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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Do you ever have just one of those days? When everything you have planned just comes apart and you get so frustrated that sharing Christ is the last thing on your mind? I occasionally do. I think the Bible refers to it as “being in the flesh,” and that’s where I found myself one day recently.

For the first time since Christmas I was taking a whole day off. No preaching, no travel, no e-mails, nothing but family time. At least that’s the way I had it planned. The phone began to ring on the way to a lunch date with my wife. I didn’t answer most of them but one was so important, Donna and I agreed I should take it. Uh-oh. It had to do with controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention; I listened carefully and shared my thoughts, because with all my heart I want to help Southern Baptists in any way I can to love each other again and treat each other with some semblance of what we are taught in Matthew 18 and Ephesians 4. But the stakes were high with this conversation, and so after our lunch and some wonderful time together, I had to get back to work. It wasn’t fair to my wife, and it made me mad. By the end of the afternoon, one last phone call just about sent me into orbit. I went out and ran four miles. This usually is a stress release for me, but this time it didn’t help. So I resorted to the sure-fire method of dealing with frustration –- I got a triple dip chocolate almond peanut butter coconut sundae. With whipped cream.

As I was waiting in line to pick it up at the drive-through, I reflected on the day. I figured since I was about to commit the sin of gluttony, I better pray now about this day before the gorging began. “Lord, I long so much to see your people move forward like an evangelistic army against the real enemy. On days like this I don’t have the faith I should that we will actually do it. And I sure have not done it myself today. Forgive me. And help me to speak a word for you to whoever takes my money at the window. And forgive me in advance for what I am about to eat. Amen.”

Having finished my prayer, I pulled up to the window and was surprised to see a seven-year-old girl. She explained to me that she was helping her mommy today. She also informed me that she had already made more than three dollars in tips! I asked her what she would do with all that money. She said that she would put it in the offering plate at her church because she was praying real hard for her granddaddy. I asked her what she was praying. “That he will be saved,” she said. Tears filled my eyes as I knew I was in the presence of the Spirit of God at work around me, inviting me to join Him in what really matters. I spoke to her mother, told her who I was and what I did for a living. She told me her father was a hard man and had rejected God for years. She was amazed when I told her that I believed God had assigned me to meet her that day and that I would go and visit with her father. It was a holy moment. I gave her sweet little girl a good tip and left to begin my feast. But my mind was already moving to what might happen when I shared the Gospel with a man who is so loved by Jesus that He would put together a divine appointment like this.

I hope to do this soon. Maybe I will be able to share the results with you. Would you pray for me in this? And for this man who needs Jesus? And while you are at it, why don’t you pray for all of us as Southern Baptists –- that we will follow Jesus again. Because I am not sure He was so interested in most of what I did that day. But He was there at that ice cream store. And if we will put lesser things aside and follow Him where He is going, we will make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant