Thanks in part to Air Miles, our family of five was privileged to spend a week in Mexico, suffering in the sand and pounding the streets of Mazatlan looking for cheap t-shirts. We sampled the local cuisine and interacted with street people — many of them without limbs, and most of them without hope.
On the trip home, United Airlines seated our family throughout a packed L-1011. My wife was across the aisle, our daughter was in front of her, and the boys were lost somewhere behind us, behaving themselves, "I’m sure." Beside me sat Mike, a 19-year-old, and his pretty girlfriend. Mike turned to me. “Did you get drunk a lot down there?” he asked. I’m a minister, so most people do not introduce themselves to me this way.
“No,” I laughed. “I have too much fun sober. How about you?” “Man, I love their Tequila. I got drunk every night. It was cool.” “How did you feel in the morning?” “Oh… I threw up a lot,” he winced. “It was awful.”
Mike informed me that he and his girlfriend were living together but that they didn't want to marry. I pointed across the aisle at the only girl I’ve ever loved and told him the joy of sticking together through tough times.
I’m not sure why, but Mike said. “So what religion are you?” Before I could answer he continued. “I’m sort of a Buddhist, but sort of, like, a Christian, you know. I kind of like Hinduism too. Most of the big religions are sort of cool, they all have trinities, our professor says.” His girlfriend nodded, and twirled a cross necklace. “Whatever works,” she said.
“I’m not into religion,” I smiled.
Mike squinted out the window. “We’re studying religion in University. My prof says there’s good in everything and we need to be tolerant, but most of all I guess I’m really getting in touch with myself lately. I guess I just believe in myself.”
“Did you ever let yourself down?” I asked with a grin.
“Ya,” he smiled reluctantly, “but I’m getting better.” I laughed, but he was serious. “I just think that whatever path you choose, that’s cool. You just need to respect yourself. So… are you an atheist?”
“No,” I laughed, noticing my daughter’s turned head and her smile. “There’s too much evidence to the contrary.”
I was strangely comfortable sitting there. You see, one of the greatest stresses in my life has always come from what us believers call “witnessing.” I would sit on an airplane knowing that if it crashed and the guy beside me went to hell, it would be my fault. When I told others about my faith, I was as clumsy as a carpenter with ten thumbs. Maybe I was just a slow learner when I was taught personal evangelism back in Bible college, but a few years ago I made a surprising discovery: When I simply tell others what I have seen or what God has done, they listen. When I incorporate some humor their faces light up.
“So what are you?” Mike was prodding, jarring me from my thoughts. “One of those… what do you call ‘em?” “Agnostics? No… I just have a relationship with Jesus. He’s changed everything.” “Oh,” he said, “Jesus is cool. He was a good teacher. So was Mohammed. “Well, I used to think that too. But Jesus can’t just be a good teacher.” “What do you mean?” “Well, is your religion professor a good teacher?” “He’s OK.”
“But if he came to class one day and said, ‘I have an announcement to make: I’m the Son of God. I’m the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to God except through me,’ what would you think?”
“I’d think he was nuts.” Mike paused, then saw a light come on.
“Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Mike. Either He was lying, or He was crazy, or He was right. You have to choose. They didn’t crucify Him because He was a nice guy or a good teacher. Either He was a liar, a lunatic, or He’s Lord.”
Across the aisle my wife’s head was bowed. I found out later that Rachael was praying too.
“I think I know the answer.” Mike nodded his head. “He must be Lord.”
Down through the centuries, millions of others have come to that same conclusion. That Jesus Christ, God’s Son, lived a sinless life, was crucified in our place and miraculously raised from the dead. That He defeated death so that we might live with Him forever — and live abundant lives in our short time here.
That day before exiting the plane we exchanged addresses so I could send Mike and his girlfriend a Bible. And I told them that if my wife starts praying for them, they won’t have a chance! Mike laughed and shook his head. “I’ve never met a Christian quite like you,” he said.
I’m not certain, but I think it was a compliment.
If you feel like a complete novice at sharing your faith, you're not alone. That's why we put together Exponential Faith, a series of ten articles full of practical tips for learning to share the gospel. It's like "Witnessing 101." Check it out.