Barb and I celebrated our 45th anniversary last month in the small North Dakota town of Williston on our way to Glacier National Park. After dinner we walked around downtown, all 2 blocks of it, and found an Italian restaurant were we sat outside and ordered some gelato. The young host, James, came and chatted with us and when we told him it was our anniversary he organized the staff to come out and serenade us (you can go here for the video!). Later we engaged James in some more conversation and found out a bit about his background, his love of family, and his goal to visit all the national parks.
As the conversation, and our gelato, was drawing to an end, we said, ‘One of the things that we like to do together is to pray, would you mind if we took just a minute and prayed for you?’ James said he would like that. After asking what we could pray for we briefly thanked God for the kindness the young man had shown and asked Jesus to bless him and let him experience God as he pursued his life goal. He thanked us and we parted telling him about how beautiful Michigan is!
Barb and I have been trying to put into effect ‘5 Practices’, recommended in the book Joining Jesus on his mission, by Greg Finke. These are things that we can do every day to start to engage with what Jesus is doing to draw people to himself:
Look for the Kingdom
Listen to Jesus
Talk with people
Pray with people
That is a pretty simple list, and it isn’t really hard to do. It requires a bit of intentionality on our part but it is actually quite fun and definitely tunes our antennae more to what Jesus is doing in the folks around us.
Our conversation with James in Williston did not lead to a presentation of the Gospel and praying with him to give his life to Jesus, which would have been very cool if it had! We were not in a position to do follow-up with him and don’t know what God might do with that brief interaction. However I am sure of a few things he did experience:
Christians being kind and showing an interest in him
Testimony that God is near and cares about the concerns of our hearts
An example of how to talk to Jesus in prayer, simply and directly
And I believe Jesus was hearing and answering our prayer!
Evangelism and discipleship are very interconnected and I have recently heard a really helpful definition of discipleship which is helping me: Moving from unbelief to belief in the Gospel in every area of life. As we engage in the ‘5 Practices’ we are offering opportunities to hear and experience things about Jesus and his good news which can help people move from unbelief along the path to belief. Not too hard for us. Really good for them.
Interestingly, the song the restaurant staff sang was Stevie Wonder’s “I just called to say I love you”. Jesus is calling to say he loves folks – and using us as his telephone!