I remember this particular couple even fifteen years later. In ministry, I viewed weddings as an evangelism opportunity. There was one couple that caused me to question that this approach.
It was evident the bride was a believer, but the husband was not all that interested in connection with Jesus. We went through the mandatory five pre-marriage counseling sessions. I connected with them through the counseling sessions. I could not get him to discuss having faith as an important component in their marriage life. Nothing seemed to be working. So I stopped pressing. They had a Christ-centered ceremony. But I could tell he was tuning out during those parts of the service. He was waiting to get to the”I do’s” and to get out the building as soon as possible. I know it isn’t about me, but I felt as though I had failed. I had a strong feeling he would never set foot in a church again. He was adamant about his denial of the Savior. I made my standard offer to all my newlyweds, “Just remember I am your pastor. If you need anything, call. If you hit a snag that first year, I am here.” I heard nothing for nearly a year until the wife calls. Her husband requested a visit. I inquired what was wrong only to discover he was dying of cancer. God provided a second chance to proclaim the gospel to him. I visited him often before God called him home. I am confident he died a believer. What appeared to be a failed attempt to be an instrument of God’s grace was a reminder that God has a plan. God has his timing.
I love the quote from Doug Pollock in a book entitled “God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally.”
He quotes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians; The good news is that most of our failures can be reclaimed. There’s no statute of limitations. He also suggests we commit this verse to memory, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5: 15-16, NLT).
“So if you have someone in your life that you feel you blew it with them, don’t give up. We serve a God who is great at giving second heck third, fourth and fifth chances. If you feel you have blown it here are a couple of questions to ponder if you get that second chance to share the gospel.”
What do you do when the person you are talking to is so resistant, hurt, or turned off to talk about of God? When there is nothing you say, that appears to make a difference?
Practice patience. Respect their real pain. Acknowledge the hurts they have experienced in life. Realize your conversations may be triggering some deep-seated emotions that they have long buried. If that is the case, your only path at this point maybe to pray with them and pray for their circumstances. Pray intentionally for that the emotional turmoil they are facing. That could be the method God uses to open the door to that deeper spiritual conversation.
What do you do if you have someone who is not open to these kinds of spiritual conversations? Does their lack of openness mean you should just leave them alone?
Maybe. If your conversations are causing damage to the relationship be willing to take a step back and give the person some space. What you don’t want to do is push the person away from you. Give them some time and keep the relationship intact. Maybe this is not the time for this conversation. Perhaps, down the road, the right opportunity may present itself. In the meantime keep the lines of communication open. Be willing to apologize if your conversation has caused offense. Say “I sense that I might have said something in our last conversation that caused you to shut down. If so, could you help me understand what I said or how you interpreted my message? I value our friendship. I enjoy our conversations, so if I’ve offended you, I’d like to make things right.”
You never know where and when the opportunity to share the gospel will present itself. Be always ready to share the hope that you have in Christ Jesus. You may be the vehicle God uses to share the gospel with someone outside of God’s grace. Realize that God when that happens God will give you the words to say. God is the one who waters the seed and makes the seed grow. We are just called to spread the seed.