Finding the courage to initiate a spiritual conversation with a stranger is hard enough without the added pressure we put on ourselves – especially when we know we’re being watched. On a recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska for a speaking engagement, I was blessed to have my son, Luke (almost 6) accompanying me. In an unfamiliar city, host to many travelers and tourists, the opportunity to engage strangers is not difficult. During the 4 days, conversations occurred in tourist shops, elevators, the hotel pool, in coffee shops, restaurants, and of course, airports. My approach varied. Looking for natural segues, I would transition from the weather to the Creator or from the topics of profession to the church. As the late, great evangelist Dr. Roy Fish often said, “the only approach worse than a bad approach is no approach.”
Having a cute 6 year old in tow was a great help to breaking down barriers. It didn’t take long for Luke to begin jumping in on the conversations. When listening to one un-churched woman tell us why she had come to Alaska, Luke promptly suggested, “dad, tell her why we’re here.” Taking his cue, I explained I had been invited to speak at a Pastor’s Conference. Before I could finish, Luke restated his request, “no, tell her why True North Church is here.” “Oh!” I said. By now, she was intrigued. For Luke’s recollection, the genesis of True North Church (Mobberly’s church plant in Alaska) was linked to the timing of the birth of our youngest son, Colt. This certainly was a catalytic event for our church and Pastor Brent Williams which God used to get us all moving in sync with His timing. Luke’s partnership was certainly helpful (of course, there is a reason Jesus sent them out by twos).
On our final day, we encountered quite a different situation when walking into one local shop. Perhaps being the only customers in the store prompted the rugged looking proprietor to quickly begin an inquisition with me. “What do you do?” I had no cause to stutter, as God often uses my profession for an easy lead in to get us on the topic of spiritual things, so, without hesitation, I replied, “a pastor.” Immediately the tone drastically turned accusatory.
“So you’re in it for all the money? You preachers are all the same!”
“Excuse me, but I didn’t say anything about money.”
“You didn’t have to – my father was a Baptist preacher – you’re all crooks!”
“I don’t know anything about your father, but I’d like to tell you about my Father.”
“If you’re talking about God, NO WAY! Don’t you feel terrible for cheating people just to get rich? Jesus never did that!” (then seeing Luke was close in tow and very much glued into the dialogue, he took the attack to his level) “Look what your doing to him!”
Realizing the immense hurt which must have been the cause for his angst with me, yet knowing I could not allow his partial-crazed talk full of expletives to continue, I politely ended the conversation and abruptly left his store even as he bellowed a few choice words as we left. Once we exited, I stooped down to assess Luke’s demeanor and share with him how God does love that man, but for a long time he has obviously been rejecting God’s love. And there were people that mistreated and accused Jesus too of untruths in His ministry. Luke concurred.
I couldn’t help but review the incident in my mind more than once in the next several hours wondering if I had done what was right before God and my son. I prayed what I often pray regarding our children, “Lord, help our boys to love You, Your church, and the lost.”
Just before we were to board our flight, I found myself in a conversation with an employee at an airport shop. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were about to see a replay of our previous encounter. I had overheard the clerk tell the prior customer that he was a Mormon. Humanly, I shied away from the prospect of witnessing to this young man – especially knowing Luke was taking it all in. The Lord’s prompting, however, was unmistakable. With the brief 4 minutes we had, I discovered that Nathan was a young man full of questions, eager for answers, and curious to experience a church that was not like his own church which in his words was “really missing it” and yet also not wanting the “stale Catholic church” his girlfriend attended.
Thankfully, the prior spiritual conversation, which had gone awry, had not stifled Luke’s comprehension of the obvious open door before us. “Tell him about True North, daddy.” With pleasure I shared with him the truth of the Gospel, the joy of true believers worshipping together, and invited him to attend True North.
As we prepared to board the plane, I reviewed the happenings with Luke. I told him how this young man also needed to know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior and hopefully, he would mull over the tract I left with him and visit True North this Sunday. To which Luke said, “yep, and he could be the very next one that’s baptized there!” Oh that this might be the case!
What if we had let the previous discouraging encounter deter us? Let’s keep on keeping on! There will be those who reject Christ and us, His ambassadors – but there are many more people who are confused and curious like Nathan. “Today is the day of salvation!”