…”, “I just feel…”
- Hers were mostly “Do you think…?”
I think she was genuinely interested, but her questions were all on well-worn religious issues. She was expecting unsatisfactory answers. And sadly she got them. The young man tried his best, but if I were her, I would have assessed him as naïve, probably indoctrinated and likely to grow out of it. An interesting conversation to pass the time, but to be forgotten at the end of the journey.
With my evangelical hat on I was assessing the conversation and working out how it could be “better”. In particular, this guy needed to give some basis for his beliefs. To replace “I know in my heart” with “The Bible tells us…” or “Jesus said…” or “God promised…” It’s easy to dismiss what a 19-year-old “feels”. Better to point people to something concrete from Scripture. And I would tell this young evangelist to move away from discussing some kind of generic “God” and focus directly on Jesus. That takes you straight to the core of Christianity.
So I spent half my time working out how I’d train this guy to do a better job (embarrassing but true), and the other half praying for him. And then I got off the bus. My one chance to glance at these two. She was probably mid thirties, dressed in work clothes, on her way home. He was very smartly dressed, wearing a name badge and… a Mormon.
Wow! Suddenly all my thinking turned on its head. I was glad he hadn’t done a better job. And glad my prayers for him had been received by the God who knew the whole situation all along. And challenged too. We have a far, far better message to share, but how often have I sat on a bus, train, plane and let those chances slip by? I console myself that I’ve had a couple of gospel conversations on the bus. Then I realise I’ve had far more about my cello (big, silver case – hard to miss). I so often wimp out. So today I’ve been challenged by the bravery of a 19-year-old Mormon. Maybe you will be too?