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  • Baptist Beacon

First Person: The guy I failed to witness to

EASLEY, SC (BP) – Have you ever felt like God wanted you to witness to someone, but you just couldn't open your mouth? My most obvious failure came as a seminary student in Fort Worth, Texas. I was working in a warehouse in the afternoons to help support my family. I remember being on the loading dock and seeing this man across the parking lot walking toward the dock. I sensed God saying to me, "I want you to tell that man about Me." I will never forget what happened next.

When he finally made his way to the loading dock, he looked at me and said, "So, do you have any good news for me today?" For a second, it felt like time stood still as I wrestled with what I should say. Eventually, I mumbled something about the weather. I don't know that I have ever felt more like a failure than I did that day. From time to time, I still pray for that man. If he is not yet a believer, I ask God to send someone to him who will actually share the Good News that wouldn't come out of my mouth.

I've analyzed that encounter a hundred times. The problem wasn't that I didn't know the answer to his question. I took every class that evangelism professor Roy Fish taught at Southwestern Seminary. I would leave his classes motivated and equipped to share my faith with anyone. I have concluded that the problem was that I was focused on what he would think of me, rather than the need that may be in his life. Rarely have I had such an obvious open door to share the Good News of Jesus.

There is a chapter in the book of Acts that reminds me of my fateful day in Fort Worth. In Acts 8, God sent a man named Philip to speak to an Ethiopian eunuch who was returning from Jerusalem. The Spirit of God told Philip, "Go and join that chariot" (Acts 8:29). Translation: "I want you to talk to him about Me." The Ethiopian was reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip asked if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian acknowledged that he needed someone to explain it to him. Verse 35 says, "Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture." I am so glad Philip didn't tell him about the weather!

I still struggle with opening my mouth when God opens a door. However, by His grace, I have had many opportunities over the years to share the best news we could ever tell anyone. It's an amazing experience to watch when someone is "born again"! Like Philip and the Ethiopian, there are clearly times when God orchestrates the events to bring someone who doesn't know Jesus in contact with someone who does. God may bring someone across your path this week who needs to hear the Gospel. I can promise you this: You will never regret telling someone about Jesus, but you will always regret the times you didn't.

If you have ever been silent when you shouldn't have been, can I give you some advice? Pray and don't give up. Keep living your life for Jesus and eventually someone will want to know why you are so different. With God's help, you will find yourself turning a regular conversation into a Gospel conversation.



Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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