Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar - Part 2

Welcome back to the story of Nigel, lets see how Nigel's day starts out at work and see if he takes on the role of an "Ambassador" for Christ...
Part 2:

Glancing at his watch as he rounded the corner from the stairs, Nigel grimaced, realizing he was going to be late for his meeting with the project team. He’d hoped to get to the office a bit early to put some finishing touches on his report, but he was also hoping for a few minutes to gather his thoughts before he had to face Larry. Why did it seem that he barely had time to catch his breath lately? Between work, soccer, the kids’ homework, his responsibilities at church, and the never-ending projects around the house, it seemed that he and Mary would never regain those sweet times they used to have together when they would simply sit and quietly enjoy each other’s company. Life really did seem to just get busier and busier.

Walking into the kitchen, Nigel found Mary negotiating with Katy to finish the scrambled eggs on her plate. Although running late, Nigel took a deep breath and called his sons into the kitchen for prayer. A few moments in prayer before the start of the day had become a regular practice in their home, and as Jason and Drew appeared behind him, bags and duffels in tow, Nigel was grateful for this simple routine which brought them together for a few precious minutes each day. Bowing his head, Nigel appealed to God to bless and protect his family and asked that He would enable each of them to respond to others throughout the day with deference, compassion and understanding: that they would esteem others over themselves and represent Christ well as His ambassadors.

When his prayer was done, he kissed Mary and, spilling only a little of his coffee, made his way to the car. Traffic wasn’t bad and he was grateful when he found himself arriving at the office only ten minutes later than planned. It was Wednesday morning and Nigel sighed as he mused how, until two weeks ago, he would have been here no later than 7:30. Until two weeks ago, he had lead a small Bible study with some of his fellow employees. Nigel had been surprised and grateful when Donna approached him in April, asking if he would consider leading the small group; he’d been excited about the opportunity and glad that Donna had asked. Most people at the office knew of Nigel's faith in Christ and, while he didn’t think he had the reputation of being insensitive or inappropriately pushy with his faith at work, when asked, Nigel always tried to be very forthright in speaking the truth of the gospel boldly and telling others about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Nigel had received permission from management before agreeing to lead the study, and he’d made sure that the group would conclude before the official start of the workday at 8:30. However, not everyone had been pleased.

Larry had been with the company for over twelve years and felt that he had a great deal of authority in the office. Larry was also a rather vocal atheist and would gladly engage others in conversation about his views. When he became aware of the Bible study, Larry had immediately complained to management, with the result being that while the company initially allowed the study, Larry's vociferous complaints caused them to waffle. Larry had called the Bible study an "inappropriate use of company property,” protesting that the study "distracted his people" from their work. He had further criticized the meeting by stating that clients and customers would be offended if they saw the study taking place in a business office.

Some of Nigel’s co-workers in the bible study got quite angry at Larry, declaring that they had the right to have the study – especially since management said that it was okay and they met during non-business hours! They’d asked Nigel to confront Larry and management to demand that they be allowed to continue meeting. Nigel however, had asked that they remain calm and allow him some time to think. Sure, he could confront and demand – but was that the best way to proceed? Nigel had wrestled with how to make the best testimony to the office as a whole, and had questioned whether or not pushing for his “rights” would be best. Would he, in effect, win the battle, but loose the war? Admittedly, some of the group didn't understand why Nigel would hesitate. Why wouldn't Nigel show this unbeliever that God is in control and that He wouldn’t let Christians be pushed around?

But even as he’d struggled to make a decision about the bible study, Nigel had indeed wanted Larry to see that God is in control: not to “beat” him, but to win him! And so, as the workday was drawing to a close yesterday, Nigel had stopped by Larry's office, intent on engaging the other man in an attempt to understand him. He’d asked him, in an affable way, to explain further why he objected to the bible study. He’d told Larry that he didn’t want to offend him, and that he wanted to hear what Larry believed - or didn't believe - about God and the Bible. Nigel was grateful that Larry didn’t respond to his questions with hostility. The other man had even seemed to relax and respond the sincerity of Nigel’s interest by dropping his guard a bit. To Nigel’s delight and surprise, they’d been engaged in conversation right up until the time when Larry had to leave for the day. When Nigel asked if they could talk more the next day, Larry had guardedly agreed.

"So, you're saying that the evolutionists are correct, and that man actually evolved over millions of years and that earth has been around for billions of years?" The meeting with the project team was over and Nigel found himself in the conference room alone with Larry as they looked over the data from the other team members. Their conversation had drifted back to where they had left off yesterday, and Nigel was gently pressing Larry to support some of his assertions.

Larry retorted to Nigel's latest question with, "Of course! Scientifically that’s the only explanation that makes sense. I suppose that you believe that our world and the entire universe were actually created in a week's time?!"

"To be honest with you, I do. But let me ask you this: do you believe in any type of original Creator?" Nigel asked, searching his co-workers face for an answer.

"Are you referring to all of that Intelligent Design stuff?" Larry asked, with a scoff that showed his skepticism.

"Well, sort of…" Nigel answered, "But actually, I’m asking about an Intelligent Designer, a personal Creator/Designer, not an impersonal force of some kind out there, somewhere."

"That doesn't make any sense - it's ridiculous!" Larry countered with a wave of his hand.

Nigel thought for a bit. He thought about being an ambassador. Sure, ambassadors needed a good apologetic for the faith, but he didn’t want to just win some intellectual battle with Larry, he wanted God to reach his heart. Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Surely what Larry needed the most was to be reconciled to God.

“God, help me to know where to speak to this man’s mind and where to speak to his heart. Give me wisdom to speak the truth of your Gospel in whatever I say,” Nigel prayed silently, before going on.

"You know, Larry, let's put creation and evolution aside for the moment, because we could go back and forth for days with different theories and evidence. Let me ask you this – what will happen when you and I die?"

Larry's expression slowly changed and he didn't answer right away. Nigel continued to patiently look at him, waiting to hear the man's thoughts.

"Well," Larry shifted a bit uncomfortably in his chair. "Nothing. We die and are buried. That's about it." Nigel could tell Larry wasn’t even comfortable with his own response, and so he continued to prod gently.

"Well, then what’s the purpose of our lives? Why do we choose to act morally, trying to do what is 'right' and avoiding those things that are 'wrong'? Why bother? I mean, why do you bother Larry? I've known you for several years and I know that you're very concerned with doing what is right: helping people, being fair and honest... You've got a good reputation and you’re well respected. What do you hope for? When your life is over, what will be the point of it?"

Larry grew visibly more uncomfortable. His frustration was evident in his facial expression and the way he diverted his eyes. Finally, Larry said, "Well, all I can say is that after I'm gone – I hope to be well remembered".

Nigel stared at Larry and suddenly realized the sorrow he felt for this man. This man who was sitting across the table from him was living his life denying his Creator, railing against God, His Word, and His offer of salvation through grace. The best he could find to hope for was to be remembered as a good person when his life was finally over!

Made bold by his compassion for the man, Nigel continued, “What about our sin, Larry? What happens to that?"

"Well, nothing happens to it,” Larry responded. “We all sin: no one's perfect, we all know that. We just have to hope that at the end of the day, the good in the world will outweigh the bad and mankind will continue to progress until sin is done away with. I know that there can't be any utopia, but as we learn more and science and technology advances, our society will continue to get better. Can't you see how far man has progressed over the centuries?"

Nigel looked pensively at the papers in front of him. "Actually Larry, the heart of man has remained the same since the beginning. Yes, we do all sin – you're right – and we can’t help ourselves or fix that problem – no matter what science or technology does. We need help from someone apart from ourselves."

Larry nervously shuffled the papers in his hands; "Nigel, I have to get back to my office. But, tell you what: I’d like to pick up this conversation at some point. I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you haven't tried to push 'religion' down my throat. I respect you for that. But, I've gotta get back to work now.”

Nigel watched as Larry left the conference room, amazed at the conversation that had just taken place.

To be continued...>>>

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