(This is part 2. Read #72 first)
I asked my Good Stuff lunch partner, Bruce, to write his version of the events of last week’s E-vangie Tales #72. Here it is:
In Steve’s last Evangie-Tale, he described the “incident” at Good Stuff restaurant in Redondo Beach in which some entirely different responses to the “MILLION DOLLAR BILL (MDB)” evangelism approach were observed. I’m the guy who was having lunch that day with Steve, and so was in the enviable (?) position of witnessing first-hand how this approach would play out in reality as opposed to simply reading about it in an Evangie-Tale.
I found it extremely instructive to observe the widely differing reactions of the three Good Stuff waitresses on the receiving end of this approach. I also found quite interesting to observe my own reaction to their reactions, and what that might possibly be revealing about my own deep down beliefs and willingness to act upon the “Heaven vs. Hell” message.
Recall the 3 different responses of the waitresses as briefly summarized below:
Waitress #1 …received a “MDB” when first arriving at our table and thanked us. Then later after “observing” our conversation with Tanya, scolded us for being insensitive to her feelings, and emphatically urged us to convey our evangelistic message through other (presumably more gentle) means. I didn’t get the sense she was totally opposed to the message, but she was definitely at odds with our style.
Waitress #2, Lily … after being handed a “MDB” and reading and discussing with us the “Million Dollar Question” about Hell, Heaven, and Jesus in fine print on the reverse side of the bill … literally fell to her knees at our table and accepted the Lord.
Waitress #3, Tanya …in response to the “MDB,” initially seemed very open to discussion and consideration of its message with us (even admitting openly that she was tempted to lust after men). However, in the end she allowed her own sense of self-condemnation and hopelessness to overrule and walked away saying “I guess I’m just bound for Hell, then.” She didn’t say this defiantly, but sadly (I was reminded of the rich young man in Matthew 19 who had a similar reaction and walked away from Jesus’ demanding message about giving up all his worldly possessions).
So what did I think about all this and, as Steve so eloquently challenged me, what “lessons” will I apply to become more effective in my own evangelistic efforts in the future?
First, I confirmed that truly ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WHEN HEARTS ARE OPEN to receiving Jesus (i.e., the response of Lily was simply astounding!!). On the other hand, Satan is always lurking and ready to snatch away seeds before they have a chance to take root (i.e., Waitress #1 and Tanya).
Second, I need to pray to God to STRENGTHEN MY BELIEF that the “bad news” preceding the Gospel message (i.e., the truth that every single human being is sinful and destined for hell from the moment of conception) is unfortunately true … not just for myself but for others as well. This is at times a great struggle for me as I so much WANT for God not to allow eternal physical/mental/spiritual torment in Hell as a possibility for anyone except terrorists and overt God-haters as opposed to those who simply “didn’t quite get or understand the message.” I can’t allow my feelings and “WANTS” to trump GOD’S TRUTH as written in the Bible… otherwise my ability to deliver a heart-felt, credible evangelistic message will be seriously compromised by my personal feelings and distaste for the “bad news part” of the message itself. I need to make a serious effort to practice delivering the “bad news/good news” SO THAT I CAN DEVELOP MY OWN UNIQUE STYLE that won’t leave me feeling guilty or insincere about evangelizing.
I was initially chagrined when, after exiting Good Stuff, Steve handed me seven “MDBs” plus a few other tracts and challenged me to hand out one a day until all were given away. My first reaction: this is fine for Steve (the “professional”), but not OK for me … his style ain’t my style; I’m NOT going to go up to people and pop them with an in-your-face “Heaven/Hell” question, and I’m TIRED of saying “yes” to everything when I’m not ready or willing at this point in my life to follow through. I must admit Steve cut me a little slack… he kindly suggested that I just pass the bills out and not try to force any conversation. OK; maybe I could try that at least!!
Guess what: It’s 2 weeks later and I just recently delivered my third “MDB” to people who have waited on me in different restaurants. I made it a point to wait till the end of the meal, (after I’d had a chance to converse lightly with each of them and get them “warmed up” a bit) before handing them the “MDB” and saying something like:
Me: “Can you please change this for me?”
Waiter: “Sure … uh, are you kidding me? This is amazing!!” (They fondle the bill)
Me: “It’s really cool, isn’t it … some guy gave this to me and what I found even more amazing was the stuff that’s written in fine print on the reverse side; check it out.
In all 3 cases, they’ve actually taken the time to stand there and read the complete tract on the reverse side of the bill, and I was afraid they’d read the first words and throw it back in my face!
Waiter: “Wow, this is really serious stuff … this is a pretty interesting way for “fundamentalists” to try to get their message across!!”
Me (in the one case where I was especially bold): “So what do you think about the message? I’ve been asking myself that same question for some time!”
Waiter: “I don’t know … it really does cause you to think doesn’t it?”
Me: “It sure does … I know I’m going to be thinking about it a lot! Well at any rate, keep it, think about it and pass it on to your friends.”
Waiter: “I definitely will … thanks so much!!”
Note I fell far short of revealing who I really was and what I personally believed, but at this point I felt comfortable letting the Holy Spirit do his work simply by presenting the “MDB.” Maybe within a couple more weeks, I’ll be ready to “come out of the closet” a bit more and work to gently steer the conversation a bit further. Then again, maybe this is how the Spirit wants me—by nature a reserved personality—to operate in these types of situations.
No matter what, I have learned some significant personal lessons and become somewhat more “confident” about sharing my faith as a result of trying to overcome my extreme initial reluctance to do ANYTHING in this regard. Please pray for me that my faith, confidence, and effectiveness in conducting future faith-based conversations with those outside my “comfort zone” will continue to increase. I will pray for you as well.
And remember, IT’S ALL STEVE SANCHEZ’ FAULT!!