When I ask a person about their church background, what I’m really trying to discover is where that person is today, right now, in their relationship with God. Once I determine that, I can build on it.
Not too long ago, a friend of mine – Rich – was telling me how he had been talking to his real estate agent, Mervin. “Mervin is going through a difficult time with his job and his finances,” Rich told me. “He is open to God, but he is Jewish and I don’t quite know what to say. ”Rich asked me if I would be willing to talk to Mervin. Naturally, I said I’d be glad to.
Mervin and I met at a local restaurant. After we got our coffees I said to him that Rich had mentioned that he was going through some hard times and I was sincerely sorry to hear that. “What’s going on,” I asked. Mervin had moved to the USA from Israel to get an education. After he was finished with that, he got a job and eventually got married and started a family. But now things had changed. Mervin told me about his shaky financial situation, but then he added that his marriage was rocky, too. “In fact, he said, “ I just moved out of the house a few days ago.” His wife was Catholic, but neither of them went to church.
“Tell me,” I said, “you grew up Jewish, what do you believe about God?” Since he had already talked a little bit about his church background, God was an easy and natural subject to bring up again. “I believe there is a God,” he said, “and that there is a heaven and hell.” “That’s great!” I said, “I can show you how you can avoid the one and enjoy the other.”
I find that people are far more willing than we think to tell us what they believe about God. By listening carefully we can figure out ways to help move them down the field towards God. In this case, I could tell Mervin had a deep sense of his need for God. He was in the Red Zone of his spiritual journey. I pulled out my phone and showed him the Bridge Diagram using he Share Your Faith app. That helped him to finally make sense of why Christ had to die.
But then something happened that I didn’t expect: when I showed him the prayer to receive Christ, I did not even get a chance to ask him if he would like me to lead him through it. He just started praying on his own! As he began to pray out loud, he started to cry. That’s when I knew he was making a deep connection to God.
When he finished, I shared with God’s promise of eternal life and his promise to help Mervin on his journey through this life. He looked at me and said, “I like knowing that God has forgiven all my sins and that I can have a personal relationship with Him.”
I also encouraged him to take his wife and go to Rich’s church because as they start growing in their relationship with God, their love for each other will be rekindled as well.
Yesterday, Rich called me to tell me that he saw both Mervin and his wife at church last Sunday. That’s how I knew for sure that Mervin’s faith was sincere. God was already having a real impact in his life.