I'd like to share a story with you that will be sure to bring inspiration and even some humor to your life. Let me begin... We were living in South Louisiana working in Youth Ministry, and I was happy to fulfill a childhood dream of mine - growing my hair VERY long. 2 things inspired me to do this; 1. Watching the 'Jesus of Nazareth' film on TV as a kid, and 2. I was raised listening to the music of 2nd Chapter of Acts, and Matthew Ward had the coolest hair. My hair was about halfway to my behind (which it finally did reach) and I also decided to grow out the most nasty awesome goatees in the known world. Success.
We were in Thibodaux, Louisiana preparing for a Youth Camp with several hundred youth, and our team had been working hard setting up for this festive event. I arrived late in the evening and decided to bring about 10 of the leaders/workers to the Waffle House (I think) to get some grub. I was extremely excited about the event, to say the least, and felt prompted to start sharing with the team about evangelism and ministry. Some were very interested and some probably wished I'd be quiet already so they could finish stuffing their face with their chocolate waffles and cheesy hash browns in peace and quiet. Me being the zealous Youth Pastor that I was, felt even more provoked to share more passionately about ministry. I of course had just arrived and they were now getting their first break after many hours of labor.
After finishing our meal several men asked to go to Walmart to get some personal supplies. So...we loaded back up in the van and headed to Wally World. And I talked. The entire way. And I think that one person was excited to hear what I had to say. Oh how my pride was being tested. I could not imagine how these men could be bored by the unsearchable wisdom pouring from my mouth. After pulling in the parking lot about 5 people went in and the others tried to sleep, with that one guy listening intently as though I was Michael Scott and he were Dwight Schrute. I was pouring out passionately about the power to evangelize and these men were only passionate about resting their eyelids. So I decided to get their attention another way. I saw 5 young men walking out of Walmart, heading our direction. I opened the door and told them to stay inside while I demonstrated what I was trying to teach them. So there I went, 'All By Myself' (soundtrack to this story), on route to demonstrate the gospel in action.
I remember walking up to these guys with absolutely no idea what I was going to do or say, well aware that there were 5 faces beginning to press into the windows of the van behind me. I actually acted a little crazy (natural for me for some reason), raising my voice and saying a bunch of random nothingness (to humor them while still trying to figure out what I was going to do). They were laughing and started cutting up with me. I asked them what they were gonna be doing and cannot write down what their plans were. I'd like to keep this blog more on the PG side. Then it was time to take the plunge. I had no script and never have when it comes to sharing with people about Jesus. I always like the 'wing-it' method. I asked them to listen as I had a serious question for them (this is a shortened, condensed version);
Randy: You guys aren't religious weirdos are you?
Guys: *&%# NO! (2 Atheists, 1 Agnostic, 2 backslidden Catholics)
Randy: Great! Ok, so imagine we're all standing out here and Jesus Himself walks out in this circle and points at you (I then pointed at one of them) and shared with you your future. Told you all of His plans and dreams for your life. He shows you His palms and you see the holes from where the nails were driven through. He looks you deep into your eyes and you realize that He isn't like any Pastor or Christian you've ever met. You realize that He absolutely loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. He asks you to leave everything behind and follow Him. What would you do? (I asked each of them this question, going from the first to the last)
BIG (really big) GUY: (with tears in his eyes and throwing down his cigarette that I did not say anything about) I'd tell Him yes. I want to follow You. I want to go everywhere with You. I'll even die for You. (He was one of the Atheists)
Each guy said the same thing in essence. I told them it was bold for me to walk up to them in a parking lot, and asked if they'd like to be bold and pray with me in that parking lot. They put their bags down quickly and started grabbing hands (didn't know they were going to do that). I led them in a simple prayer. As I was finishing up, the people from our team who went into the store were walking back to the van and upon seeing me in this circle with these guys, quickly came over to see what was going on. Oh...and the faces were still smushed in the windows of the van.
Then it happened. Something that has not happened again (except almost once, but not quite, but that is another story). The guy who was Agnostic, as he was wiping tears from his eyes, looks at me and says;
Agnostic guy: Dude...can I like ask you a serious question?
Randy: Of course!
Agnostic guy: Like, I know you're going to probably say no, because you probably have to.
Randy: What's the question?
Agnostic guy: Well...um...dude, are you...Jesus?
AG: Like please tell me the truth! I know you're Him! Look! Is that van yours?
Randy: Yeah (still confused)
AG: (counts the guys that joined us late...runs to the van and opens it and counts the faces that were smashed in the van) OK! There's 10! are there 2 more somewhere? I know Jesus had 12 dudes that followed Him! I'm telling you that if I count 12 dudes I know you're Him!
Randy: Bro, look at my hands, no holes. I even have a crooked nose! I'm not Jesus!
All of the guys: You have to be Him! This is unbelievable!
Randy: Oh...my...gosh...guys, I wrecked my car coming home from a rock concert when I was 16 years old. Began to become a rebellious teenager. Loved to party. Gave my life to Christ shortly thereafter and been following Jesus ever since. I'm not Him.
All of the guys: (refusal to believe me)
After spending a considerable amount of time trying to convince them I was not Jesus, I ended up inviting them all to our Youth Camp before we left. As I climbed into the van, everyone looked as though they had just mainlined some Red Bull in their veins. What a captive audience they turned in to!
The next day my worship leader walks up to me and in his usual Southern drawl says, "Hey Randy, a mom called up here today concerned about her son. Said he came home and woke her up, saying he met Jesus in the parking lot of Walmart and that Jesus invited him to our Youth Camp. I told her, 'No ma'am, that would be our Youth Pastor. He does look a lot like Jesus, but he doesn't believe he is Jesus."
3 of those guys made it out one of the nights at the camp and wanted to take me to the local Pizza Hut afterwards. I obliged them and had a great time. But it sure felt awkward being the only guy eating in the booth, while the others intensely looked at me the entire time, as they fought to not blink.
Long story coming to a close, if you're ever having a challenge mustering up the courage to share Jesus with people, consider growing your hair out very long and let that big bad goatee go!
*Disclaimer: Yes I do know that Jesus was Jewish (olive skin), most likely did not have blue eyes and that I probably (certainly) look nothing like Him!
**Disclaimer 2: For those who knew me when I had long hair and a gnarly goatee, you have to admit that I made a pretty good Americanized perception of Jesus!