My daughter is missions-minded. Not like I was as a child, with a vague idea of teaching flannelgraph Bible stories (remember those?) to little African children, but for real. She inspires and encourages me to get out of my do-gooder comfort zone and find ways to actually introduce the Lord to people.
In an ideal setting, I have never had a problem discussing Christianity. After all, it’s easy to talk about God in church, when I teach little ones each week in our junior church program. Sharing the simple message of the gospel with responsive children is more satisfying than just about anything else I do. But out in the community, without the shield of a specific ministry or outreach, it has always been difficult for me to tell the good news of the gospel to strangers. I’m not ashamed to. I’m just a shy, private person, and I don’t want to infringe upon anyone else’s personal space or time.
My daughter, however, has never been uncomfortable with or shy about witnessing. Burdened to share Jesus’ love with everyone from the gas station cashier to her dance class friends, she asked me to order some appropriate tracts. When they arrived, she made sure to stock my handbag, her dance bag, and our minivan. At every store, she reminded me to give one to the cashier as I took my receipt.
Initially, I’d sigh and brace myself for the moment I handed over the tract. I’d say my thank-you’s and then ask the cashier, “Would you mind if I gave you something to read?”
Every time, the response was a polite, if slightly puzzled, “Sure, that would be fine,” or something to that effect.
I even had one sweet young woman call after me as I headed out the store, “Wait! I’m a Christian, too! No one’s ever handed me one of these before.” I came back to her counter, and we chatted for a moment. I believe the exchange made both our days brighter.
After months of doing this routine—daughter reminds me, I take my receipt, I hand over the tract—it has become second nature. Every recipient of one of our little pamphlets has been polite, some even reading the tract as soon as I hand it to them; that is, until one night earlier this week.
I pulled into a Dollar General I’d never been to before, to pick up a couple of greeting cards. As I paid, I tried to make polite conversation with the cashier, but she was having none of it. When I took my receipt, I asked her my stock question: “Would you mind if I gave you something to read?”
No response. Crickets. And then, she backed away slowly and looked at me suspiciously, even a bit fearfully, as if I had asked which aisle held the bomb-making kits.
I held out the little orange tract. “Please,” I said, and smiled, doing my best not to look like a psychopath, and not knowing what else to say.
Still seeming faintly alarmed, she leaned forward and took the tract with her fingertips, and I left the store.
Considering the encounter later, I thought, How fortunate I am that I live in a country in which that is the worst response I may ever get to passing out a tract. Paul reminds us that believers living for Christ should expect persecution (II Timothy 3:12), and while Christians in distant lands suffer and die daily for their faith, the worst “persecution” I may experience in America is an unfriendly response. Why did I wait so long to spread the gospel in such a simple way?
I am not so naive as to think that dozens of people have come to know the Lord as a result of our tract distribution efforts (although that is my prayer!), and I am sure that many tracts have ended up unread, in the trash. Still, thanks to the encouragement of my daughter, our family is performing the mission Christ has asked of us. He never said it was our responsibility to save souls; only he can do that. We’re just meant to spread the seed.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.—I Corinthians 3:6,7
How do you share the gospel? I’d love to hear from you, and I encourage you to visit my daughter’s blog, Teen, Meet God.