Curtis was your ideal waiter. He was courteous, friendly, efficient and
willing to be humored by a table full of Baptist conference attendees. Once the
orders were taken and the ice tea delivered, I felt it was time to move on to a
more important agenda. So I popped the big question: "Curtis, do you consider
yourself to be a Christian?"
"Oh, yes sir!" he responded enthusiastically and even told me where he
attended church and how long he had been going there. And while commending him
for his interest in spiritual matters, I was tempted to let the conversation
drop. Thank God I didn't. Instead I asked a question familiar to many involved
in personal evangelism. It is a question that helps determine if people have
their faith in Christ or in good works or church membership.
"Curtis, what would happen to you if you died right now?"
"I hope that I'll go to heaven," was his response, which seemed a trifle
hesitant and tentative.
So I asked yet another critical question: "Well, my friend, if you should
face God right now, and He should ask you, 'Why should I allow you into My
heaven,' what would you answer?"
"Well, I guess I would say that I have done enough good works and perhaps
deserve salvation," he said. Evangelism Explosion's diagnostic question had
revealed a few chinks in Curtis' otherwise impressive spiritual armor.
I then explained that one's greatest problem with salvation can be not
realizing that it is a gift to be received and not a paycheck to be earned. I
then suggested that he come back when the restaurant wasn't quite so busy, and
we'd talk some more.
"Let's talk now," he insisted. "These people can wait." It was then my
privilege within a few minutes to lead him in a prayer to accept Christ as his
Savior. With tears in his eyes, he thanked me for sharing the good news with
The most deceptive religious movement in North America today is traditional
"Christianity" that teaches works salvation but does not insist on a saving
faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
The next time you are tempted to take someone's relationship to Christ for
granted, please remember those two questions: Where would you go if you
died right now? and What would you say if God asked you why He should
allow you into His heaven? It is more important that a personal evangelist
be able to raise the correct issues and ask the right questions than it is that
a medical doctor do so with a patient. His or her eternal destiny is at issue
when one is attempting to evangelize a loved one or an acquaintance.
By the way, Curtis made sure that I had his address and other particulars so
that he could start Bible study immediately. When he returned my credit card
invoice, he had already totaled out the amount and did not include a tip. He
said that I had already done enough for him. (I left him a tip anyway.) But I
agree, there is nothing that we can do for anybody better than pointing him or
her to Jesus!
A closer look
What are some of the elements that turned Phil's
encounter with a waiter into a life-changing event? While there is no formula
for spontaneous evangelism, there are some steps that can be applied to almost
Make sure God is in it. Always be ready to follow the leading of the Holy
Spirit and obediently respond to His prompting.
Don't put people on the spot publicly. Embarrassing someone into a decision
to follow Christ isn't effective.
Don't lose the opportunity. Follow through when someone responds with a
question. If there is an interruption in the conversation, be sure to bring it
back to spiritual things.
Be ready with a brief testimony and simple explanation of the gospel. Take
the initiative to prepare yourself before an opportunity comes.
Questions are not just okay, they're helpful. Ask pointed questions about
Jesus and faith, and don't be afraid to probe deeper.
Follow through. In the case of Phil's witness, leaving a tip is appropriate.
Leave a business card or phone number or directions to your church. Your
thoughtful actions will show evidence of your concern.
Phil Roberts is a theologian and expert on spirituality in our
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