While I’m away in Nicaragua, I’ve asked my good friend and sister in Christ, Susan Finck-Lockhart to write up an article for EvangelismCoach.
Susan and I have the privilege of teaching on Evangelism regularly at various workshops for www.prmi.org around the States. I’ve known Susan for over 10 years and am grateful that she has given us this article.
A Paradigm Shift
After I came to faith in Jesus during my high school years, I absorbed the message that it was my responsibility to ‘witness’ to everyone who happened to be next to me — on a subway, in a checkout line, or in English class.
It was my responsibility to figure out how to witness to as many people as possible.
If I didn’t, “they might get-in-a-car-wreck-and-die-and-go-to-hell-and-it-would-be-my-fault-because-I-had-been-too-chicken.”
I lived with a residual guilt after every conversation; every encounter with quasi-strangers at the grocery store or or hair salon, where I just couldn’t figure out how to bring Jesus into the conversation.
I remember feeling like a failure; like I just couldn’t “do” evangelism.
Something changed . . . . .
Something changed when I did my student teaching in the early 80s at the University of Texas at Austin.
My supervising teacher, Helen (not her real name), and I really connected.
She was a counter-culture, earth-loving, free-thinking, warm and winsome woman about 10 years my senior. She owned a home with a guy she wasn’t married to. We both loved the kids we taught, and found ourselves intensely immersed in their lives.
I found myself not wanting to try to “save” her or “witness to” her. I found myself intrigued with her and wanting to be her friend.
I didn’t hide my church or para-church involvement, but she didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t push it. We ate lunch together in her classroom. She taught me about teaching writing; about how to call forth words from the heads of high schoolers, how to urge them toward journalistic and linguistic excellence.
She invited me to her home for dinner. We talked about music, movies and men. She showed me her freezer full of marijuana, neatly packaged in baggies. I was fascinated. She couldn’t believe I’d never seen packaged, frozen marijuana.
Present in the midst of pain.
The phone rang late one night, and it was Helen, sobbing. The man she lived with, her boyfriend of nine years, had moved out. Came with a U-Haul. Took furniture. All his clothes. She could barely talk. She hadn’t seen it coming.
“Helen — Just hang on. I’m on my way, “ I said.
As I sped towards South Austin, I was overcome with Helen’s situation. It hit me that she had no anchor, no foundation. Her boyfriend had been her world.
I realized how much I loved Jesus. He was my anchor, my foundation, my Lord, my Best Friend. However, I believe God let me feel what Helen must have been feeling. During that dark drive, I realized how badly I wanted Helen to meet Christ.
She was in the yard waiting for me. We embraced, and she shook, taken over by the grief.
Intuitively I knew that all this had to do with God’s drawing Helen unto Jesus.
I don’t remember much of the conversation. I remember hurting for her. I remember being shaken by the depth of her despair. I also remember saying, “Helen, I need to tell you something. I need to tell you that people are always going to let us down. They will bring their Uhauls and move out; they will get cancer and die: they will get tired of us and move on.
But Helen, there is One Person who will never leave us….”
And then I told her about Christ.
Right there in the yard in front of the house they owned together with the marijuana in the freezer.
I got my first taste of what it’s like to be obedient to God’s loving initiative in the life of a not-yet-believer. To love someone like Jesus might love them.
Helen didn’t “pray the prayer” that night, or during the course of our friendship.
But I trust that God in his sovereignty will bring her to Himself (He may have already.)
It’s been 27 years since that night.
But I’m grateful to Helen– and eternally grateful to Jesus —for showing me what it’s like to participate with Him in loving lost people and to let Him be in charge of creating the moment for speaking of faith.
Susan currently serves as full-time mom to four amazing teens, and part time pastor at El Calvario Presbtyerian Church in Waco, Texas. In addition she leads retreats & conferences for Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries, International (www.prmi.org), usually on Evangelism and Cooperating with the Holy Spirit. In her free time, she likes to run, read & get together with friends. Susan, her husband Bill and the kids are active at Central Presbyterian Church, Waco.