Stop and Look

Yesterday I took my bride Michelle and daughter Hannah to lunch. We sat down and quickly met our server, a single young man in his 20s named David. As is my custom I tried to be friendly and, without taking too much time as he had a job to do, got to know him beyond “Hi, I am server number 14 for year 2011.”

I got his name, and as we placed our orders I asked a couple other questions, just general things like “how long have you lived here?” He seemed grateful that I asked for something more than the special of the day, and proceeded to give us a thumbnail sketch of his life from 13 until now.

Stop. Look. See the people around you. Look servers in the eye, and treat thing like more than an anonymous accessory to your meal. Oh, and tip well when finished.  This young man took note, and though he had no specific request when I asked if I could pray for him as we prayed for our meal, he genuinely appreciated the concern (servers always do it seems).

The next time he came by I asked him about his church involvement, not “DO YOU GO TO CHURCH YOU HEATHEN?” in a scathing manner, but just as I had asked other questions, I simply asked whether he had a place he worshiped. He said he did not but was interested in my interest. I mentioned our church, that I worked with young adults just like him, and he became even more interested.

He asked, “Do you have a card?”  Pause for a moment and ponder: Most unchurched people around us are more amazed at our silence than offended at our witness. And, most, especially in the millennial generation, will respond positively to our conversations about spiritual things if we lead with a genuine desire to get to know them versus trying to do a drive by gospel shout and then go on with life.

In other words, do not just invite people to Jesus, invite them into your life.  There are so many lonely young adults (and others) around us, and many more who seek community.

Of course at that moment I realized I had no business cards or Young Pro cards with me (way to go Boy Scout).  But I did have a card for our Two-Four ministry regarding an upcoming series. And I had a gospel tract I had written for our school on which I wrote my contact info.

You can be sure the next time I go to that restaurant I will ask for David. I will not do so simply because he is another great gospel opportunity. I will do so because I really would like to get to know him and encourage him in things that matter. And I will encourage my friends to ask for him as well. As I described our church and its love for young adults he seemed genuinely interested and mentioned his girl friend had particularly been seeking a church.

Just another meal with my ladies. A lunch in the course of one more day. But no, this was more. This was an opportunity to touch a life, to start a relationship, to boast of Jesus, to magnify the Lord’s church.

A friend of mine says, “Every conversation is a ministry opportunity.”  So as you are out doing your thing, living your life, stop. Look. Listen. You may have just a few minutes to advance God’s movement in this world, to start a conversation that could lead to eternal change.

Never see going to a restaurant or going to the mall, or even going to work as just a routine. See it as a chance to touch one life for Christ.  Stop and look.

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.