Please, Please, Please open your mouth and preach the gospel!
Recently I was asked to do two things: 1) Think back to my own experience of how I was evangelized and describe the experience. 2) If I could go back and give advice to the person or people who ministered to me what would it be?
I began running as a young child. At the age of 5, I ran my first mile with my dad. At the age of 10, I wanted a pair of running shoes like the big runner’s wear. My dad challenged me, if I could run 5 consecutive miles at less than 8 minutes per mile he would by me a pair of running shoes. I met the challenge and he bought me the shoes. While at the runner’s store there was a flyer for an upcoming 10k race. My dad signed us both up for the race. The next year my dad was too busy with work to run with me, but we had new neighbors across the street. I noticed that this man would come home every evening and go for a run. I began running with him, at the time he was pursuing a doctorate at D. T. S., but I did not understand what that was. The man befriended me when my father was absent, this is something that I have never forgotten. Like Spurgeon said, his life was full of soul blessing.1 However, I do not recall his sharing the gospel with me; perhaps because I was a child and my parents would have been resistant. I do not know the reason, but I did know that this man was a Christian and he was very kind to a young man who lived across the street from him.
At about the age of 12 my mother started taking us to a Methodist church. In the spring of that year I went on a retreat with the other kids to a state park. The retreat was called conformation. We played lots of games and swam in a lake. I remember the adult councilors gathering us together and telling us what would be expected of us the following Sunday when we were confirmed as members of the church. It amounted to saying yes to whatever the person leading the service asked. I remember that they were all kind and that they were Christians, but I do not remember anyone sharing the gospel with me.
At the age of 25, after living for many years in sin, my wife decided that we should go to a local church because one of her kind coworkers invited her. Every Sunday, the preacher spoke of sin, righteousness and judgment. I became filled with fear, and preoccupied that I may spend eternity in hell. I wanted to know how to escape going to hell. I knew that the preacher was new to the congregation, but the elder, retired preacher still maintained an office in the church on Sunday mornings. I saw this elderly retired pastor in his office, so I knocked on his door. I confessed my fears to him. He said, “Bow your head and repeat after me.” He then led me in what has been called the sinners prayer, though I do not remember the exact words. I was then baptized in the service that evening. Still, I do not remember him sharing the gospel with me.
My wife and I left that church a few months later and remained unchurched until I was 35. Our next-door neighbors’ son invited our son to their church’s summer camp and began attending their youth group. My wife and I attended their Christmas service and began attending church service. We came down one Sunday morning and joined the church because of the kindness of the pastor and the friendly people in the church.
On December 19, 2009, at the age of 40, I was confronted with my sin and heard the gospel in the movie Fire Proof.It was then that I repented of my sins, believed in the gospel and committed to follow Jesus Christ as Lord all the days of my life.
Here is the point: I had several Christians come in and out of my life from the age of 10 to 40. They were all kind people. I could see the character of Christ in each of their lives. I knew that they had something that I did not have but I desperately needed.2 I needed to call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. How was I going to call on Him whom I had not believed in? How was I going to believe in Him unless I heard about Him? How was I going to hear unless someone told me? (cf. Rom. 10:13-14)
If I could go back and give advice to these people, here is what I would say: Please, open your mouth and tell me the gospel. Thank you for living a life that affirms the gospel because this was used by the Lord in my salvation, but I could not call on the name of the Lord unless I believed in Him, I could not believe in Him unless I heard, and I could not hear because none of you told me. Please, please, please open your mouth and preach the gospel!
1 C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1995), 183.
2 Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelis Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence(Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 183.