How can I know? The young girl that I led to Christ on the dirty slum streets of Nyeri in Kenya – how is she now? I can’t even remember her name (I forget names of friends at times!). Then again, I’ve lost contact with the other two people I led to Christ.
I was 18, in my first gospel band, and we had had a discussion about whether we should be out performing on Sunday nights or in our own churches. This booking was a Sunday, for a youth after meeting in a local Presbyterian church. It was my turn to bring a short ‘word’ after we played… but I’d forgotten! Just as we prayed before going into the hall to play, someone said to me “you’re all set for the word then?”
No I wasn’t! Oh heck, I thought (or similar words, I’m not sure), what’ll I do? I flicked through my paperback NIV (the first Bible I bought at 14) and found a passage in 1 Corinthians that I had read that morning for myself. It was fresh in my mind, so I thought it might work. After our music, I stood up, read the passage, and expounded on it very briefly. VERY briefly. Then I did the usual thing of making an appeal just like I’d seen pastors do so many times, and as usual, nobody would raise their hand…….. Hold on, that young lad just did! It’s not supposed to be like that, I’m no pastor! Someone tell him to put it down again. Thankfully, I didn’t express these words out loud.
And so I found myself praying with this lad and counselling him, with the church youth leader, and felt I could leave him in the safe hands of a good church that would oversee him. I shall never forget the joy that gave me. On the way home, I happened to pull up at traffic lights alongside our church youth pastor. I wound my window down (in the days you DID wind them and not just press a button lol) and shouted over to him, words to the effect of ‘we got one tonight’ though it was much, much more than ‘getting one’, of course. The Monday night prayer meeting it was announced by our senior pastor that ‘a soul was saved through the ministry of our youth’ so the joy was shared.
The next time occurred when I was on one of my Bible College field terms in an Elim church in the centre of Belfast, playing the part of temporary assistant pastor. I joined a small group who went up to Shaftesbury Square every Saturday night to give out tracts to all those leaving the pubs and clubs around there. Though these were not the usual 4-page life stories one gets handed while out shopping, nor the type that mystifies any 21st century English speaker with titles like ‘We must needs die” – these were simple little things of genius, credit card size, with short catchy phrases to catch attention. The best (I thought) was “Religion is old-fashioned. Yes! But so is… food, alcohol, dancing, laughter, sex.” they were designed just to get people to stop and talk. And one night a young man did, and asked about our faith, and I shared, and he responded. The pastor and I went out to his house that week with a Bible and some books for him, and found he had decided to join a local evangelical church. We encouraged him, but again left him to find his own way in that church.
I would feel bad about these instances in that I was either not able, or had decided to forego any follow-up, except for my own experience: At age 14, I came to my decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and saviour at a Scripture Union camp, organized through Christian Unions within different schools. The camp leader, Ian, was the one who prayed with me and showed me the way. Four years later, in my first job, in a well-known Christian bookshop in Belfast city centre, I met him again (amidst the untidiness). He didn’t even recognize me, but to be honest I wouldn’t have either: I had grown a beard and was starting to avoid haircuts since leaving school. When I explained who I was and reminded him what had happened, of course he was very happy, but he had left me to find my own way with the guidance of the Holy Spirit within me.
Why do we think we need to establish doctrines and lifestyle rules for converts when all along, they have their own internal guide once they are born again, which tunes in with their conscience? I’m not against preaching the truth of scripture and teaching what it says, I just wonder sometimes if we don’t have enough faith to allow God to guide people His own way, that we have to intervene. Thoughts, anyone?
Grace be with you.