“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
For some time now I have been discomforted. I know the deep-down feeling well. I call it a “holy discontentment.” Now let me be clear about the blessings of ministering Christ that I am so grateful for. I have preached more, to more people, than I ever have in all my ministry. Yet unless I am involved with personally leading one to Christ, I feel incomplete. My family and I often pray for open doors and “divine appointments.” I have a friend who says “I can put up with all the ‘junk’ of ministry, if I can be involved in leading one soul to Christ every six months or so!” There is a brutally honest evangelist! I was feeling that way. There are so many great opportunities at our seminary, so many open doors of ministry, so many students to equip, so many people to reach and so many are being reached—yet my part has, of recent, been to reach them through preaching to large groups, supporting ministry systems, and encouraging multiplication of Gospel advancement through others. All good stuff. But I wanted some one on one. Well, the Lord came through. I walked into the Starbucks that I frequent, yesterday, and no sooner than I got in line to ingest my morning constitution of grande Pike’s Place and a turkey-bacon-hold-the-turkey-bacon, someone grabbed my arm! I was not surprised because there is a “famous” table in this neighborhood Starbucks, where millionaires, developers, international marketers, laborers, airline pilots and retired military types guys hang out and talk sports and politics. You know the scene. It happens all over America. But this is our own little Iowa causes cafe, filled with New Englanders, Montana cowboys, Pittsburg refugees, and an occasional living, breathing North Carolina native (not many). Well, the fellow who grabbed my arm is a fine black man who is a retired businessman from Mississippi. My friend has a great sense of humor and is just a great man in so many wonderful ways. From the question he asked me I knew that there had been some serious talk going on. He grabbed my arm, drew me to himself, and began to speak, “Hey, preacher; I have been working on my last will and testament and I’ve been thinking about you! Preacher, when I die I am going to have a little service here and then they can ship my body back to Mississippi. Would you do the service for me here in Charlotte?” I was stunned, and I also was losing my place in line, which was of greater concern than his funeral planning at the time. “Well,” I responded, “call Wendy at the office and put your funeral on my calendar. I am pretty busy” (you have to understand that bantering is the way these guys communicate, so I try to join right in). “No,” he said, “I am serious, Preacher!” I looked at him and could see that something was different. His heart was on his face. He wanted to know. There was a table full of guys there. I leaned over to him, put my arm around him and told that “Before you plan your funeral, which I will be happy to do, unless you are at mine, first, let’s talk about your planning for eternal life.” I presented the Gospel, using the Evangelism Explosion approach which was used to show me the doctrines of grace so many years ago. He could not wait for me to finish. He said he had never thought about Christ that way, or his own condition in those terms, and he wanted to repent and turn to Christ. So I confirmed that he understood grace, the sinfulness of Man, the goodness and justice of God, the Person of Jesus, and the repentance and faith in the resurrected and living Christ that must be believed in his heart and confessed with his tongue. I explained how this brings about a supernatural work in which there is the transfer of sin from his life to the “timeless cross” of Christ, and the “deposit” of Jesus’ pure life coming to him so that he is “in Christ,” with nothing to brag about except Jesus. He emphasized, again, that he wanted Christ. “What do I do to be saved? Am I saved now? Preacher, help me!” We then ran to the throne of grace. I thought I heard one of the Catholics from Boston chastising the guy next to him, “Shut up! ‘Fa-der Mike is about to pray, right here!” And there was a holy hush that went over that Starbucks table that morning like a golden beam of heaven’s light casting a reflection of heaven over us all. After we prayed, all lifted their heads to witness a smiling, and I noticed, a awe-inspired quivering mouth, of our friend. I told him that a true disciple rises to go and follow Jesus in Scripture reading, worship, fellowship with other believers, prayer, and witness. I said, “OK, now, unless the Lord calls me home before, I will conduct your service. Now I have a sermon to preach!”
I walked out, after getting my Pike’s Place, and sat on an outside table, enjoying the beautiful autumn morning in south Charlotte. Soon, a friend at the table who is a believer, came to me. “Mike, I have witnessed to him for two years. Wow. Today God moved. This is wonderful.” And I reminded him that one sows and another reaps but it is God who has the harvest.
I thanked God for being involved with that man’s life. And I thanked God that He answers prayer for those who call out in repentance and faith, and for drying out evangelists who want to be used to lead souls to Christ. Thank you Lord.
And there was rejoicing before angels in Starbucks.