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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I’ve been blessed by the many responses I have received from so many of you who were moved by the little girl I met at the ice cream store who was praying for her granddaddy to be saved. This is the essence of what I mean when I write every week about evangelism “becoming good news again.”

Southern Baptists are at their very best when we are praying together for people Jesus died for, when we are focused on being good news and bringing good news everywhere we go, and when life becomes a good news adventure of wondering who we will meet around the next corner that could be God’s assignment for us to change eternity!

I woke up Friday knowing that this day would be such an adventure. I had lunch that day with a man in his 80s that I led to Christ two years ago. We talked together about how he and his son now read the Bible together every day. We talked about the man I was about to go share with and meet. I was so encouraged to look across the table at the living evidence that God changes lives.

From there I drove to the assisted living center where George, a man I had never met, lived. A man I only knew because a little girl loved him so much she told me about him. As I walked in to the lobby, someone called my name. Standing there were two missionaries I knew who had come to visit their mother who lived there. As I shared with them what I was there to do, it was obvious to us that God has arranged our meeting. We put our arms around each other and prayed for a man that none of us had met, yet we loved. It was a very emotional time for me. I continue to be amazed at how intricately and tenderly God works around our lives when we simply set out to love those He loves.

A few moments later I knocked on George’s door. He was sitting alone in a chair in silence. He seemed very happy to see me. I told him that I had met his family and wanted to meet him. We talked for a long time. He is a fascinating man and I am thrilled to have him as a new friend. I always ask God to give me relational links with people I meet. I was amazed to find out that George read Greek, as I do, though poorly. He fought in World War II. I love war history so it was wonderful to hear him describe seeing Douglas MacArthur come ashore in the Philippines.

Finally, I felt it was time to tell him the full story of how I came to visit him. I told him about meeting his granddaughter and how much she loved him and wanted to see him in heaven one day. I told him that I believed God must love him more than he could ever know to have arranged for us to meet through the prayers of such a sweet child. Then he listened carefully while I shared the Gospel with him. He was obviously moved by how this came about, but also conflicted. “I do believe in God,” he said, “but I am just not ready to do this. I don’t know if I can believe all of the things in the Bible.”

“George, I understand that,” I said. “But what if it is true? And what do you think the odds are of me standing here talking to you today? I lead evangelism for the largest mission organization in this country. And here I am with you, though I never would have known your name but for one little girl. Isn’t this evidence that the Bible is true? Can this be an accident?”

I wish each of you could have been there. As I watched his face, the presence of the Holy Spirit was in that room, drawing him, loving him. “No, it can’t be an accident!” he blurted out. “Something is happening. Something must be happening!”

I believe it may have been a turning point in his life and his journey toward faith. Keep praying for him. He didn’t receive Christ that day, but he said to me, “Will you come back and talk to me again?” I assured him that I would very soon.

As I walked out of the building, I was so thankful to be alive — to be able to share the Good News. And to have a new friend. I would have loved to have seen him accept Christ in that first visit, but at least now, I will have to make regular visits to the ice cream store to report on my friendship with George. And pick up another double chocolate peanut butter coconut almond sundae while I am there. And that sure makes evangelism good news again to me.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant