Then I heard a roar and looked out the window. There was our neighbor Bud
working his heavy-duty snow blower to clear our driveway. Quickly I went to the
door, but before I could even shout a "thank you" he looked up, grinned at me
and said, "Heres your friendly pagan snow-removal service."
He shut off his machine and came to the door. "I knew youd want to get to
church," he said, "so I thought Id get you cleared out first. I can do my own
Bud didnt go to church. I dont think he or his family ever had many thoughts
about God, good or bad. Bud is just a Mr. Nice Guy without any personal
awareness of the Savior always friendly, always willing to help someone out.
Hes not alone.
The Mr. Nice Guys of this world are everywhere. We all know them. Theyre the
people who are so kind and giving, living lives of such model citizenship, that
were usually shocked (and a little disappointed) to discover that they
We wonder why not. It can even be disconcerting. Picture the woman who is
faithful in hospice work, caring for sick people who are dying, helping them to
live their last days in comfort. Yet she cant offer them any hope in Christ
because she doesnt know anything about Him herself.
The coach of the Little League baseball team is a Mr. Nice Guy, always
involved in good works in the community. Hes a good father, a good provider.
But he doesnt know Jesus personally and doesnt care. Faith isnt important to
In evangelism, when we talk about reaching sinners with the good news, whom
do we immediately think of? The drug addict, the prostitute, the alcoholic, the
swindler, the abuserits obvious these people are sinners in need of the Savior.
But all around us are people who need Jesus too: the Mr. Nice Guys. They may be
living better lives than we are. In fact, they may serve as role models to us.
They arent wicked people. Yet they need the Savior too.
As far as I know, my neighbor Bud has never come to saving faith. We moved away
from that neighborhood years ago. But as long as I lived there, I wanted him to
feel unthreatened and appreciated when he was around me.
Bud knew where I stood, because I told him that I trusted Christ. Although I
didnt see Bud come to Christ, I needed to know that God was at work then and
still is now. This has always been a point of trust for me. God loves nice guys
too. I never want to forget that as I consider how to reach people like
Maybe before I deal with the question "What can I do?" I first have to remind
myself of what I cant do.
I cant assume that Mr. Nice Guy really has it all together.
He may be hurting deeply inside. There are longings that are often hidden in
the people around us, buried because of long practice at hiding what they
really feel. But my friendship, an openness, a caring attitude, may in time
bring to the surface what a person deeply longs to have.
I cant assume that God is saying of Mr. Nice Guy, "Well, hes good enough."
Because if he was good enough, why the need for a Savior? Jesus died for
sinners, and sinners are not just people who do terrible things. Sin is a
state, a condition. It may be worked out in wicked acts, or it may not be, but
the condition of sin doesnt change until it is changed by the grace of God.
I cant assume that the person doesnt really care about God.
There is a restlessness, a longing, a space in the soul that God puts in every
person. We were made for God. God breathed into us and made us living souls.
That soul will long for completion. People change; the simple act of living
life brings new motivations for seeking spiritual answers.
I cant assume that the person is convinced that everything is "okay
with me." Chances are he feels deep down inside that there has to be
something more to life. Because I have the perspective of coming to faith as an
adult, I know what many Christians who grew up in a faith community dont
realize: there is an emptiness in people. It is real. I remember talking about
it with others and experiencing it myself. I can recall confessing, "There is
something missing in my life." I knew it even though I didnt realize what that
missing something was.
Of course, allowing discouragement to enter the picture helps no one. A
balanced perspective reminds me that there are things I can do.
First, and most important, I can make sure he hears the message that his
good works are not the ticket to his eternal salvation. Like the rich young
ruler of Mark 10, Mr. Nice Guy needs the challenge to give his life completely
to Jesus. We cant get to heaven on the basis of our works. No one is good
enough on their own to earn it.
To a teacher of the law, Jesus answered kindly, taking him from what he knew
to the next level of understanding. He encouraged the man. You are not far
from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34, NIV).
Jesus didnt condemn Nicodemus either. He respected his questioning and took
him the next step. Nicodemus wanted teaching to clear up his own confusion, and
Jesus gave that teaching. We dont know much more about Nicodemus until later
when he helped with Jesus burial, but obviously he was drawn to the Savior.
Jesus didnt push him. But He did answer his questions (John 3:1-21).
And when the Apostle Paul told people in Athens that they were very
religious, he was right; they were. But he took them from where they were and
talked to them about the God they didnt know (Acts 17:16-34). Some sneered at
him; others wanted to hear more. These kinds of responses are common. Am I
ready to be sneered at by some people in order to take others the next step in
their spiritual journey?
The people of Athens were a religious people who believed a lot of things.
Thats a description of our own time too. We meet people who believe anything
and everything. They are into faithsany faith will do.
"Find a religion that suits you," is the byword of our culture. Will I
respect that and take people from where they are and move them a few steps
closer to Jesus?
Jesus often took people from what they knew to what He wanted to teach them.
He took what little light they had and turned it up so that there would be more
light. His disciples followed His example and did the same. So can I. Light
illuminates. To the Mr. Nice Guys in my world, I want to bring more light.
I can appreciate the fine qualities of Mr. Nice Guy and encourage
him. Condemning him is counter-productive. He is a good person. I
learned something from my 25 years of traveling with Billy Graham. Mr. Graham
always encourages people.
Id see unbelievers warm to the gospel because they felt appreciated and
experienced the genuine concern of someone taking time to care.
I can do what Jesus did when He met the blind man. He
helped people take the next step, to see a little more clearly (the second
touch that we read about in Mark 8:25). People are often trying to live up to
what little light they have. My opportunity is to bring them more light.
I can be there for the person so that when things go wrong or life
takes a hard turn, as life often does, I am there for him, and he knows
it. I have yet to meet a person struggling with pain who doesnt
respond to the statement "Im praying for you." That person may not understand
prayer beyond some form of magic, but at that moment the praying person is an
I can make sure Mr. Nice Guy knows that I dont condemn him.
Rather, I will let him know that he is special to me and valuable to God.
Having a friend no matter what, good or bad, is a basic human needespecially
since his other friends who can live a pagan lifestyle with him in the good
times are often quite helpless when the tough times come.
I can take comfort in the assurance that the Holy Spirit of God, Who
is the divine convincer, is working quietly inside that nice guy. The
One Who is not willing that any should perish is doing a work that I may not
seeand do not have to see in order to trust that God is working.
I can know that my simple explanation of my experience with Christ
isnt the only witness in that persons life. I can know that the word I
say today may be fitting right in with a word spoken yesterday by someone else
and a different word that will be spoken tomorrow by another person. God is
pursuing that nice guy and has a chain of witnesses.
I can remain faithful and consistent. That is a telling
lifestyle when life for Mr. Nice Guy is full of ups and downs. What holds me
steady when I face the same problems, pressures and illnesses that he faces? He
wants to know, and he is watching.
Absolutely. Here are a few ways to start conversations that can open the window
to letting in more light:
"I sure appreciate you. Youre always helping people. I think you must be
following the example of Jesus. Are you?" (The person may be surprised by this
observation. Even if he denies following Jesus, a door has been opened to
discussion about Jesus. And if he does admit to following Jesus, an even bigger
door is open to talking about what that means.)
"Im impressed by your ability to be a good neighbor. Do you have a
philosophy of life that you are following? Will you tell me what it is?" (When
we have heard that person tell what he believes, he is more likely to be
receptive to hearing about what we believe.)
"Ive watched you with the little league players. You have a real influence
on them. I have you on my prayer list asking God to bless you. Will you include
me in your prayers too?" (The next time around it is easier to ask, "How is God
answering prayer in your life?")
"We have a lot of great guys like you in the Sunday school class I attend.
Id like to have you come along with me next Sunday and meet some of them. Can
we pick up you and your family next Sunday at 9 a.m.? Or, can we meet you at
the front door of the church?" (Even if he says no, we have offered an
invitation that can be discussed again.)
"Youre always doing something for others. Will you let me know when theres
anything I can help you with when youre away I can cut your grass (shovel your
snow, mind your dog), Id like to do that." Kind acts lower barriers.
Roger C. Palms, writer, teacher and speaker, is the author of 15 books
and the former editor of Decision magazine.
Then one day in a campus Bible study, one of the students reported, "Last
night Ken accepted Christ as his Savior." He explained the conversation he had
with Ken and how Ken had responded. We were in awe, because each of us had also
spoken to Ken about faith in Christ. As we began to put together the pieces of
our individual witnessing, we saw the miracle of what God had done.
We could see how God had answered prayer. One person in our group commented,
"Two weeks ago I spoke to Ken about ...," and described that visit. Another
said, "Last week after class Ken asked me ...," and we saw that the
conversation had picked up right where the earlier one had left off. Then
another person joined in and then another. We saw the links in the chain, the
orchestration of God as each person had been allowed to have a word or two with
Ken, a part of the larger witness that the Holy Spirit was using to bring Ken
to saving faith.
It was a time of overwhelming joy then, and still is for me, as I remember
that event and realize how God will use various individuals as He chooses,
creating a larger witness that is greater than any of the single parts.
I have never forgotten that experience of the sovereignty of God. Today when
I say an incomplete word to someone, and it is all the opportunity that I have,
I know that I may be just one small part of a larger picture God is drawing to
bring that person into the Kingdom.
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