Last week I helped lead my friend to Christ. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. She began crying as she confessed her sins and prayed to receive Christ.
I want to do it again! I know that we’re supposed to pray and know the gospel so we can tell it to others. Is there more that you can share with me about reaching people for Christ? I once heard a preacher say that 98% of all Christians never lead anyone to Jesus as their Savior. I do not want to be like one of those.
I’m going to answer your question with a series of stories. Jesus loved teaching with simple stories and parables. Why? Because the most profound truths are often communicated with short sayings, stories, and parables. Or, as Harry A. Ironside used to say, “Put the cookies on the lower shelf where everyone can get to them.”
In reaching people, I have discovered that there is one thing that I need to hang on to and three things that I want to give up.
A Loving Concern for People Is Worth Keeping
Let me tell you about a department-store-sales woman who was hanging on to love and compassion while laying aside her rights and prejudices.
This associate minister at a Presbyterian church in Hollywood loved to go to Nordstrom’s department store during the Christmas holidays. She couldn’t afford to buy, but she loved the decorations.
The finest dresses in the world were on the top floor. Presently, an elevator door elevator opened and out stepped a bag lady. Her clothes were dirty, her stockings were rolled down to her ankles, and her gym bag was overstuffed. Obviously, she was out of place. Most likely, she had a dollar or two in her purse. But she needed several thousands of them!
The saleswoman asked, “May I help you, madam?”
“Yeah, I want to buy a dress.”
“What kind of dress?”
“A party dress.”
“You’ve come to the right place! We have the finest party dresses in the world.”
They spent 45 minutes matching dresses with her eye color and complexion. Then they selected three dresses and invited her to the dressing room.
The bag lady tried on dresses with the saleswoman’s help. After about 20 more minutes, the bag lady said sternly, “I’ve changed my mind. I am not going to buy a dress today.”
“That’s OK,” the saleswoman said gently, but, here’s my card. Should you ever come back to Nordstrom’s again, I do hope that you will ask for me. I would consider it a privilege to wait on you again.”
This, of course, is exactly what Jesus would do, if Jesus were a saleswoman in Nordstrom’s.
Please take a moment and interact with this story.
Has an expression of your love ever reached someone for Christ?
Our Luxuries Aren’t Worth Keeping
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul had a race course in mind. He was thinking about athletics: “I beat my body black and blue.” If we want to stay usable to God, we must deny ourselves soft living.
The trip home from Korea was brutal. After layovers, changed flights, and mechanical problems, I hadn’t slept in 30 hours and was still far from home. Our plane was late into the Los Angeles airport. The last flight to Tucson was scheduled to board soon.
Clearing security was a nightmare, and I had to run to a different concourse. I just made it. All I wanted to do was sleep.
I was seated next to a lawyer coming to Tucson for a deposition. As we talked, the door opened to share the gospel. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a simple Bible story about heaven and hell. I let him read the good things in store for those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Then, I showed him how, at death, God would play back a movie of all his sins and judge him accordingly. The little book concluded by detailing the coming lake of fire as judgment upon all of those who tried to reach heaven by their actions. Everyone needs Jesus.
He was under deep conviction as I invited him to pray to receive Christ as his Savior. He was sweating. He loosened his tie and finally shook his head “No”. We talked until Tucson. I told him that I would pray and fast for him to become a Christian. I called him occasionally to see how he was doing, but we never crossed paths again.
Sleep might’ve been an appreciated luxury; however, at that moment, it just didn’t matter.
Please take a moment and meditate on this story.
Have you denied your luxuries to care for someone else?
Our Rights Aren’t Worth Keeping
The apostle Paul gave up many of his rights in order to reach others for Christ. I’ll paraphrase:
I gave up my rights for the sake of the gospel! I gave up my right to food and drink. I gave up my right to be married. I gave up my right to receive a salary. Others receive support; but I gave up my right to it. Why? So that I can offer the gospel free of charge. (1 Corinthians 9:1-18)
I was waiting to board a flight to Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. “My wife told me that I didn’t have enough friends,” he said, “so I bought a dog. After all, people say that a dog is man’s best friend!” A door was wide open to share the gospel: “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
They called my flight for the final time. It was a tough choice; nevertheless, I gave up my right to board because we weren’t finished.
The story has a good ending: he received Christ, and two standbys later I boarded a plane to Tulsa.
Stop and reflect on this. When was the last time that you gave up one of your rights to further the cause of Christ?
Our Prejudices Aren’t Worth Keeping
Before Paul became a Christian he was deeply imbedded in prejudice. After he became a Christian, God tore down his racial prejudices so he could build bridges from any man straight to Christ.
- “To the Jews I became like a Jew” (1 Corinthians 9:20). His motive was clearly to win Jews to Christ.
- “To those who are without the law, I became as without the law” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Paul was willing to live like a Gentile when he worked among the Gentiles.
- “To the weak I became weak” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul was willing to do anything to reach those who did not understand the gospel.
I pastored my first church when I was in college. Every Sunday, my wife Julie and I spent time visiting our church families. One day, we crested a hill to find a number of houses we had not noticed before. We discovered later that this was what the white people called “Colored Town.” (This despicable term was used by white people to describe African Americans for way too many generations. Racial prejudice was rampant for centuries in America.)
Before the church service that night, our one deacon, Mr. Beard, pulled me aside and warned me not to go there again. I was flabbergasted.
I decided not to make a big issue of it at that time, but spent the next year preaching on love and compassion for people of all races.
One year later, black families were welcomed in our church.
Many of us are prejudiced against folks who are not Christians—Jews, Muslims, or others who are not like us.
Many of us are locked in a little circle of Christian friends. Very seldom do we take the plunge outside our small group to spend time with folks who don’t know Jesus.
Now, Greg, take a moment and identify some of your prejudices. We all have some. Ask God to clear your heart and soul of the prejudices you quietly harbor.
May I share one more story that illustrates all four of these concepts?
One hot July afternoon, my younger daughter, Bronwyn, invited me to go downtown with $25 and help some poor people. She had just returned from The Continentals singing missionary tour and this was one of their exercises.
We stopped at the grocery store to buy mayonnaise, bread, baloney, power bars, and paper sacks. We had enough lunches for twelve people. The park was filled with men and women who were down and out on their luck. As I began to hand out the sandwich bags, Bronwyn said, “Aren’t you going to talk with them? Nobody ever takes time to talk with them. Why don’t you slow down and spend some time with them?”
This was not easy for me. I was not having any fun. Finally, it was over, and we went home.
The next Sunday, she went again. I really had no desire to go, but I had to set a good example of my love and concern for people, so I agreed.
I headed for the grocery store and she said, “No, not this time. Let’s do something different.”
We went to the thrift store on Fourth Street. I intended to pay for someone’s purchases. After a while, a woman entered the store with two children. I watched her select some clothes and let each child pick out one toy. As she approached the checkout register, I introduced myself and told her that I would be pleased to pay for her purchases.
She scowled with anger: “I’m a schoolteacher and I have a job. I don’t need your help. Leave me alone!”
Bronwyn said with a grin, “You’re not very good at this, are you?”
No, I wasn’t very good at it. But I’ve practiced. I’m getting better.
Craig, I hope this is helpful to you and your friends. May God grant you wisdom, insight, and the power of the Holy Spirit in reaching people for Christ.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.