On Saturday morning Dad and I went to the Lake Montezuma Independence Day parade. (Our hometown schedules their festivities for Saturday the 3rd whenever July 4 falls on a Sunday.) Some friends volunteered to hand out tracts, which freed me to focus on starting conversations with people. I didn't do so well. I got into a very interesting conversation with a Buddhist, but I went to get a glass of water and by the time I got back, he had gone back to work at a booth. Then during the parade of course almost no one wanted to talk because they all wanted to watch the parade. After the parade while people were still milling around and eating and talking and enjoying the other festivities, I sat down with an old character named Gordon.
They were giving these flags away at the parade. What's wrong with this picture? (Click to enlarge if needed.)
Gordon and I talked for quite a while. He is a really interesting man with definite convictions, some of which are dead right and some of which are dead wrong! Unfortunately, theology is one of the issues he is dead wrong about; he rejects Jesus and the Bible. But at least I got to share the gospel with him: that God is holy, that we are rebellious sinners who deserve hell, that Jesus is the morally perfect "Lamb of God" who took the punishment that we should have gotten, and that our sins can be exchanged for Jesus' righteousness when we turn from our sins and trust in Jesus alone to rescue us from them.
I was a bit disappointed that in two hours at the parade I only spoke with two people about Jesus.
On Sunday afternoon there was a larger Independence Day event in Cottonwood. Several people from our church including myself, my dad, and two of the pastors came. Before heading to the event, we prayed, expressing our dependence upon God, knowing that the boldness to speak, the words we should use, and the people we should speak with all come from Him.
Pastor Jim had discovered last year that standing in the (seemingly never ending) food line was a great place to strike up a conversation with someone about Jesus. He showed me how to do it with Joe, a man from California. It turned out that Joe already professed to be a follower of Jesus, but Jim tactfully shared the gospel with him anyways just in case, and Joe appreciated it. (Yes, we who are already Christians need to be reminded of the gospel. Often, in fact!)
We dropped out of the food line after talking to Joe and went back to the beginning of the line again to look for a new person to talk with. Just then who should I see walking into the park but Gordon! I went over and greeted him and introduced him to Jim. Perhaps I was a little overly enthusiastic in my greeting because he immediately started saying, "I don't want to talk about it!" Jim managed to navigate around Gordon's initial roadblocks and had a conversation with him about the gospel.
Meanwhile, I found a new guy to talk with. Mike turned out to be a Catholic social worker. We had an interesting conversation. Although he rejected the gospel, Mike was very friendly throughout. Jim joined us midway through the conversation after he finished with Gordon.
Me, Mike, and Jim
(not to be confused with Manny, Moe, and Jack!)
Jim started a conversation with a new person and then I went back to the beginning of the line again after finishing with Mike. I met a very interesting man named Arnie but because he was well educated and seemed to have his life together I didn't find an angle with which to turn the conversation to Jesus, and I didn't have the courage to simply jump right in. Jim joined me again midway and listened to me gab about trivialities with the guy for a few minutes. We were nearing the food tables. Then the man asked if we had gone to the parade in Clarkdale that morning. Jim said, "No, we were in church. Did you go to church?" The man said, "No, for one thing, I'm Jewish!" Jim lit up and immediately began boldly and lovingly proclaiming the Messiah to the man. Arnie wasn't interested. But he remained polite.
Then as we were headed to the beginning of the line yet again, I noticed a handicapped man crouching on the ground next to the food tables. I went over and asked if he needed help. It turned out that he was wanting to get some food but he didn't want to cut into line in front of someone. Yet he wasn't physically able to go stand in line like a normal person. It reminded me a bit of the man in John 5 who was waiting to have someone put him in the pool of Bethesda. So I asked the next person in line if they minded if this man "cut" in front of her, and of course she didn't mind. So he hobbled along the line and got his food. But after I walked with him over to a table another friend of his came up and they started gabbing so I didn't get to share the gospel with him. I did leave a tract with him.
The last two conversations were the best. Stefan was somewhat wasted looking, with the rotten teeth that often accompany drug use. After brief pleasantries, God gave me the courage to be more direct with him. "Hey, can I ask you a personal question? If it's offensive to you, just tell me and I'll leave you alone." He agreed. "Where do you think people go when they die?" Stefan said that he was his own god and would determine his own afterlife. Even though he kept up this irrational bravado for the entire conversation, there was a pitiable look in his eye that made me doubt whether he really believed his own words.
Next was Sasha, a young man who looked almost as wasted as Stefan but turned out to be a network administrator from Phoenix. (I should know that computer geeks don't have the greatest physiques!) Once again God gave me the courage to jump to spiritual matters almost immediately. Sasha was an intellectual, saying that the only thing he believes is "logic". But I tried to show him that by throwing out God, he had also thrown out the possibility of moral absolutes. He resisted this idea until Jim joined the conversation and showed him how illogical his own logic is. Then he told us that the main reason he became a rationalist was because of the evil he saw in the Roman Catholic church. So Jim shared the gospel with him and explained to him briefly how it differs from Rome's gospel.
It is interesting that even in the Declaration of Independence, our nation's founders expressed their dependence on God. Yep, it's right in the final sentence:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
As we left the park, Jim prayed aloud for the people we had spoken with. Evangelism is a great way to realize how dependent we are on God. As the saying says, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. But God can. Lord Jesus, open the eyes of these lost men!
Thanks to my friend Rick Parks for planting the "seed thought" of the In Dependence word play.