The sun had set and a cool breeze was blowing down the main drag in Maplewood. We were soul winning.
I like working the bus stops. People at bus stops are usually bored. They seem to like talking to friendly strangers. Most of them.
Bored people. Cool breezes. A good night for talking.
A young man looked at me curiously as I approached the bus stop, and then looked away quickly. I’m used to that. A white guy in a shirt and tie – people assume I’m either a Mormon or a cop. When they discover I’m a Baptist preacher they are either relieved or revolted. Usually relieved.
I gave him a tract which he accepted with grateful curiosity. We had some small talk. He looked older than he really was. Hard living will do that to you. He occasionally rubbed a tattoo on his forearm, as if his subconscious wanted to wipe it off.
He was old enough to be on his own, and probably started out sooner than he should have. Girlfriend. Baby. Small apartment. Part-time job.
I listened to his brief biography. His story was a common one today: a rough childhood that led to colossal juvenile failures, which paved the way for colossal adult misery. Always trying to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. God? He was up there somewhere, far away.
He needed the Gospel.
He was a sinner. He knew that. He was unsure of his eternal destiny. I carefully explained the Roman’s Road. He listened politely, but with a look of familiarity on his face.
I know that look.
I finished my evangelistic presentation and asked him “Would you like to pray and receive Jesus as your Savior?”
“Oh, I already did that.”
“You have? When?”
“Long time ago – when I was a kid. I went to church with a friend…I don’t remember everything that happened. There was a church guy, and he took me and some of my friends to a little room, right? And he showed us some stuff from the Bible. And then we prayed. I already did that.”
Hmm. “I did that.” That was the extent of his experience with the most powerful force in the known universe: the life changing power of Christ.
I did that.
What do you say to someone who says that?
Well, were you sincere?
Did you mean it? I mean really, really, mean it?
You need to do that again.
And then what? Have him repeat another prayer so in the next ten years, after he has explored the broad horizons of sin and failure he can tell another Baptist preacher “I did that.”
No. He needed something more than a five minute dissertation and a repeated prayer. He needed more than a Baptist preacher who likes cool breezes and bus stops. He needed Christ to come to him and say, “Pick up your cross and follow me. No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I felt useless. Inconsequential. Powerless.
His bus came.
Sometimes Baptist preachers learn more from conversations than the people they intended to inform. Sometimes we learn more about the Gospel from someone who doesn’t know the Gospel.
“It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Savior unless he also becomes our King, for a very large part of salvation consists in our being saved from sin’s dominion over us, and the only way in which we can be delivered from the mastery of Satan is by becoming subject to the mastery of Christ.” -Charles Spurgeon