In praise of a God who saves: ruminations on 50 everyday evangelism stories
The face-numbingly cold wind probably made Gavin regret his decision to skip school that day. Though intentional in his decision to do so, when the near-freezing temperature proved it would only continue on its downward trajectory, even at midday, Gavin likely reconsidered his choice of abandoning the well-heated schoolhouse in favor of the open-air railroad tracks where he set up camp. Indeed, the weather drove him to make a less-than-wise decision: he set a tire on fire to keep himself warm.
Though this undoubtedly provided temporary relief, the resultant smoke alerted Southwestern Seminary’s campus security to his position, and three officers quickly discovered him near the seminary’s physical plant. The fire was swiftly extinguished, and Gavin received some no-doubt-unsolicited counsel on the importance of staying in school.
Officer Jackie Boyd, not wanting to waste the opportunity, then did as many Southwesterners do in their everyday interactions—he steered the discussion toward spiritual matters. This piqued Gavin’s interest, so Boyd, a master’s student at the seminary, proceeded to share the Gospel, telling Gavin of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as His offer of freedom from sin to those who put their faith in Him.
Boyd asked if Gavin would like to experience this freedom, and with the Holy Spirit tugging at his heart, Gavin said “yes.” Boyd led him in prayer, and at that moment, this young truant was forgiven of his sins, freed from the power of sin and death, adopted into the family of God, and spiritually reborn into everlasting life.
This event took place on Feb. 5, 2015. I bring it up for two reasons. First, it serves as a good illustration of a profound truth, the weight of which I pray will never be lost on us: our God is a God who saves. Gavin was dead, but now he is alive. He wandered aimlessly in darkness, but now he walks in light. He was lost but now is found. He was broken but now is restored. He was empty but now is filled. He was enslaved but now is free.
May we never miss how utterly mind-boggling it is that salvation has been offered to us; that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Let us praise God for who He is and what He has done for us.
The second reason I call Gavin’s story to mind is for the sake of nostalgia, as it served as the basis for the pilot article of what has now become the “Everyday Evangelism” section of our website. Allow me to explain…
Southwesterners—be they students, faculty or staff; on-campus or off—in obedience to God’s Word, share the Gospel with nonbelievers as often as they can. Opportunities abound near campus, through local churches, in workplaces, and perhaps even within their own households. Regardless of the circumstances, the Gospel is shared, and oftentimes, people respond.
A small portion of these evangelists, out of excitement for how God has used them, write brief accounts of their experiences and email them to Matt Queen, Southwestern’s L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“the Chair of Fire”). The evangelists do this not to exalt themselves, but rather to share how objectively awesome God is. Dr. Queen, with the evangelists’ permission, then forwards these emails to others on campus—faculty, administrators, and pretty much anyone else who wants them—so that they, too, may get a taste of what God is doing. We in the Communications office are on that mailing list, and by February of 2015, we had determined that perhaps these stories are worth sharing with a broader audience.
The article on Gavin’s salvation, based on an email from Officer Boyd about the experience, was our first attempt at doing so, running under the “Quick Takes” banner online (see here for the original article). Quality and reception of the article aside, the subject matter nevertheless proved appealing and, indeed, seemed God-honoring, and so we decided to launch the “Everyday Evangelism” beat on our website.
So, I call Gavin’s story to mind in order to provide some perspective on the good news I am about to share…. Roughly a year and a half after that article was first published, you are now reading the 50th “Everyday Evangelism” story. That means we have now been privileged to tell 50 different stories of husbands and wives; mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; and friends and strangers coming to know the Lord by His glorious grace.
But allow me to explain why this is actually even better news than it seems…
There have been a lot more than 50 stories that could have been told over the last year and a half; 50 is just the number of stories that we actually had time to tell. Not every evangelistic experience results in an email to Dr. Queen, and not every email gets turned into an article.
So, when I share with you that we now have 50 articles detailing the salvation of 636 people, I hope you realize that that is actually a small number compared to how many salvation stories have gone untold. Isn’t that an interesting thought? Don’t we serve an amazing God?
The truth of the matter is that God, through the evangelistic efforts of Southwestern Seminary students and faculty, has saved more souls in the past two years alone than can even be counted (that, of course, is not even considering how many He has saved in the 108 years since the seminary’s founding). When I say that the number cannot be counted, I am obviously saying that human beings are incapable of determining the number, for certainly God knows how many souls He has saved. But from our perspective, we have seen so many lives saved—so many people receive the Gospel message and surrender their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ in order to be born again unto eternal life—that we have quite simply lost count. That is a good problem to have.
To clarify, I am not, by any means, attempting to exalt Southwestern or the evangelists who go forth from it. Certainly, their efforts are commendable, but no story written for this seminary is ever intended to draw attention to it as an end in itself; rather, the intention is to exalt the God who has chosen to use us—lowly, sinful human beings—to accomplish His purposes, impacting lives for eternity. That is a great privilege and, indeed, another truth whose weight I pray will never be lost on us, for what an honor it is to be instruments in God’s hands, the tools by which He ushers souls into His Kingdom. What a glorious and humbling notion.
So no, I do not write this to the praise of Southwestern. I write this to the praise of God, for He is the one who has so blessed our efforts; He is the one who saves.
Gavin’s testimony is just one example (of at least 50) of what God can do when His people are obedient to share His Word. With that in mind, I invite you to join me in celebrating that, as these stories of everyday evangelism indicate, our God is a God who saves.
Thank you, God, for your grace and your mercy and your love. Thank you that you sent your son to die in our place so that we may live. Thank you that though we are more unworthy than we can even fathom, you choose to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us. Thank you for adopting us into your family and making us coheirs alongside Jesus Himself. Thank you for saving us; you are good.