So I'm sitting on the steps of Center Church waiting for my free bag lunch to pull up in a van. That van comes around every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, three guys appear and start milling about, walking up to my fellow beggars, offering flyers.
"Can I give one of these to you?" says one.
"Sure, I'll take one," I say, taking the flyer. I skim the backside of it.
Missionaries. Christian ones.
"Any particular denomination?" I ask.
The man hesitates for a moment, shrugs, says, "Born again."
"OK," I say.
We both pause and stare at each other for another moment.
"Do," he stammers, "you know who Jesus Christ is?"
"Yeah, he died for my sins."
"Have you ever considered what he has to offer you?" he asks. By now the other two guys have sauntered up and surrounded me with gentle eyes. I don't mind. I take a quick visual survey of all three of these guys, take a breath, sit up straight, smile, and say:
"Well, what's your pitch?"
They chuckled and gave me the usual pitch. You know the one: Have you accepted Jesus into your heart, he died on the cross for your sins, salvation is yours if you follow God's commandments, here, have another flyer, a different one this time, can we talk to you about Jesus, Jesus changed my life, he's going to change yours too, awe shucks I'm so happy about Jesus and I really mean it.
Cool part about these guys is they knew their stuff. If I said something about being a seeker and answering any door that knocks, they rattled off a Bible quote, with citations, something about seeking and Jesus saying, Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
I am impressed enough at that quick citation. A few more of these quick scholarly responses and I am convinced I could have an interesting conversation with these missionaries. Two of the three are well versed and aged enough in their studies to be able to take me on in conversation maturely and without triteness.
Only one of them is your stereotypical starry-eyed ruby-cheeked spewer of stale sayings who, I'm sure, Jesus would have left to his fishing: Uh, thanks kid, I would love for you to put away your nets once and for all and help Me to convince men to follow Me and thus become yourself a fisher of men like Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew here, but, uh, you're just so good at fishing for fish. God needs you there, just plain old fishin'. That's a good boy. Bye bye, now!
I don't mean to poke fun at the poor chap, but he's just so cheesy I don't really believe him. As a non-Christian, I pray for the guy's faith.
The three of them took me to a Subway, bought me a sandwich (that's right, a sandwich, after I had gotten my free hors d'oeuvre-size PB&J sandwich, five or six potato chips, and a couple of swigs of a juice that is blue, all in a deceptively large brown paper bag from the previously mentioned van), and conversed with me for an hour. The cheesy kid slid me a very pretty Bible with silver-edged pages. As he slid it across the table, I looked up at him to confirm that it was a gift, and he gave me a cheesy look of kindness. I thanked him from the cheesiest part of my heart. I ate the Italian combo with Swiss cheese and downloaded my Coke.
(Part II will relate the Bible study session I had with these same guys about three weeks later.)