I had opened the front door to find two women standing there. I think they may have introduced themselves, and possibly told what church they represented. But then one of them said this line. This memorized line.
My first thought? What a confrontational thing to say!
My second thought? This is what it feels like to be on the other side of the door.
Because I had gone door-to-door “soul-winning” too. I had probably even used this line, because it was the one in vogue at the time. Its purpose was to quickly ascertain if your target was a believer in Jesus Christ, so it seemed foolproof. But now . . . I suddenly felt different about it.
I even remember my third thought. She looks like one of the most burdened women I’ve ever seen.
I said, “I’m a Christian.” I knew that wasn’t quite good enough, because people can define “Christian” in many different ways. Maybe my memory is exaggerated, but it seems to me that her eyes darted back and forth and she shifted on her feet as she tried to follow up on my statement.
I invited them in and talked with them for a while. Though I can’t remember what I said, I remember thinking that I wanted to help that woman become a better advertisement for Christianity. I myself knew only dimly all that Jesus Christ had to offer in His great salvation, but I knew there was more than what I saw on that woman’s face.
That was twenty-five years ago. We talked about it at breakfast this past week, because our church is currently teaching how to listen and love and pray and speak and live in order to effectively give the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) to other people.
But in those days we never talked about “giving the gospel.” We talked about “soul-winning” or “witnessing” or “presenting the plan of salvation.” Not that those terms are necessarily bad (though they can be very misleading), but the Gospel is the Good News.
Here’s one of the reasons, I’m guessing, that woman’s face looked so burdened. “Soul-winning,” or “witnessing” was a very, very burdensome thing, filled with heavy duties, wrought with guilt. Many preachers taught that if you didn’t “witness” to every person you met, then if that person went to hell, his blood would be on your hands, and he would cry out your name from the depths of suffering. This is a sobering and terrible concept. It’s the stuff of nightmares. And the burden is mammoth. It caused some people to work at their “witnessing” even at the expense of their families. It made others stay cloistered inside so that they would never meet anyone so no one’s blood would be on their hands. (Like the Catholics of the Middle Ages, it was part of what caused many others say, “Oh well. There’s no way I can accomplish all I’m supposed to, so just oh well.”)
Maybe there was another reason her face looked so joyless. This woman knew that salvation changed our destination—the churches of my past were very good at preaching that. But as my wise husband observed at breakfast, “They see God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as just some facts to be believed. In their minds, the responsibility lies with the one human to speak some words, with the other to believe them and say the sinner’s prayer. God is passive.”
I don’t go door to door anymore— it’s not wrong, certainly, but I think it’s not the best way for me. There came a point in my life when I asked the Lord to start bringing me the people who were seeking Him. He began to do that very faithfully, and He gives me the great privilege of spreading the Good News—the great love of God through Jesus Christ—to those whose hearts are longing for it. In seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of memorizing lines, I’m sure I don’t always say the right thing. But I’m learning that far more important than “saying the right thing” is loving with the love of Jesus Christ. Speaking the truth, certainly, but doing it in love.
So now I’m on the other side of the door. And when they come knocking, and their faces are distressed, I’ll invite them in, and I’ll say, “Let’s talk about why the Gospel is called Good News. Not just for your eternal destiny, but for this life right now.”