FROM THE PROFS: Evangelism encounter becomes discipleship opportunity
T. Dale Johnson Jr., assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southwestern Seminary, served as an associate pastor at Raiford Road Church in Macclenny, Fla., from 2005-2012. During his time there, he and his wife Summer discipled young married couples. On a recent visit to this church, Johnson received an encouraging word from one of these couples, learning the significance of a previous experience to which he personally had given little weight.
Eight years ago, following a meal the Johnsons shared with this couple in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., Johnson noticed a homeless man nearby as they approached their vehicles. Bringing the husband of the other couple with him, Johnson went to the homeless man and engaged him in conversation.
Initially asking for money, the homeless man gratefully accepted Johnson’s offer to buy him food. He accompanied Johnson and the other man to a nearby Wendy’s, where Johnson bought him a meal. The three sat down together, and Johnson used the opportunity to present the Gospel.
Johnson shared with the homeless man that God has offered him eternal life through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ. In dying on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for the homeless man’s sins, Johnson explained. Three days later, Jesus rose to life, and He now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who put their faith in Him.
Unfortunately, despite hearing this clear message of salvation, the homeless man did not accept Johnson’s invitation to respond. Instead, he simply reiterated his appreciation for the meal.
For the next eight years, Johnson assumed the story ended there—a seed was planted through the man’s hearing of the Gospel, but the evangelistic encounter itself remained unfruitful. However, eight years later, Johnson learned that God had another means of redeeming the experience.
The man who had accompanied Johnson on the evangelism effort told Johnson during his recent visit to Florida that the experience had proven significant to his own discipleship. “I don’t even know if you remember this [story],” he told Johnson, “but every time I drive by Wendy’s, I remember you taking time with that guy, sharing the Gospel, and me getting to hear you share the Gospel.”
“That was part of his discipleship,” Johnson realized. “And that wasn't intentional; it just happened that way. And the way he said it as he recounted the story was that, over the last eight years, [the memory of that experience] has been a constant conviction and a reminder of the urgency to share the Gospel with other people.”
Though Johnson had intentionally brought the man along with him to evangelize the homeless person, he failed to realize how significant the experience would prove to him. But eight years later, Johnson discovered that God had used this seemingly insignificant encounter to impact the man’s life in a meaningful way.
“I found that encouraging,” Johnson says. “It was pretty cool.”