By Amanda L. Southall
My first experience sharing the gospel took place when I was just eight
years old. I was 18 by the time I shared the gospel again, and both times I
shared it with the same person.
The decade in between included years of growth that prepared me for the most
volatile, emotional evangelism experience of my life: seeing my best friend
accept-and then reject-Jesus Christ.
Through 13 years of friendship I taught Jenny how to swim underwater, told
her about the birds and the bees ("Maybe your parents did, but not mine!" she
threw back at me) and cried with her when her mother was diagnosed with
More important, I shared Jesus Christ with her. In fact, I considered the
moment we prayed together as children to be what bonded us as friends.
Mind you, I was hardly a super-Christian at the age of eight, nor was I
motivated to share the gospel because of a burden to save the souls of my
childhood peers. Rather, I was just a little girl who wanted to tell her friend
some exciting information. My older sister had shared the gospel with me,
and-just three days after becoming a Christian-I, with child-like faith, told
Jenny what I had learned about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jenny eagerly responded to the gospel. Surrounded by a mess of toys and
games we prayed together on the floor of my bedroom. For years after that I
told the story about the fruit of my faith as an eight-year-old, and it was a
sweet story: A nine-year-old girl hears the gospel at camp, shares it with her
younger sister who shares it with her best friend and-voilà!-three
brand-new cute little blonde-headed Christians.
By Dick Church
So many times, we feel we have "succeeded" in the evangelization process
when we lead people to "say the prayer." We forget that the Great Commission
says to make disciples, to baptize them and to teach them to observe all things
that Christ has commanded His followers. Evangelism and discipleship are like
two sides of the same coin-they're inseparable. Without specific and strategic
discipleship some new believers may go astray and follow false doctrine.
Discipleship begins at the point of conversion. Newly-born Christians need
to be taught the importance of reading the Bible, praying, attending a
Bible-believing church, being baptized and telling others what happened to
them. This is called "immediate follow-up." But that is only the beginning. The
new "babe in Christ" needs relationships with other believers. They need a
place to worship and to grow. This is best done through the local church. Every
new Christian needs to be connected with the life and ministry of a local
church. As we have opportunities to lead others to faith in Christ, it becomes
imperative to see to it that the person who has come to Christ is placed on the
never-ending road of discipleship in a local body of Christ.
It's not too late for friends like Jenny. Don't give up on them. Much prayer
and love, along with opportunities to express true doctrine, will help.
However, the best remedy is always good prevention. And prevention begins at
the moment of conversion with discipleship.
Meanwhile, Jenny lived vicariously through me and the growth I was
experiencing. She occasionally mentioned wanting more, but I thoughtlessly
I was 18 and ready to ship off to college when I was hit with a bombshell:
Jenny had finally found the spiritual cultivation and nurturing she'd been
searching for so desperately-and she'd found it in the Mormon Church.
She was so excitied when she called to tell me about her decision to become
a Mormon. It didn't take long for me to realize that the boy she'd been dating
was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, not a
Christian like she'd claimed he was.
I was shocked. I plopped down on the floor as she chatted about her new
friends in the Mormon church. We'd certainly grown apart as we'd gotten older,
but I never expected something of this magnitude happening to her without my
Where was I during her conversion to Mormonism? Where was God? Why had
He let this happen? Why hadn't He alerted me?
That day I simply listened to the rest of her chatter. I was choking up. I
was so stunned that I couldn't speak and if I'd been able to, I wouldn't have
known what to say.
Jenny's involvement with the Mormon Church accelerated rapidly. After high
school graduation she enrolled in a Mormon university and hastily married a
Mormon missionary back from his two-year stint.
I quickly and overwhelmingly made up for the previous lack of spiritual
conversation between Jenny and me. Though our academic pursuits found us in
different parts of the state we phoned each other often, and each conversation
was the same-we chatted, and then I directed the dialogue to spiritual matters.
I was always armed with questions that disputed Mormon doctrine and with
irrefutable Bible verses proving that-despite her insistence-Mormonism and
Christianity weren't synonymous.
But my logical presentations inevitably would dissolve into tears and pleas.
I simply couldn't understand why my best friend who trusted me and sought my
advice for so many years wouldn't listen to me about this, the most important
aspect of life and eternity.
One evening after a tearful conversation with Jenny, I decided to call my
mom for advice. I was broken and emotional as I explained to her that I was
giving up on the revival of my best friend. My mother listened lovingly and
then offered some simple advice that's stuck with me: "Don't forget to be her
friend. Love her, and tell her that God loves her." Mom was right. I forgot to
be a friend. I'd forgotten that the whole reason I was concerned about her
developing a relationship with God was because I love God, and I love her.
That night as I was praying God revealed to me that, instead of being filled
with the Holy Spirit, I was being motivated by my own emotions, and I had been
approaching Jenny with my own power.
In lieu of the armor of God that's explained in Ephesians 6, I was putting
on the armor of friendship. I was relying on my own understanding of love and
my friendship to draw her to God, not His love and His truth.
Instead of placing faith in God and His plan, I had failed to pray for Jenny
and viewed doing so as a last resort. I realized that it was up to me to
continue to love her, tell her what I know about God's salvation and let God
work through me. I decided not to give up on my friend. God was giving me the
opportunity to have an impact on Jenny's life.
It's now been three years since Jenny joined the Mormon Church. I still ache
for her as a friend, but I also pray for God to speak through me every time we
talk. And I've placed the cultivation of her faith in His hands.
I don't know if Jenny's heart changed the day we prayed together so long
I do know, however, that God has used this experience to grow me as a
Christian who strives to be on mission. I now realize how important it
is to come alongside new believers and help them grow in their faith. Jenny
taught me that.
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