Last week I had a cross country flight from Philadelphia to L.A. The trip was a mid-week ministry trip that required me to be prepared to teach when I landed & prepared to fulfill my normal teach responsibilities at home on Sunday. In other words, it was the kind of flight that you want to get some work done during. That did not happen!
Sometimes (most of the time) I can’t keep my mouth shut. So, when a gentleman sat down in the middle seat next to mine I couldn’t help myself. I knew I had a lot to get done. I knew the most productive thing to do was put my headphones on and get to work (and next to opening my mouth be productive is my second favorite thing). But I just couldn’t help myself. I introduced myself to the guys next to me; the guy I had noticed talking everyone’s ear off in the line.
As I introduced myself there was a spiritual part of me, all be it very small, that began praying for the chance to share the Gospel. There other 95% of me was hoping to abruptly end the conversation that I started so that I could get to work. Immediately it became clear that the latter was not going to happen. The fellow next to me was more than happy to tell me any story I wanted to hear with as much detail as he could muster. Now, before you cringe and empathize with my pain let me say that I really didn’t mind. In fact, this guy was one of the most interesting individuals I have ever met.
He began to tell me about his current business in the oil industry which was fascinating. Then he recalled his days as a Naval Aviator followed by the story of adopting children and then, well this is where it got really interesting. Come to find out this guy was a Navy Seal & had combat experience in Vietnam. This was becoming one of the most interesting flight I had even had.
Unfortunately the stories had to come to a temporary end when he had to excuse himself to the bathroom. At that point I seized my opportunity, grabbed my iPad, and got to work on sermon prep. When he returned I figured I would just quietly continue working and finally get something done (notice my prayers for gospel opportunities have stopped). When my co-passenger returned he wasn’t ready to put an end to our conversation & made that known with a serious of questions about my iPad. Always ready to show off my favorite gadget I immediately began showing him how productively I can be with my iPad (at least normally). That’s when the conversation turned.
As I swiped from one app to another he halted my progress and asked me to go back. I figured that he wanted to see a feature I had shown him, but that’s not what caught his eye. What caught his eye was the sermon I preached last weekend (yep, I use my iPad to preach). The sermon was titled ‘Dunkin’ Christians.’ Get it? Baptism… Dunkin… Anyway, he thought it was funny and wanted to know what it meant. At this point my Nehemiah prayers have returned (they never should have left) & I gave him a 90 second overview of the sermon on baptism. When that wasn’t enough for him I opened up the doc and went point by point re-preaching the sermon for him (the lady next to us covered her ears!).
After my sermon was done my neighbor informed me that his parent raised him as a Catholic Jew (that is not a typo). As a result he essentially rejected both religions and created another form of works salvation to follow. He asked me if what he believed was true & as a pastor what I believed. There is a term for this kind of situation, it’s called a “slow pitch right down the middle.” I was not going to miss this pitch either.
I went on to tell him that his system was not what the bible teaches & asked if I could explain what the bible does teach. Over the next hour or so I explained salvation by grace through faith. We even, at his request, talked about imputation. Near the end of our conversation he asked one final question, “what’s a guy like me gotta do to be saved?” I told him what Jesus told people when he was on earth, “repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15)
I don’t know whether my co-passenger will choose to follow Jesus. But I know that I will be praying for him, like I should have been doing from the beginning of the conversation. I also was reminded that God did not leave us here to “get things done.” Sometimes we do have to get things done. But, primarily God left us here to tell people about Jesus in preparation for the Kingdom. Thankfully, despite my unfaithfulness, I had the opportunity. I was able tell one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met about the MOST interesting man w