NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When nothing else worked, Betty Neal said, “The Passion of The Christ” caused her longtime friend to accept Christ.
Neal, a member of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., had been praying for William Andrews to come to the Lord for three years. Though he would go to church with her, he kept pushing God away, she said.
Andrews and Neal lived together for a while before Neal got right with God.
“I was saved when I was 14, though I didn’t live for Christ for a lot of years,” she told Baptist Press. “When I went back to church three years ago and rededicated my life, I realized I couldn’t live like that anymore. I started trying to work with William and get him to go to church, but nothing seemed to work.”
Then Neal prayed about shaping her life up and decided to move out. She continued to be friends with Andrews and was persistent in sharing the Gospel with him.
“He would get real angry sometimes and tell me to shut up,” she said. “He said he wished I wouldn’t talk to him about it, but I knew I was getting next to him and that God was really working — otherwise it wouldn’t make him angry.”
When Andrews, 54, would go to church with her, Neal said she could tell God was working inside him though he resisted.
Neal then heard about Inglewood’s plans for a preview of The Passion two days before it opened nationwide, and she knew she couldn’t miss the opportunity to try yet another method in reaching her friend.
“I decided I was going to buy a ticket for him and take him with me,” she said. “I prayed about it and was hoping this was the one thing that could actually move his spirit because when you hear it and read it, it’s totally different from when you visualize what Christ actually went through.”
During the movie, Neal could sense God was working inside Andrews again.
“People all around us were sobbing, and I knew that the visualization of what Christ was enduring was working more than anything I could have ever said to him,” she said.
When an invitation was extended at the end of the film, Neal asked Andrews if he wanted to accept it. He declined, and she did not pressure him. But halfway out of the auditorium, she said, Andrews told her he wanted to go to church with her the following Sunday and speak to someone.
“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘I think it’s time,'” Neal recounted. “I said, ‘Then we need to do it now. You don’t need to wait until Sunday.'”
Andrews was reluctant to act immediately, and as the two stood in the hallway discussing the possibility, people started overhearing. Some stopped and offered to go with Andrews to pray about accepting Christ.
“I looked at him and said, ‘It’s your choice, but I don’t think you should wait any longer,'” Neal said. “He said, ‘OK,’ and we turned around and went back.”
Neal told her pastor, Kevin Shrum, about her friend’s need, and he connected Andrews with a counselor who prayed with him and led him to Christ.
The next Sunday, Andrews went forward during the invitation and made a public profession of faith. He plans to be baptized and become a member of Inglewood. Neal said Andrews is enrolled in a Sunday School class and is trying to find God’s purpose for him.
Meanwhile, Neal is taking no credit for the victory that was won in her friend’s life.
“It wasn’t me. It was God,” she said. “God was working through the movie that night to reach people who sometimes have turned away. When nothing else worked, that worked. I admire Mel Gibson for making this movie, especially amid all the controversy. He knew what his life was going to be like once he made this, but if one soul is saved because this movie was made, then it was all worth it.”
Neal noted Andrews’ background and said when he was young, his mother took him to church. But once she died, he stopped going and never made a commitment to Christ. He owned his own construction business for a number of years, but in 1995 he suffered a debilitating stroke and has not been able to work since. Neal tried to tell him then that God spared his life because He has a specific purpose for him, but he would not agree. Now he just might.
“If anyone has not seen The Passion, I think they need to because this is an experience that will help deepen their relationship with Christ and the understanding of what He went through and the price He paid for us,” Neal said. “And if they know anyone who is not a believer, they should get that person to go with them.”