Sometimes when I tell stories about how someone became a Christian, people want to hear more about how these conversations start. They want to tell their friends about Jesus, but would like to think through the conversation first.
How It Starts
Recently, I met with someone who got an invitation to a one of our sermon series in his mailbox thanks to the generosity of churches and individual Christians. He had no real spiritual background, no context for understanding the Scriptures, and came because he hoped to make some friends in a new city.
He filled out a card after the service because one of our greeters, Trey Gonzalez, asked him to. I emailed him and asked if he would want to talk over coffee. After shaking hands and saying hello, we started talking about the church.
A Simple Conversation
At some point I referenced what I said in the sermon about being a grown man. (“If you want to be a man get a Bible, join a church, pick a theology, and find out what it means to be justified before God.”) This led to the following exchange, which I thought some of you might be interested in because it’s the beginning of the conversation that may one day result in his salvation.
He explained, “In my belief system, as long as you’re a good person you don’t really need to try to get everyone else to believe in the Christian religion. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you try to do right.”
I responded, “So, like Hitler. Do you say Hitler is in hell?”
“Yeah. Hitler’s in hell.”
“Okay. So some people do go to hell?”
“Yeah, some people go to hell.”
“Do you think people go to heaven?”
“Yeah, if you are good.”
“I know. I totally agree. Good people go to heaven. But, how good?”
“I mean, you know, if you keep the Golden Rule.”
“I totally agree. People who keep the Golden Rule definitely go to heaven. So what’s the Golden Rule?”
“You know, just treat people as good as you want to be treated.”
“Yeah, right. So do you?”
“Do I what?”
“Do you keep the Golden Rule?”
“Oh man. Umm, no. Not at all.”
“Yeah, me neither. So the people who keep the Golden Rule are good, and the good people go to heaven. But you and I don’t. Is there any hope for you and me?”
“Yeah, there should be. Maybe if we regret all the times that we didn’t do it right.”
“Well, the first sermon that Jesus preached was about the people, like you and me, who aren’t going to be able to get into heaven by being good. He said, ‘Repent, and believe the gospel.'”
From there I got to tell him about repentance and the gospel. He got to tell me that that didn’t sound right. He told me we should have to work for it and earn it.
I reminded him that he was just guessing since he’d never read the Bible, and suggested that he read the gospel of John to check out what I was saying. I also invited him to join a community group, keep attending the Sunday service, and tell me what he thinks after a few weeks.
As You Evangelize
As you imagine talking to your brother, neighbor, co-worker, or mother about Jesus, remember that what takes the pressure off of us is the knowledge that the Holy Spirit does the work in people’s hearts. My conversation was easy because the real heart-work was already done.
That’s how it happened. And it’s a big part of how Valley Life is making disciples and planting churches.