The first time I met Amy, I liked her but didn’t tell her so. My family found her when we went door to door in a Las Vegas neighborhood, inviting people to church.
Las Vegas was an interesting interlude to my childhood. We moved there in 1995 to start another Independent Baptist Church, taking a break from Germany. (Eventually, my family would return to Germany but more on that in another post). We bought a trailer home and lived in a park with other trailers. Almost immediately, we searched for a church building, put a sign out front, and began the process of finding people to attend. Every weekend, we diligently knocked on doors and invited people to our newly minted church.
Amy’s mom let her come with us.
Amy frustrated me. I wanted to be friends with her, but she was resistant. Maybe because I was convinced that she had to be saved before I could actually be her friend. One day, Amy joined our family at our house for Sunday lunch. I opened my Bible and told her the whole story of the Gospel. She just stared at me. “Do you want to pray the prayer?” I said. The sinner’s prayer. The plea for Jesus to save you. The magic prayer.
My little Independent Baptist heart was pleased with my first convert.
After this, Amy never came back to our church. Her mom wouldn’t let her. I was confused by that. Hadn’t I saved her? Did she not mean the prayer when she prayed it? What did this mean for my conversion abilities?
I wish I could say that this interaction cured my need to convert others, as it ended poorly. But it didn’t. The pressure to share the “good news” weighed so heavily on my spirit that I had to continue. We had to save souls because everyone was on the threshold of hell if we didn’t rescue them. If we did not share the Gospel with every single person we encountered, their blood would be on our hands on judgment day.
The problem was I wasn’t very good at “sharing my testimony”, as my church liked to phrase it. I had believed in Jesus since a little girl, gone to Christian school, and was an obedient kid. I listened to powerful conversion stories from those in my church – from drugs and alcohol and sinning to Jesus’ way of loving and serving. My story was boring in comparison.
Not only was my story uninteresting but telling people that they were going to burn in hell unless they prayed a prayer with me was overtly intimidating. All the responsibility fell on my shoulders, it seemed, to ensure the eternal destiny of everyone was secured.
Based on my track record result with Amy, I wasn’t succeeding.
I continued to do my best as a faithful soldier of my church to save souls, though. I gave out pamphlets, I brought up Jesus, I invited people to church. Sometimes, people came to our church because I’d invited them. But more often, they simply smiled at me and politely moved on with their lives.
How was I going to stand in front of Jesus someday and bear to feel His wrath that I hadn’t seen more people pray this prayer?
It stressed me out.
One day, I read about C.S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. He said he was riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle. It was a beautiful day. When he first sat in the car, he was not a Christian. By the time he left the sidecar, he was converted.
No prayer. No words. No outward acknowledgment.
Simply, a change of heart.
His story moved me.
Then, I read Jesus’ own words in the Gospel of John, where He said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”
Why was I trying to draw people into Jesus when He was doing it Himself?
Why was I attempting to save the world when Jesus already had?
Why was I so worried about hell when it seemed like it was a concept that was only pressed by preachers and teachers who wanted to scare people into conversion?
Why was I working so hard to change hearts when Jesus is the only One Who can do that?
My cessation of converting people did not happen overnight. Rather, it was a gradual surrender to the fact that God loves the world more than I could fathom. A renewed belief that Jesus is so much bigger than a formulaic prayer made up by a church somewhere. A sense that Jesus was working in lives around me in more ways than I could understand.
I switched from inserting hell into conversations and asked people about their lives. I stopped attempting to save their soul on my own, and began offering my own experiences of God, prayer, and hope as an encouragement to anyone who had an interest in knowing. At times, I wouldn’t bring up God at all. I would just be kind, courteous, and generous.
Through this evolvement, an interesting development happened. People started asking me to pray for them. They would ask me about my faith. They would pour out their hard times to me. They would ask me where I went to church.
And so, Jesus did His work of bringing people to Himself by Himself.
I was just along for the journey.
It has been an incredible experience.
And the weight of souls in hell no longer presses on me.
I wonder about Amy sometimes. I wonder if she ever went back to church anywhere. I wonder if she ever talks with God. I wonder if she and I could be friends now that we are both adults.
I like to think we would be, and that thought makes me smile.
Until next time,
The Baptist Nun
PS: Want to know more about what I want to talk about? Check out my other site: https://coloradowriter84.wordpress.com/