by Todd Lowans

I met John the week I started as a Campus Life director. He was the kid that only spoke in small group to argue or share a cynical comment. One of his favorite pastimes at club was taking shots at the Gospel and people who believed it. I'm not sure what it was, probably his blatant honesty, but I really liked John. It wasn't just an "every kid, one at a time" thing, he was just one of those kids that connected with me. Pretty quick in the friendship he made it clear that he wasn't interested in me preaching to him about Jesus. In no uncertain terms he informed me he wasn't going to be another notch on the belt of a Christian. 

Over the next 5 years he and I met frequently to get coffee and talk. We swapped books, he read Reason for God (Tim Keller) and I read The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) and we talked through each.  We talked about philosophy, theology, "stupid Christians" (John's favorite topic), science, life and every once in a while Jesus. The times we talked about Jesus were very few and far between, maybe 2 times a year.

I had to decide, early on, that I wasn't going to play into John's "stupid Christian" stereotype and I was going to wait on the Holy Spirit to direct me when and how to delicately share God's story.  I relied mostly on my demeanor, actions, advice, insights and life to communicate the Gospel to him and picked my battles when he wanted to debate. When he has come with a problem I would counsel him using biblical principles, then he would say; "I know, I know Jesus is the way...right." in a sarcastic tone and I'd just smile.

I wish this story ended with John coming to Christ but the truth is that has not happened yet.  We still get together from time to time and I still, when the time is right bring up Jesus. I pray for him often and look forward to the day when Gods story becomes part of his.

One thing I know for sure is that I was/am called to journey with John and gently point him towards Jesus. It's been a much slower process than I would like. However, I can tell you that I am the only Christian he has allowed to speak into his life simply because I didn't play into his (mostly false) Christian stereotypes and I respected his wishes.

We often forget, at least I do, that we're called to be image-bearers of Christ and to preach the Gospel but we're not called to get more notches on our belt. We faithfully share the Gospel, even when that means sharing it without words and the Holy Spirit draws students to God. We can't do that part, but we have to be faithful in our part, journeying with and pointing students to Christ.

Remember a few things while journeying with students.

Don't play into negative stereotypes. Debating too much, being overly argumentative, treating a student like a project and moving on when you hit a wall are all stereotypes John had.

Don't be afraid of tough questions or to “go there.” Book swap, never answer a question you don't know the answer to, learn more about the areas that create skepticism in them (physics in the case of John, yeah physics...ouch) and above all don't compromise the Gospel.

Be sensitive to the Spirit. Pick your opportunities to verbally share the Gospel through the promptings of the Spirit. Pray, pray and pray some more.

Share the Gospel through your actions. The way you treat them, talk about others, react to situations and the longevity of the relationship are all key.

"Preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words."  Saint Francis of Assisi

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